2017 marks 200 years since one of my favourite authors, Jane Austen, died. To celebrate the bi-centenary of her death there are lots of events being held throughout the year, across the country. From trails and talks to exhibitions and competitions, I’ve picked out some of the ways you can join in with the celebrations this year.
Rain Jane Trail Now – 31 May, Winchester
In 1817 Jane Austen was laid to rest at the age of 41 in Winchester Cathedral. To commemorate 200 years since she was buried in the city, Winchester is putting on an exciting programme of events this year, including the Rain Jane trail.
Twelve quotes from Jane Austen’s novels and correspondence miraculously appear in various locations across Winchester city centre when it rains, poignantly reflecting how everlasting her words are. If you want to take part, copies of the trail can be downloaded here. I have no idea how it works but it sounds magical and it’s a great way to brighten up a rainy day.
Adapting Jane Talk Tuesday 7 February, London
An expert panel of speakers, including Paula Byrne, author of The Real Jane Austen, Anne Pivcevic, Executive Producer of BBC Drama Production and Professor Janet Todd, will discuss adapting Jane Austen’s novels for the screen and stage. The conversation will explore questions such as how do you bring to life Austen’s trademark wit and streams of consciousness beyond the page and how much does the cult of Jane Austen influence our view of her. It’s at times like this I wish I lived in London so I could pop along!
Jane Austen Museum All year, Bath
Even though Jane Austen only lived in Bath for a few years between 1801 and 1806, the city will forever be associated with her as it provided the backdrop to Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Open all year round, the Jane Austen Museum holds a permanent exhibition situated in an original Georgian town house and tells her time in Bath and the influence it had on her writing.
Even though I’m always in Bath I haven’t been to the museum. I’m not going to lie, I’ve always been too scared to go in because of the slightly sinister life-size statue of Jane Austen standing outside, but don’t let that put you off!
The Regency Tea Room All year, Bath
The Regency Tea Room is located inside The Jane Austen Museum (but you can visit the tea room without going to the museum) and is the place to go if you want to live like one of her heroines for the day. Again, I haven’t been but really want to go as the staff serve tea, cakes and scones dressed in full regency regalia and the combination of cake and Austen is my idea of heaven! I’m looking forward to stepping back in time and raising a cup of tea to one of the most influential women of the last 200 years.
Jane Austen Among Family and Friends Exhibition 10 January – 19 February, London
The British Library has brought together a fantastic selection of writings from Jane Austen’s teenage years for the first time in 40 years, as well as family letters and memorabilia. The exhibition sheds light on the ups and downs of her personal and family life, which shaped her as a writer. Highlights from the collection include a letter telling her sorrow at the death of her father, a poem expressing the joy she felt when her nephew was born and her writing desk.
An Evening with Lucy Worsley Wednesday 28 June, Basingstoke
TV Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley has written a new book, Jane Austen At Home, which will be released in May. Leading us into Jane Austen’s world, Lucy Worsley shows us how and why she lived as she did, dispelling the myth that she was a cynical, lonely spinster. Instead she offers a fresh look at Jane Austen as a passionate woman who fought for her freedom and refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy (I don’t blame her!)
Passionate about making history engaging, Lucy Worsley is doing a number of talks and Q&A’s to promote her new book this summer. History and Jane Austen being two of my loves, I’m hoping to go along to one of the events and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Jane Austen At Home.
Which Jane Austen? Exhibition 22 June – 29 October, Oxford
Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries will be putting on a major new exhibition, Which Jane Austen?, to mark 200 years since her death. There will be a fascinating selection of materials on display for the first time together, which highlight the many influences on her work and challenge the current public perception of Jane Austen, instead presenting her as an ambitious, risk-taking business woman.
Regency Costumed Summer Ball Saturday 1 July, Bath
Held in the stunning 18th Century Banqueting Room at The Guildhall in Bath, the Regency Summer Ball is a wonderful opportunity to be transported back to Jane Austen’s time, if just for an evening. A costumed event where everyone is expected to wear Regency or 18th Century dress, you can pretend you’re Catherine Morland attending Bath society balls in Northanger Abbey. Tickets include dancing, entertainment and two courses, but don’t worry; the steps are instructed to live music so you don’t have to be an expert on Regency dancing!
Jane Austen in Chawton Friday 7 July, Hampshire
Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life at Chawton House in Hampshire from 1809 to 1817. You can visit Jane Austen’s house any time between March and December, but as part of the bi-centenary celebrations Chawton House Library and Jane Austen’s House Museum are putting on a number of events, including a day’s workshop of demonstrations and talks and about her life at Chawton. Being the place where Jane Austen was free to write and where her creativity flourished, exploring her house, library and gardens is a fantastic way to gain an insight into what her life was like.
The Jane Austen Festival 8 – 17 September, Bath
As it’s a momentous year for Jane Austen, Bath’s annual Festival dedicated to her is going be bigger and better than ever! The programme is made up of over eighty events including workshops, dances, balls, readings, talks and concerts.
The walking tours are perfect for enjoying Bath’s beautiful architecture while celebrating everything Austen and don’t miss out on the costumed Promenade through the city! Again, despite living near Bath I’ve never been to the festival so I’m looking forward to going for the first time this year.
If you can’t make it to any of the events or visit the places above this year then you can always read or re-read Jane Austen’s novels to commemorate her life and celebrate the lasting power of her work. Also, let me know in the comments below if you do make it to any of the events or if you have any more ideas for how to celebrate Jane Austen’s 200th Anniversary.