The Jane Austen Festival is back! This guide will help you to enjoy ten wonderful days of celebrating all things Austen in the beautiful city of Bath.
It will be with great joy and celebration, that the Grand Regency Costumed Promenade will open the 20th Jane Austen Festival in Bath on Saturday 11th September. Starting at 11am outside the Holburne Museum at the end of Great Pulteney Street, the Promenade will commence its stately procession led by the Coldstream Guards 1815 Military Re-enactors through Bath city centre.
During the first Saturday, the Festival Fayre in the Guildhall includes stalls full of Regency articles, lots of wonderful hats as well as the very popular silhouette artist Charles (as seen on TV, Antiques Roadshow no less), and the hilarious 20-minute version of Pride & Prejudice by Aardvark Productions. In the evening, the Festival Country Dance Ball, in the stunning 18th century Banqueting Room at the Guildhall takes place.
Some Festival visitors like to wear Regency costume throughout the week, totally getting into the spirit of all things Austen. However, there are only two events where the wearing of Regency costume is essential: The Promenade and the Masked Ball on Thursday 16th with its stunning and atmospheric reception by the Roman Baths.
Jane Austen and the Art of Social Distancing is a musical evening exploring this essential part of modern life in Regency style. With songs and arias from superb soprano Rosie Lomas and with the very talented and expert on all things keyboard, Katarzyna Kowalik. The concert is being held in the gorgeous Picture Gallery of the Holburne Museum which this year has the added attraction of a small head and shoulders sketch on loan from the National Portrait Gallery!
Jane Tapley is opening her Regency Bath townhouse to festival visitors for her ‘at home’ events: A very private public breakfast and Rummaging through the reticule. She is also giving her fascinating talk on Theatre in Jane Austen’s time at the Theatre Royal in Bath. As the Special Events organizer for the Theatre Royal, Jane is uniquely placed to speak about this very beautiful theatre.
The hilarious theatrical walking tours, Austen Undone performed by the Natural Theatre Company, take place throughout the first weekend, and depart from outside the Assembly Rooms. One event not to be missed is the Natural Theatre Company’s one off improvised theatrical festival finale A Decent Proposal at The Mission Theatre on Saturday 18th. Their previous hilarious one offs include, More Pride More Prejudice, Lady Susan, Jane Austen the Interview, An Austen Dilemma, and the very wonderful Darcy’s Ball!
The popularity of Professor John Mullan has increased to the extent that this year he is providing two discussions/talks/presentations/lectures on Austen. A highly entertaining speaker who regularly appears on Radio and TV and whose most recent book The Artful Dickens: The Tricks and Ploys of the Great Novelist was published in 2020. John’s What Matters in Jane Austen? is his easy to digest and clever interpretation of the ‘minutiae’ that was so important a part of Austen’s writing technique.
Superb speaker and another festival favourite, Dr Amy Frost will - lead a tour of Beckford’s Tower, talk on Space and place in Pride and Prejudice at the Museum of Bath Architecture, talk on Portico or Pigsty: The architecture of Pride and Prejudice in TV and Film at No.1 Royal Crescent and head a walking tour of Bath on, Building Austen’s Bath.
An exciting new production, Jane Austen and the Cheltonians performed by Natura Contemporary Theatre and supported by the Arts Council England. What really happened when Jane Austen visited Cheltenham in May 1816? In this sparklingly witty new comedy, the truth is revealed. Emboldened by the success of her novel, Emma, Jane Austen conjures up again her literary muse Emma Woodhouse to help her write her next novel, The Cheltonians - in which surely nothing can go wrong?
Almost Austen, written and performed by talented soprano Louise Geller is a brand-new production specially for the festival. Catherine is a modern girl in love with Jane Austen’s world. Through passages from Northanger Abbey and songs from Musicals and Opera, we follow Catherine’s romantic ups and downs as real life and fantasy collide.
With walking tours every day and plenty of Regency dance workshops throughout the week energy levels will be high! For those wanting a more sedate way of viewing Austen’s Bath and travelling in her footsteps, there are also motorized driver guided tours of Hampshire, Bath, Meryton & Highbury (with a bit of Poldark thrown in) and Lyme Regis.
In addition to those already mentioned other performers include Adge Secker (driver guide), the Jane Austen Dancers, Bath Parade Guides, John White of Select Society, Jackie Herring, Fortuna Trio, and authors Dr Gabrielle Malcolm, Catherine Curzon, Sarah Jane Downing, Zoe Wheddon and Julia Golding. Not of course forgetting Freddie the best dressed Yorkshire Terrier who with Jenny Colquhoun will be looking at Pugs and Prejudice!
The 2021 Festival will be Jackie Herring’s last as Festival Director. Jackie says “after 21 years with the Jane Austen Centre the time has come for me to pass the parasol on!”
Further information on the 2021 Jane Austen Festival can be found on the Festival website.