The 18th July this year will be the two hundredth anniversary of the death of a literary icon. Creator of some of the most memorable characters in English fiction, Jane Austen was a master storyteller. There will be celebrations among Janeites all year and all over the world but this weekend sees a celebration commence closer to home, in Limerick in Ireland which will continue until December. I am including the full press release below.
JANE AUSTEN200 - LIMERICK
CONTACT: ROSE SERVITOVA
A SERIES OF EVENTS FROM JULY TO DECEMBER 2017 CELEBRATING JANE AUSTEN’S BICENTENARY & LIMERICK’S GEORGIAN HERITAGE
July 16th Austen Afternoon Tea & Talks at No. 1 Perry Square sold out. This event included an introduction to the select teas for the event provided by local tea-merchants, Cahills of Limerick. Serving of Afternoon Tea delights. Historian, Sharon Slater, gives a talk 'Tom LeFroy - Jane's Limerick Beau'."A few words about tea from Emma's friend, Miss Bates of Hampstead" performed by Vanessa Hyde. Presentation and talk from Sinead Ryan Coughlan of the Irish Historical Costumers on Regency Fashion (with model, Sinead Finegan). Melissa Shiels will sing two Irish airs that were found amongst Jane Austen’s music collection.
Other events include;
Culture Night, September 22nd(8pm) at Friarsgate Theatre, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – a free workshop Historical Costumer & Workshop Presenter, Melissa Shiels, will give a very entertaining and informative talk entitle “Georgian Clothing, Customs and Material Culture”. Melissa will have many examples and recreations at hand for what promises to be a great evening.
September 23rd (2pm) at No.1 Pery Square – Austen Afternoon Tea & Talks – Speakers include editor & journalist, Tim Bullamore on “The Joy of Jane”, Kim Arnold presents a talk “Obstinate Headstrong Girl!: Maxims & Manners in the novels of Jane Austen” and we will have a presentation of men's fashion in the late 18th and early 19th century by the Irish Historical Costumers all accompanied by delicious afternoon tea treats and an occasional song. Attendees will also receive a customised keepsake.
October 5th sees two events facilitated by world-renowned period costume designer and Limerick woman, Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh. Eimer worked as costume designer for “Becoming Jane”, “Love & Friendship”, “Brideshead Revisited” and “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” amongst many others. Eimer will visit her former college, The Limerick School of Art & Design, to present an informative talk to students on working in theatre and film. That evening, at a public event, Eimer is guest at “An Evening with Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh” at the intimate drawing rooms of No. 1 Pery Square (7pm). Here she will have some of the costumes from “Love & Friendship” and partake of a Q&A session.
October 23rd 7.30pm– Oscar-nominated movie director and screenwriter, Whit Stillman will join us for a screening of Austen adaptation, the comedy “Love & Friendship” at the University Concert Hall, Limerick. Niall MacMonagle will host a Q&A session with Whit Stillman directly after the screening.
November 3rd (Friarsgate Theatre, Kilmallock) & November 9th (Belltable, Limerick) host New Zealand woman Penny Ashton’s world tour of “Promise & Promiscuity” in a humourous show as she tackles all of Austen's characters with song, dance and appalling cross-stitching.
Other events include;
- a talk by Sandra Lefroy on family connections to Austen and William Wordsworth hosted by the Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society.
- a collaboration between Sound Heritage Ireland and the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance which will see a musical event of the era re-enacted in a Georgian setting.
The curator of Jane Austen 200 is Rose Servitova the author of the Longbourn Letters and I asked Rose to tell me about why Jane Austen is such a big influence, why she decided to write a Pride and Prejudice inspired novel and why she felt that Limerick was the perfect place to celebrate 20o years of Jane. This is what she said.
How Jane Austen Inspired Me?
It was at my grandmother’s house on the foothills of the Ox Mountains in Sligo, during summer holidays, that I discovered my love of reading and there, I found all the classics including the works of Jane Austen. I fell in love with her writing and it has stayed with me since. For years, Pride & Prejudice was my comfort blanket - the book I went back to time and again whenever my life sucked for some reason or other. It was like being held, rocked and soothed. The familiar never bored me instead I sought it out whenever the bottom was falling out of my world and it held me together.
For at least ten years, the idea of writing some kind of tribute to Pride & Prejudice had crossed my mind but I had absolutely no idea what to write. Occasionally, Mr Collin’s diary sprung to mind and when I eventually sat down last year and commenced writing, I knew immediately that it would be disastrous. How could anyone read more than a few pages of his self-importance, deluded gibberish? Instantly, the solution came to me in the form of my other favourite character, Mr Bennet. Four letters existed between these two men in Pride & Prejudice so I would merely have to fill in the gaps and continue until it reached a natural conclusion. They contrasted with each other perfectly and gave me the opportunity to write some great dialogue and witty interaction. That is how The Longbourn Letters came about. I laughed so much when writing it and I hoped that others would too. Because I love Austen so much and find her minor characters so brilliantly drawn, there was no need for me to go off-track but to stay loyal to her portrayal and hopefully add a bit more detail. Her clever, witty dialogue has influenced my writing greatly – it is what I seek out in other novels and hope to emulate in my own.
How I got involved in Jane Austen 200 – Limerick
Before The Longbourn Letters was published, I began connecting with Jane Austen fans and groups all over the world. I was amazed to see how many were organising celebrations for her bicentenary and, in particular, I was amazed that cities that did not exist 200 years ago were having dances, plays, talks etc… I thought ‘well done, guys’. I always felt that Limerick was a perfect spot to host a Georgian festival as we have the largest Georgian quarter outside of Dublin but when I looked into the Jane Austen angle, I found that we also had many connections with the author. As a qualified event manager and without wanting the bicentenary to pass unacknowledged, I decided to organise an afternoon tea and talks event to mark the occasion. A number of weeks later, I found myself curating a whole series of events running from July to December that include theatre, fashion, music, dance, literature, screen, talks/workshops and tea!! It’s great to see that other parts of the country are doing likewise with events being held in Dublin, Cork and elsewhere.
Rose's book continues the story of the Bennets of Longbourn and Mr and Mrs Collins of Rosings through the letters between the two cousins; the taciturn Mr Bennet and the silly Mr Collins. It is a fitting and joyful response to the original. The perfect book to read this weekend as we celebrate Jane Austen and her legacy.