'Autumn of Austen' in Winchester

Press Release: 01/09/2005

As Winchester looks forward to hosting the southern celebrity première of the new Pride and Prejudice film on 6 September, visitor attractions, tourist guides, dance and theatre companies from across the county are coming together for an 'Autumn of Austen'.

Co-ordinated and promoted by Winchester City Council's tourism service, the programme of tours, dance, theatre and exhibitions has been put together to provide an opportunity for local people and visitors alike to celebrate Hampshire's most famous literary daughter, who spent much of her life in the county and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

The events form part of a national 'Visit Jane Austen Country' marketing campaign launched by Winchester Tourism in partnership with Hampshire County Council and Tourism South East.

The 'Autumn of Austen' kicks off on Thursday 15 September with a Jane Austen Evening at Winchester's Jewry Street Library, when actors from the Phoenix Theatre Company will present lively readings from the author's letters and novels. The group returns to the city on Saturday 17 September for a special Jane Austen Day at the City Museum, where they will be joined by the Regency Dancers demonstrating popular dances of the period.

The museum will also be holding an exhibition of facsimile documents from the Hampshire Record Office relating to Jane Austen's links with the county, as well as other items from their Austen family collection.

On the same day, Austen aficionados will be able to take the first in a new series of Jane Austen Guided Tours, led by Winchester's knowledgeable Blue Badge Tourist Guides. Running on two consecutive weekends during September, these 90-minute walking tours reveal the city as Jane knew it, from the house where she stayed with friends for Christmas to the 'long old solemnly grey and lovely shape of the cathedral' where she was finally laid to rest.

Later in the autumn on 8 October, the cathedral is offering a full day's programme of talks and tours on a Jane Austen theme - A Flavour of Jane Austen - which, as the name suggests, also includes a delicious two-course lunch at the Cathedral Visitors' Centre.

Film fans who missed out on the opportunity to rub shoulders with the stars at the première will be able to see at first-hand the costumes worn by Keira Knightley and fellow cast members at a special display at Jane Austen's House in Chawton throughout September, while Winchester's City Mill will be hosting an exhibition of photographs which record the making of the film at its sister National Trust property, Basildon Park.

Meanwhile on Saturday 24 September, the Hampshire Record Office is offering an ideal way to introduce younger members of the family to Jane Austen, through a series of art-based activities entitled Picture Perfect: Dress and Design in Jane Austen's Time. Children aged 6 years and over can have their photo taken as a character from Pride and Prejudice, make a Regency bonnet or top hat, and create finger puppets of characters from the novel.

Austen events continue throughout the autumn with a touring production of Persuasion by the Phoenix Theatre Company at various venues in North Hampshire during October and November, and special guided tours of the lovely Hampshire countryside around Jane Austen's family home at Steventon - what she called 'the neighbourhood' - which are bookable via the Basingstoke Visitor Information Centre.

Commenting on the current wave of Austenmania, Winchester City Council's Porfolio Holder for Culture, Heritage and Sport Cllr Thérèse Evans said: "Jane Austen's work remains as popular as ever but without a doubt the Pride and Prejudice première has brought about a renewed enthusiasm for all things Austen this autumn. We are delighted to see so many of our local guides and attractions taking this opportunity to celebrate the life and work of one of the county's most famous former residents."

Winchester City Council's tourism marketing manager Karen Brazier added: "This programme of events is just the start of a major marketing campaign for Winchester and the wider county which aims to spread the word that Hampshire is 'true' Jane Austen country. While other destinations are busy promoting locations used for the new film, we hope that Winchester's very real connections with the author will prove to be a valuable hook in attracting staying visitors to the city."

For further information on any of the above events, contact Winchester Tourist Information Centre on 01962 840 500, email tourism@winchester.gov.uk or go to www.visitwinchester.co.uk