Celebrating Jane Austen 200 years on: 10 top events
PUBLISHED: 11:16 13 April 2017
As global attention turns to July's 200th anniversary of the passing of Hampshire's poster girl, Viv Micklefield finds out how Jane Austen's beloved home county is going all out to do her proud
1. Alton and Chawton Regency Week marks its 10th anniversary in 2017, so tie your bonnet and remember Jane through walks, talks, music, food and dance. On Saturday June 17, Alton town centre is transformed by carriage rides, entertainers and stalls prior to a packed programme (janeaustenregencyweek.co.uk). The Community Centre is the box office for all ticketed events.
2. Visit Basingstoke between Saturday June 17 and Thursday August 31 to reconnect with Jane’s early life by seeking out 25 sculptures, each shaped like an open book. The eye-catching benches, entitled Sitting with Jane (sittingwithjane.com) are designed and painted by professional artists, and offer a chance to relax in the north Hampshire locations that moved her.
3. Boasting two freshly decorated rooms, Jane Austen’s House Museum (jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk) is the focus of community projects and events in the coming months. Jane Austen in Chawton on Friday July 7 sees talks and workshops in and around the house and wider village. Meanwhile, 41 Objects tells the story of her life, writings, family and legacy through the Museum’s unique Austen-related collection. With a new object revealed each week, guest authors provide a commentary and the final object is displayed on December 16, Jane’s birthday.
4. What could be more enchanting than strolling through some of the gardens Jane would have known? Chawton Open Gardens take place between 1pm and 5pm on Saturday and Sunday June 10-11; there’s a garden tour and cream tea at Chawton House Library on Sunday June 18; Jane Austen’s House Museum has a midsummer late opening until 8pm on Tuesday June 20.
5. Winchester Cathedral holds a Jane Austen Evensong Service at 5.50pm on Tuesday July 18, 200 years to the day since her death. The event is free, with booking advisable, whilst the permanent Jane Austen Story, beside her grave within the nave’s north aisle can be visited as part of a guided tour (fees apply, see winchester-cathedral.org.uk).
6. The Mysterious Miss Austen is a major exhibition featuring first editions, personal letters and paintings from the National Portrait Gallery and unseen collections. It runs at Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry Street, from Saturday May 13 until Tuesday July 25, with late opening on weekdays until 7pm. The exhibition then tours to Gosport Discovery Centre and Basingstoke’s Willis Museum later in the year.
7. Pack a hamper and uncork the champagne for a Jane Austen Big Picnic at Basing House (part of Jane Austen weekend July 15-16). Basing House opens 11am to 4pm with parking a short walk along the River Loddon. hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/basing-house.
8. Take your partners for Winchester’s Grand Jane Austen Ball on July 29 (janeausten200.co.uk). Learn the basics of Regency dancing by joining sessions run by Hampshire Regency Dancers. hrdorg.uk has times and venues.
9. Chawton House Library (chawtonhouse.org) is preparing for #Fickle Fortunes, its summer exhibition on the parallel lives of Jane Austen and Germaine de Staël. The two never met, yet were aware of each other’s writing and in a twist of fate died four days apart. Running daily, except Saturdays, from June 12 until September 24, admission is included in entry to the house and gardens.
10. An overnight stay at Hook’s historic Tylney Hall Hotel (tylneyhall.co.uk) provides a novel escape. Packages include accommodation, breakfast, tickets to Jane Austen’s House Museum and afternoon tea from £128 per person. A Regency Day on July 16 is open to non-residents.
• Jane Austen statue in Basingstoke marking the 200th anniversary of her death - Hampshire will mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death this year. The starting point is a new statue of the author in her home town, created by sculptor Adam Roud