What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Recently we had a nice surprise in the post: a collection of handmade letters from students of a language school in Greece, who made them as part of an anti-bullying campaign and as their way of honouring the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death.
The overall campaign is called ‘Keep Smiling: from children to children’ and the project was done for Valentine’s Day (they arrived late).
The children named their card and letter collection ‘Jane Austen v Bullies’. All the students range in age from juniors to teenagers, and they participated whilst being inspired by Jane’s quotes and becoming familiar with her life and works.
They want us to keep the cards “as a token of appreciation for the work we do in honour of a literary giant”, which we thought was such an incredibly kind gesture, and we loved reading them all so we thought you might too!
The Lightbox, a charity-run cultural space, gallery and museum in Woking, Surrey in England, has its tenth anniversary this year, and so to celebrate this milestone The Lightbox are holding their first Lightbox Literary Festival (from Thursday 20th April – Sunday 23rd April). We mention this as, since this year is not only the tenth anniversary of the opening of The Lightbox but also the bicentenary of Jane’s death, The Lightbox is holding a specifically Austen-themed event.
For the event, named Jane Austen 200th Anniversary, The Lightbox’s resident chef will create a Regency inspired menu just for the evening. Three indulgent courses will include Georgian-age gems like Black Butter, Mrs Martin’s mashed turnips and Regency roasted pork & apples. Guests will be invited to sample several dishes from the banquet table.
Then, after dinner, guests will round off the themed evening with a screening of the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice, and every guest will leave with a Regency-inspired goody bag filled with a Jane Austen novel, Regency recipes and other literary goodies. The event takes place on Friday the 21st of April at 7:00pm and tickets cost £49.
There has long been controversy surrounding the Rice portrait, and whether it does in fact show 13 year-old Jane Austen, or whether the style of her dress (a typical Regency style, not Georgian as a young Jane would have worn), and the canvas maker’s stamp on the back (that of William Legg, who sold canvasses in High Holborn in London between about 1801 and 1806), makes the Rice Portrait an image of a different young girl – potentially one of Jane’s nieces.
Until now, only one example of a William Legg canvas stamp was known of. But in an article in the Financial Times, writer Anjana Ahuja writes about a portrait she recently bought of a ‘Mrs Smith’ by the artist James Northcote, and this painting is signed and dated 1803 – and it has a William Legg canvas stamp on the back. This is important as it matches the stamp on the Rice portrait – which would seem to prove that the Rice portrait also has to be from this 1801-1806 period, which would make it too late to be of a 13-year-old Austen.
However, the National Portrait Gallery acknowledges that it remains possible that the girl depicted in the Rice portrait is Jane Austen. Nevertheless, they continue to believe that the stylistic features of the portrait, and the colourman’s stamp on the reverse of the canvas, suggest a date of about 1801-6.
The official website for the Rice portrait disputes what the stamp says and adds that it could have been a different William Legg.
On Saturday August 19th, Oscar Wilde, Arabella Fermour and Jane Austen will take the form of giant mobile puppets, each heading to a secret destination, as part of the ARENA programme of free family fun taking place in Reading this summer. Organised by Reading Business Improvement District (BID), the 2017 events aim to shine a light on the town’s cultural heritage.
Each of the three famous figures have been chosen for their links to the city of Reading. Oscar Wilde, best known in the area for his poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, was incarcerated in the town’s prison for his sexuality. Arabella Fermour is less well known but became famous in Alexander Pope’s famous poem The Rape of the Lock. Jane Austen’s link to Reading is that she studied for a time at The Reading Ladies’ Boarding School at Abbey Gateway.
At the Jane Austen News we’re looking forward to seeing what the Jane Austen puppet looks like when it’s finished! She’ll probably be on the same sort of scale as this puppet (pictured) from a past event.
Jane The Musical
After a sell out Edinburgh run, Rob Winlow’s Austen the Musical is going on a full UK Tour for the first time. The musical, which began as an hour-long production but has since gone on to develop into a full 90-minute show, explores Jane’s struggle to have her work published in a male dominated environment, her failed romances, and her vow to reject a woman’s conventional lifestyle in Georgian England.
In order to help get the show on the road (excuse the pun), Rob and the team have decided to crowdfund their production, as well as approaching all relevant and appropriate funding avenues. Any money raised will help fund things such as fees for cast and crew, travel and accommodation, as well as many other charges that they will encounter during this project. However, what caught our eye at the Jane Austen News was the team’s aim to take the musical to people who don’t regularly get to see high quality theatre where they live. “They have to travel miles to have any access to the arts, so, we’re going to them. And you can help us do that…” A marvellous aim indeed.
More details on Austen the Musical can be found on their crowdfunder page here.
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