Festival Insights

adrian for blogReading Pride & Prejudice in Bath Central Library – 2013 Festival

by Lynette White – Volunteer Steward

Last year was a very special year for Pride and Prejudice and its many fans as it turned 200 years old. This year it is Mansfield Park that is celebrating its 200th anniversary. The Jane Austen Festival in Bath is yet again celebrating this special event with a week long reading of the novel in Bath Central Library.

The reading of Pride and Prejudice last year was a very special event for me. Not only was it my first year at the Festival I also had the wonderful (if sometimes stressful) job of stewarding. Unlike the rest of the stewards it was always easy to guess where I would be.  Everyday between 2pm and 4pm I could be found somewhere in Bath Central Library with a list, a pen and several copies of Pride and Prejudice at the ready.

caroline for blogThe first day almost went off without a hitch. Adrian Lukis (Mr Wickham) and Caroline Langrishe read the first two chapters of the book and the other readers arrived just as early as the spectators (some of whom had been queuing for around an hour waiting for the Library to open). The Library was almost literally bursting with people eager to see ‘Mr Wickham’ and consequently the hundred or so chairs already prepared were just not enough. The wonderful library staff managed to magic more chairs out of nowhere and space was found to put them. There still were not enough but no one seemed to mind.

The rest of the week was a different matter. Plenty of people turned up every day to take their seats, books in hand, to follow the progress of the novel and most of the readers did too. I say most because despite my small stack of spare copies on one day we had to pass them around between the readers because only one had brought their own maggie ollerenshaw for blogcopy of the book. You would have thought it is impossible to run out of books in a Library but you would be wrong!

There were also a few people unable to read because of colds, sore throats or just being stuck in traffic and replacements (occasionally me) had to be found for them all. I also had the problem of not knowing what most of the readers looked like. Most managed to check in with me so I could tick them off the list and relax knowing that no replacements needed to be found. I had a few tense moments though hoping one of the audience was the next reader and was about to get up and start as the previous one stepped down. My trust was usually rewarded.

crispin for blogThe last day finally came on Sunday and none other than Crispin Bonham-Carter (Mr Bingley) had been asked months in advance to read the final chapters. Austentatious, who were also providing the evening’s finale, had agreed to read and did a wonderful job entertaining the growing crowd with their reading. However time was wearing on quicker than expected and as the crowd grew, eagerly anticipating the ending, so did my panic. With just one more reader to go ‘Mr Bingley’ had yet to appear. We had to hatch a plan to just keep reading, as slowly as possible, until Crispin arrived. Thankfully I need not have worried. Half way through the chapter Jackie arrived, ‘Mr Bingley’ in tow, and Pride and crispin and fansPrejudice was finally completed. Not forgetting, of course, a plethora of books to be signed and photos to be taken once he had finished!

The reading of Mansfield Park this year should prove equally entertaining and exciting. We are looking for volunteers and if you are interested please contact Lynette by email assistantjafestivalbath@gmail.com for more details.


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