The 2016 Jane Austen Festival opened to our first ever really rainy Promenade which our Festival Director described as “proper brollys-up weather!”. Fortunately, this didn’t put off the hundreds of people who came to join us in the Assembly Rooms and walked to some of the most spectacular locations in Bath, including the Circus, Royal Crescent, and the gravel walk featured in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion.
Our photographer assured us that the dark clouds and large numbers of elegant white umbrellas provided the perfect lighting for photos, and that everyone looked rather more lovely than they would have done in bright sunshine!
We rounded off the first weekend of the Festival with a sell-out performance by soprano Rosie Lomas in The Holburne Museum. The evening used a musical programme to mirror the struggles between passion and propriety that Elinor and Marianne go through in our theme book for 2016 Sense and Sensibility.
We read Sense and Sensibility in Bath Central Library throughout the Festival (amongst our lovely readers we were lucky to have author and artist Jane Odiwe, Bath Preservation Trust’s education officer, Polly Andrews and Maggie Barton of Spirit of Regency), as well as hearing about Houses and Homes in Sense and Sensibility with Dr Amy Frost. A few lucky Festival-goers had the opportunity to visit Mompesson House in Salisbury, where some of Ang Lee’s film of Sense and Sensibility was filmed whilst there they stumbled across the filming of BBC medieval drama ‘The White Princess’ much to the confusion of the tourists who were rather bemused by the range of historical costumes about the place!
On the final Saturday, we rounded off our Sense and Sensibility theme with “Let’s Talk Sense!” by the ever-popular John Mullan, who stirred up some considerable debate amongst the serious book fans in the audience!
There were plenty of light-hearted events this year, The Natural Theatre company returned with their “Austen Undone” tours, and performed our final evening event the hilarious “Austen Dilemma”. This improvised evening of comedy saw Jane Austen, with the help of the theatre audience, agonising over which character from Pride and Prejudice she should be removed in order to cut the word count down!
This year, the Jane Austen Festival hosted “Pride and Prejudice, The Musical” a sell-out success which got everyone at the Festival buzzing. As well as two performances at the Mission Theatre, the cast performed songs from the Musical over afternoon tea at the Abbey Hotel, Bath.
We ended the Festival on a high with our spectacular Regency Costumed Masked Ball on the Friday night, and mini-Promenade (thankfully with good weather!) on the Sunday.
The Festival was a great success, and our heartfelt thanks go to all our volunteer stewards for their boundless enthusiasm and hard work. Roll on next year!
Assistant to Festival Director