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All across Bath, bonnets have been sewn, dresses ironed and buckles polished, as we’ve welcomed visitors new and old to this year’s Jane Austen Festival!
The yearly festival favourite, our costumed promenade, saw hundreds of visitors in their finest Regency outfits basking in the late autumn sunshine as they sauntered through the streets of Bath.
Starting in Sydney Gardens, the parade was led by His Majesty’s 33rd Regiment of Foot.
The Guildhall played host to the Festival Fayre, where visitors could find everything Regency, from bonnets to books.
Events have been taking place all week, including theatrical performances, book readings, events at the Regency Tea Rooms, crafting workshops, tours and much more.
Is we write there, there are still two full days of the festival to go, so it’s not too late to take part – head over to the Jane Austen Festival website for a full schedule of this weekend’s events!
The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen
by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton
A review by Laura Boyle
When I was asked to review The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, I had no idea what the story was about, the cover giving only the vaguest idea that it might have something to do with the lovely topaz necklaces that were a gift to Jane and her sister from their seafaring brother Charles. Was it Jane’s personal charm, or this actual, physical charm that the story was about? The answer was to be a little of both.
With vivid detail, authors Ada Bright and Cass Grafton set their stage: the opening of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. In a tale of art imitates life, one might suspect, two longtime internet friends are about to meet for the first time in person and partake of the delights Bath has to offer. The city, sights and excitement of the festival come to life in a way that must make all of us who have never been long for a taste of that happiness which comes when “good people get together”. Those who have had a chance to enjoy the festival must revisit these scenes of past pleasure once again with delight.
While seemingly straightforward enough, two young ladies ready for love, two single men in want of wives, the story takes a dramatic twist part way through the novel. It appears (as the reader has already suspected) that Rose Wallace’s reclusive upstairs neighbor is none other than a time traveling Jane Austen, intent on discovering the fascination surrounding her life and works. In a swift turn of events, Jane loses her time traveling ability through the loss of her topaz cross (her “particular charm”) and the game, as they say, is afoot.
Jane and Rose find themselves in a Frank Capraesque situation, left standing in a modern world from which the original Jane Austen disappeared in 1803 – seven years before her first novels were published. In this unique way, the reader is forced to reconcile to a world with no Austen novels, no Darcys or Elizabeths and, seemingly, no happy ending. How does Jane adapt to modern life (and what is our current predilection for putting people in boxes: phones, televisions, computers and otherwise)? How would daily life change for us, for me and for you, if there never had been Jane Austen, the author?
At first glance, perhaps, nothing extraordinary might be noted, but how about friendships and businesses built on Jane’s work? What about people and pets named for Jane’s characters; actors, actresses and locations famed for their appearance in Jane’s films, or even English majors left without this sparkling voice to study? Entire sections of bookstores and the internet would be left a blank.
Because it has always been so, I never stopped to consider life without Jane. This novel forced me to do so, but in a way in which I knew there just must be a way back; a chance to right this terrible wrong. As Jane and Rose sort their way through this new universe, the novel evolves again, this time uncovering a centuries old mystery, which, if solved, might reset the timeline once again. The race is on, and with the help of some “new” old friends, it might just be possible.
Ada and Cass, two longtime friends who met on a literary chat board long before crossing the Atlantic to meet in person, are no doubt the models for the friendship Rose and Morgan share. What they have created together, as joint authors, is something “in a style entirely new”—a book that seems to be one thing but jumps genres each time you think you have it figured out. This keeps the pace fresh and fast, even at 357 pages, and the hint of more to come can only delight the reader who has fallen in love with the characters, both old and new.
Although this is set in September (with a firsthand walk through of the Jane Austen Festival and many shout outs to local businesses and eateries) I could not shake the feeling of it being a Christmas story—perhaps because of the It’s a Wonderful Life tone; perhaps because of the Christmas Eve type anticipation which came each time I had to put the novel down. (What would happen next? With two authors it was anything but predictable!) This is definitely a story for long winter nights by a cosy fire. Anyone coming into this thinking that they know what to expect is in for a surprise. And any reader, like myself, with no idea what to expect had better hang on, because it’s going to be a ride!
- Paperback: £12.99 / Kindle: £4.61
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Brown Dog Books (24 Jun. 2016)
- Language: English
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog).
Jane Austen Festival Masked Ball
Here’s a short film showing the dance preparations for the Jane Austen Festival Masked Ball 2015. The Ball was held in the Pump Room and Roman Baths.
