The 2019 Jane Austen Festival took place from 13th-22nd September, during which we welcomed locals and visitors for far-off places alike to over 90 events.
Our world-famous Regency costumed Promenade took a new, more accessible, route for the first time this year, starting in Sydney Gardens and processing down Great Pulteney Street. One thing we didn’t plan, but were lucky to receive, was beautiful sunny weather! The 500 Promenaders were able to see Bath at its best, bathed in sunshine, with plenty of parasols and no umbrellas in sight.
The Promenade was led by the 33rd Regiment of Foot, red-coat re-enactment soldiers, who camped at the Holburne Museum where they provided free talks and displays throughout the first weekend of the Festival, as well as some rousing music on Sunday morning to wake up anyone sleeping in after a late night at the Country Dance on Saturday evening!
The Festival Country Dance, with over 200 people in attendance, took place at the Assembly Rooms for the first time this year. Our attendees were able to eat, drink, dance and play cards in the same rooms that both Austen and her characters did, more than 200 years ago. Visitors later in the week were able to join us for the spectacular Masked Ball on Friday night: a drinks reception by the Roman Baths, followed by dinner and dancing in the Pump Rooms, showcasing the best and most beautiful parts of Bath’s history, and another opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Austen and the characters that are so well loved throughout the world.
There was plenty for those Austen fans who prefer reading to dancing, with talks on many aspects of Austen’s works throughout the week, including the ever-popular Prof. John Mullan, author of “What Matters in Austen”. For 2019, we chose Austen’s scandalous novella “Lady Susan”, following the schemes of a lady described as “the most accomplished coquette in England”. We enjoyed a raucous performance of Lady Susan by Bath’s own Natural Theatre Company, and followed the novella in our free readings, kindly hosted by Waterstones. It is testimony to Austen’s world-wide popularity that we had readers from four different continents come to help read chapters to Festival-goers!
As ever, our Festival was supported by a fantastic, hard-working and cheerful team of invaluable volunteer stewards who gave up their time to help run events throughout the ten days of the Festival. We are so very grateful to them, and to all the Bath residents whose good-will and friendliness made the Festival a wonderful experience for those visiting it.