Tuesday, 24 April 2012

JANE AUSTEN FESTIVALS AT HOME AND ABROAD BY CLAIRE JENKINS



Jane Austen's works are known and loved worldwide, her world of romantic adventures and comedies of manners beloved by millions of people. For many of those people, her books in black and white, or even brought to live through the magic of film and television, is not enough. Far beyond the panopoly of reading and writing groups, academic courses, and smorgesboard of fanfiction and discussion boards available online, some Janeites feel the need to go just that little bit further into Austen's world. Rather than seeking addiction treatment to wean themselves off regency-era romance, they unabashedly seek to recreate a sense of Austen's novels through various events. The festivals are all about the old-world glamour, elegance of dress, enjoyment of regency dance, and the joy of connecting with other fans, in a real-world setting.

Since the advent of the internet, and its blossoming into a place where people can meet and interact, these events have become increasingly popular with Janeites thirsting for a real taste of the world found in the books. These gatherings have become particularly popular in the English-speaking countries of not only Britain, but Canada, the U.S. and Australia. Austen aficienados are treated to a bevy of events, from the cerebral to the sensual: whether you are interested in learning how to participate in a country dance, make traditional food, create regency-era embroidery, or participate in open discussions, there's sure to be something for you at these events. Here, I've attempted to list just a few of these: from cruises to display dances to full-blown festival extraveganzas, most of them run yearly and are widely attended.

The Jane Austen Festival held yearly in Bath is, of course, the jewel in the crown of these. I dont think it would be going too far to say that every Janeite has an entry on her bucket list with this festival's name on it in bold letters. Running this year from the 14th - 22nd of September, it is a feast for the eyes, ears, and tastebuds. Fans can take in the rich Regency tradition of dance, song, and food while dressed in period costume. The programme is loaded with talks, reading groups, balls and plenty more, all hosted in the heartland of the writer herself. For nine days of period costume, drama, and fascinating insights into Austen's world, it simply can't be beaten.
Australian Austen lovers have their own array of events to attend, the largest of these being the Jane Austen Festival of Australia held in Canberra. The event for this year (running April 12 - 14th) has sadly passed, but runs annually, including talks presented by Austen academics, film screenings, workshops (sewing, dance, even archery!), scripted performances, house parties, picnics and much costumed frivolity. There's even a cosy country fair to visit.

One of the most decadent events on offer this year is undoubedly the Jane Austen Cruise. Running from the 18th - 26th of July, the trip takes in Holland, Guernsey, Spain and France, sailing from Southampton. The cruise features presentations by special guests, and includes a costume parade, gala ball, discussion groups, film festival, high tea, trivia contest, games, on-board market, costumed group photo shoot, and more! Just think, parading across the deck, bedecked in satin and lace, en-route to some of the jewels of coastal Europe whilst surrounded by Janeite delights! Whom amongst us wouldn't want to attend this charming event hosted on the high seas?

Austen events in North America are many, as most states in the U.S., as well as the Canadian provinces, boast their own Austen associations. These are mostly allied with the Jane Austen Society of North America, with some independent groups operating outside the JASNA. A few years ago, the society introduced 'Jane Austen Day' held on the 28th of April. As a result, many of these groups have full day of Austen events. Amongst these are a day of lectures by writers and academics in Pennsylvania. The Chicago chapter also has an Annual Spring Gala, a daytime event featuring talks by patrons and guardians of Chawton House Library (a charity dedicated to collecting the early works of female writers, set in the working estate of Jane Austen's brother), and including a spectacular dinner and entertainment located in the city's gorgeous Crystal Ballroom. Finally, the Mandeville Jane Austen Literary Festival, which runs in March every year, is another worthy festival dedicated to the writer's work. From costume contests to an array of lectures, interactive regency beauty workshops, and the famous 'Perfect Love Letter' competition, plus plenty of light-hearted carousing, the event is both playful and illuminating to lovers of all things Jane.

If all of these events sound fantastic, but you just can't make it this year, have about taking a part in Talk Like Jane Austen Day? Started last year in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensability, the website encourages us to 'Take a long walk, visit friends, and talk like Jane Austen.' Make use of the writer's invented words and phrases such as 'irrepressible', 'raffish' (disreputeable), 'nidgetty' (trifling) or 'to catch one's eye.' The site has quite a list of tips available for the aspiring Austenophone!
Claire Jenkins

5 comments:

Julie Martin Wallace said...

All of these events sound fun. Someday.

Sophia - Elizabeth said...

This sounds so great! I can't wait to be a part of it all in Bath this september! I would wish that I could be on the cruise! This year and this september it is my turn to be a true lady. Thank you for informing us, Claire!

Mary Mc said...

Great article! Do you know of any events on the west coast in 2012?

C Jenkins said...

Hi Mary,

I didn't come across any while putting the above together, unfortunately - the closest I could find was JASNA who may be able to point you in the right direction?

Claire

Bonny Wise said...

I'd like to mention the 5th Annual Jane Austen Festival held in Louisville, KY on July 21 & 22, 2012 at the beautiful historic Locust Grove a lovely Georgian home on 55 acres. This event is sponsored by the Greater Louisville Region of JASNA. Afternoon tea, Regency Style show, dramatic presentation, side-saddle demo, bare knuckle boxing demo, the Shoppes of Meryton, a Grand Ball and lots more! Check out our website at www.jasnalouisville.com
Thanks!
Bonny Wise, Regional Coordinator