See the film HERE
The first Jane Austen Festival in Bath was held in September 2001 over the course of a weekend with events taking place at the Jane Austen Centre in Gay Street.
The first Promenade set out from the Jane Austen Centre in 2004 and had 30 people including most of the staff taking part. In 2009 the promenade had over 450, all in costume with drummers, dancers, military and naval men. All ages, male and female had the most wonderful time in fantastic weather.
Outstanding memories of previous festivals for us are the Film Premiere in Bath of the ‘Bollywood’ film Bride & Prejudice, the wonderful readings given by Ben Whitrow (the best ever Mr Bennet) partnered by Amanda Root (Anne Elliot) and then Joanna David (Mrs Gardiner). Followed by Adrian Lukis (Mr Wickham) and Caroline Langrishe (Lovejoy) celebrating the bicentenary of Pride & Prejudice with wonderful theatrical readings in the Assembly Rooms, the Holburne Museum and the Old Theatre Royal.
Superb food cooked and presented by Fiona Ravenscroft (A South West Cook of the Year) and eaten by us! 2008′s fantastic theatrical production by the Dorset Corset Theatre Company of Northanger Abbey. Plus of course the History Wardrobe with their ‘Undressing Mr Darcy’ always a hit!
The Jane Austen Festival 2015
Wow, what a great Festival we’ve had this year. 10 days and over 60 events plus record attendance. I think everyone agrees it was the best ever.
The Jane Austen Festival starts on the 12th of September and looks like it will be the biggest and best ever.
Jackie Herring, Jane Austen Festival Director is happy with the arrangements and ticket sales. ‘Lots of events have already sold out but there are still a few tickets left. If you want to see something spectacular turn up on to the Regency Promenade on Saturday. Watch 600 spectacular promenaders in their Regency finery as they take to the streets of Bath.’
The event has been covered by The Bath Chronicle. Take a look at their article here
More Promenade information;
Each year the Jane Austen Festival officially opens with our world famous Grand Regency Costumed Promenade. The Promenade is a parade through the streets of this beautiful city and over 500 people all in 18th Century costume take part, making it a record breaking event. In 2014 the Jane Austen Festival achieved the Guinness World Record TM for ‘The largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes at 550′ All sorts of people take part from the very young to the young at heart plus red coats, dancers and our official town crier.
The Promenade stops the traffic in Gay Street, The Circus, George Street, Milsom Street and Orange Grove, making it difficult for drivers from 11am until 12.30pm on Saturday 12th September 2015.
ALL participants wear costume to take part in the Promenade and also purchase a ticket, the cost is £10 per adult, children 16 and under are free. £1 from every ticket sold is donated to the Festival’s charity, (2015 it is Whizz-Kidz) Tickets are in the form of a collectable wristband and on sale from the Online giftshop or by post from The Jane Austen Festival office c/o 40 Gay Street, Bath BA1 2NT from 2nd March 2015.
Don’t forget your festival souvenirs… Our Jane Austen Festival 2015 range is limited edition so once they’re gone, they’re gone!
Visit England Welcome Award for The Jane Austen Centre
The hard-working staff at the Jane Austen Centre were really pleased to find out that they had been recognised for their contribution to tourism in the area.
The Jane Austen Centre is honoured to receive the VisitEngland Welcome accolade which has been awarded as part of VisitEngland’s Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme.
“I know that all our staff work hard to ensure they give the very best care and attention to our visitors, and it is fantastic that they have been recognised for their outstanding, warm and friendly customer service.” Said Paul Crossey, General Manager. The Jane Austen Centre is Bath’s only Accolade winner in 2015.
These accolades are allocated through a scoring system based on an annual assessment by VisitEngland. They include the Welcome accolade, Hidden Gem, Best Told Story, Quality Food & Drink and the Gold accolade for top-scoring attractions.
So, what are you waiting for? Come to Bath and say hello!
The permanent Exhibition at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath was originally created with the guidance of local members of the Jane Austen Society and authorities on Jane Austen, Louise Ross and Maggie Lane.
The Exhibition aims to be not only informative but exciting and illuminating. With knowledgeable staff, a lovely period atmosphere, exclusive film starring Adrian Lukis, costume, dressing up, contemporary exhibits, maps and books.
We now have a beautiful waxwork of Jane Austen created by experts using forensic evidence.
All in all the Centre is the perfect starting point to an exploration of Jane Austen’s Bath.