January 2014 Meeting: Talking about the Jane Austen Festival Australia

After ending our year on a wonderful Christmas-cum-Jane Austen Birthday lunch at the Poachers Pantry, JASACT members reconvened on Saturday 18 January for our first meeting of the year. Our main topic of conversation was the Jane Austen Festival Australia, with guest speaker Aylwen Gardiner-Garden, the conference director.

Aylwen started by giving us a brief history of the Festival which was first held in 2008. It is a volunteer run festival which aims

to provide a platform from which to explore all aspects of Jane Austen’s world, we are also keenly interested and engaged in exploring Australia’s place in history during the lifetime of Jane Austen – hence our strong links locally with the ACT Heritage Festival and nationally, with the Australian Heritage Week. Associated with the festival have been full length plays, film screenings, short story writing competitions, rapier demonstrations, participatory archery, musketry displays, maypole dancing, grand Napoleonic Balls, afternoon teas in the Regency Manner, graveyard tours, costume promenades, period games, period food and much more. (from About on the website)

Aylwen calls the Festival “a living history event” and says it is evolving each year, with much of the program guided by the presentations offered. Some of the regular attendees and presenters include experts in historic reenactment, costume, music and dance of the Regency and Georgian eras. There are also presentations, of course, on Jane Austen and her novels and on the social and political history of the times. The Festival’s program has three concurrent streams for participants to choose from according to their interests. As 2014 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, it will be the feature novel for the conference.

She talked about this year’s speakers/presenters, including Caroline Knight, who was living at Chawton House prior to its sale to the Chawton House Library trust in 1993. This year, the conference will include a new strand: a special Sunday Morning Symposium dedicated to Mansfield Park. It is separately ticketed so that those unable to attend the full Festival can attend the Symposium. Symposium speakers will include Dr Gillian Dooley, Dr Heather Nielsen and Professor Will Christie. There will also be, she said, other literary-focused presentations throughout the conference, including a Jane Austen Book Club session which will run like, well, a book club meeting.

Other activities include a Market Day, a ball, and a pre-conference trip to Yass with involvement by the Yass Historical Society.

This year, she said, will see a big change to the Festival – it is moving to a new venue, University House, which means the food will be catered and there will be less demand on volunteers to run the day-to-day events.

Early bird tickets for the full festival are on sale now until 30 January for $295. The Mansfield Park Symposium costs $50. (A small administrative fee is added to these by EventBrite). To buy tickets, click here.

The meeting ended with our traditional quiz and sharing of quotes.

Show and Tell

Jane Austen Fridge Magnets

From MaggieMagnets

Our meetings usually start with a show and tell, in which members share news and objects they’ve acquired or come across since the previous meeting – relating to Jane Austen and other things relevantly historic or literary. Here are some of the things we shared at this meeting:

  • Facsimile edition of Volume the First, the first volume of Jane Austen’s juvenilia, published by the Bodleian Library, edited by Kathryn Sutherland
  • Jane Austen Fridge Magnets at Maggie Magnet’s Etsy Store
  • Pen Vogler’s book on Regency dining and recipes, Dinner with Mr Darcy
  • Two articles by Mary C Gildersleeve in PieceWork magazine: “Spencer Jackets: A Regency era fashion phenomenon” (a brief history) and “Jane’s Kerseymere Spencer Jacket” (a knitting pattern)

Next meeting

Our next meeting will be February 15, and we will be discussing Jane Austen’s juvenilia work, Catharine, or the Bower.

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