In 2017 I spent a week in Bath, England as part of a museums intensive course. In the allotted spare time given us I explored the city, walking in Jane Austen’s footsteps, and having read Austen’s Northanger Abbey in preparation for my visit, I even had myself a Catherine Morland Day out on the town. By the end of a week full of Austen and Bath museum tours and history lessons, I thought I’d seen everything and was happy to see Bath fade into the distance as our coach carried us to the next city, except for one thing. I longed to come back someday when I could see men in smart red soldier coats and women in long gowns strolling through the Georgian-era city streets and picnicking on the lawn outside The Royal Crescent. I am of course referring to the annual Jane Austen Festival that takes place in Bath each September. Wondering if I could get anybody to join me for such an adventure, I shelved the idea for later and faced front as the bus rolled on.
That was until early 2020, when an email popped into my inbox from my favorite pair of traveling sisters, The Jet Sisters. Angie and Rachel were planning to lead 3 group tours this year and one of them was a 10-person, girls-only, group trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath! I messaged Angie straight away to tell her I was packing my bag and just needed a costume!
I probably don’t need to tell you that the trip has now been canceled, as has the Jane Austen Festival itself, and I can only hope that next year travel will resume, countries will open their borders, and festivals can once again be held, as well as group trips. So here’s how I [would have] prepped…
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A Reading List
- Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright & Cass Grafton
- The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen (Austen Adventures #2) by Cass Grafton & Ada Bright
- The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
- The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
I could, of course, re-read Jane Austen, starting with Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion, the two books in which characters spend a significant amount of time in Bath. As I have previously made a trip to Bath revolving around Austen’s books, however, I opted instead for some newer Austen fanfic instead. I picked up The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton. It takes place during the annual festival in Bath and involves a little time travel meets modern day, and mystery.
Every year at the Festival, authors and historians who’ve written Jane Austen related works give talks and presentations. Author Cass Grafton was supposed to be part of a panel speaking at the festival this year so I was hoping to meet her and get my book signed.
Unfortunately, due to the festival cancellation, there isn’t much information available on the festival’s website, so I reached out to Grafton to find out which other authors were to be on the panel with her. Dr. Gabrielle Malcolm, who’s spoken at the festival in the past, was to host the panel. She’s written two Austen related books: There’s Something About Darcy & Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen. They were to be joined by Karin Quint, author of Jane Austen’s England: A Travel Guide, Catherine Curzon, an author of British royal histories, and Rose Servitova, author of The Longbourn Letters: The Correspondence between Mr Collins & Mr Bennet, and a couple other Austen related works.
Grafton also mentioned a few more authors who have spoken at the festival in the past: Prof John Milan, Paula Byrne, Helena Kelly, and Rebecca Smith. If you’re planning to go to the festival, I recommend checking out the works of some of these authors and the Festival Publications list. Once you’ve had your fill of original Austens, of course.
Regency period costumes are required for certain events (though I’m not sure why anyone would not want to join in the fun of dressing up!). The costume events include a promenade (the opening parade), a country dance and a masked ball, and a couple receptions. Costumes can either be sewn, purchased, or rented.
- The festival website has a page with links to sites for obtaining or creating your own costume
- Angie Away has a helpful blog post on obtaining dresses for the festival
- Etsy is a great place for accessories such as bonnets, and reticule bags, however nice looking dresses are few and far between. The best I’ve found so far are the custom made ones by Miki’s Petticoat, like this dress.
I haven’t decided yet which route to take myself, but now I have an extra year to decide! I’m tempted to try my hand at sewing a dress, because if I mess up I still have time to buy or rent one instead. The last time I tried to sew a costume dress, however, it only kind of fit. (For the sewers out there- I have a real problem with sleeves. The dress moved up and down when I moved my arms.)
Austen Film Adaptation Viewings and Tea Parties
Why wait for the festival to start indulging in Austen-related activities? Gather some girlfriends for Jane Austen film adaptation nights and tea parties!
Unfortunately Covid has currently put a halt to gatherings with friends, but as soon as we are able, I hope to continue girls Austen movie nights and try out some of the recipes in Dinner with Mr. Darcy by Pen Vogler.
Are you a Jane Austen fan? Have you been to any Jane Austen Festival? Do you want to go? Are there other ways we can enjoy Austen festivities at home during this time? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
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