Books Magazine

Jackie Herring & the Jane Austen Festival in Bath - Interview

By Mariagrazia @SMaryG


Jackie Herring

My guest today is Jackie Herring. She has been involved in some form or another with the Jane Austen Festival in Bath since its creation 12 years ago. This will be Jackie’s 5th in charge and as Festival Director, a job that covers all aspects from choosing and booking the artists and venues, writing and producing the programme to fixing banners to railings and washing up at the end of the Soiree. With an honours degree in and love of History, plus previous administrative, sales, computing and personnel experience – this is Jackie’s dream job. How many people have the opportunity of talking about their favourite author, researching and putting on entertainments for others that they enjoy themselves, dress in glorious costumes, appear on the television and get paid for it!
If you want to know more about the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, if you dream of beng there next September, join our chat below and ... enjoy!
Welcome to My Jane Austen Book Club, Jackie.  It’s a great pleasure and an honor to have you as my guest and have the chance to ask you a few questions. Thank you for asking me. Is everything ready for this year festival in Bath? Not quite, the diary is pretty full but there are still lots of things to be sorted out before I can write the first draft of the programme. What are these year’s  September dates? From Friday 14th to Saturday 22nd September 2012 When did the event start and who were the founders? The Jane Austen Festival started in September 2000, so this is its 12th year and it was the brain child of David Baldock the owner of The Jane Austen Centre in Bath who was also the first Festival Director. The first year it was over a weekend – 3 days including the Friday. Apart from the traditional  Regency Costume Promenade, what are other important moments in the next September Festival? Is there a special topic/trail you follow this year?  There are lots of really special moments, small gatherings and the larger ones but in particular this year the Promenade will follow a different route and Bath City Council are going to close the main shopping area, Milsom Street, for us to walk down. I am working on something that will be held in the Assembly Rooms on Sunday 16th but can’t say what just yet, there is a whole day of Regency and Baroque dancing on Monday 17th, coach trips to Hampshire and Stourhead (where the 2005 Pride & Prejudice was filmed) costume workshops, harp workshop, embroidery workshop.... there is a magical evening on Friday 21st with a reception around the torch lit Roman Baths, followed by a Regency Costumed Masked Ball in the Pump Rooms. This spectacular event was extremely popular last year..  Plus so much more.
Is there any special or new feature  you want to tell us about? We have two theatricals being performed using the venues themselves as the ‘stage and scenery’ very exiciting and quite new to Bath and the audience sit in the action rather than view it from afar. What are the most exciting aspect at working for this incredible event? Meeting so many talented people and a plan coming together. What are instead the hardest moments in the preparation for it? Just the amount of things that must be done for it succeed.
What is it so special in the atmosphere of the Festival in Bath which makes it different from any other  National or International meeting for Janeites?  I think there are probably a great many similarities with other meetings but probably the venues we use and the amount of costume events, plus Bath is a small place where people can meet and make lifelong friendships. What is  it that you especially like in Jane Austen’s world? The slower pace of life – I can understand why Jane Austen wrote particularly when she moved to Hampshire, there was nothing else to do! When and how did you become fond of her work? At the age of 16 my best friend gave me her copy of Pride & Prejudice and said, ‘you’ll like this, it is better than Jilly Cooper!’ I did and I was hooked.  Why don’t you tell us about your favourite story, hero and heroine? Pride and Prejudice is my favourite, it is so complete I wouldn’t want to change any part of it plus I married a Mr Darcy!
Jane Austen and modernity. Isn’t her success at present stunningly surprising? What is the appeal of world to  modern  readers? I don’t find it surprising, each generation basically like the same things and Jane Austen’s novels are, to put them in their simplest form, romantic - will they won’t they novels – which also make stunning films and tv series’. I suppose you know and meet  lots of Janeites every year and,  maybe,  all the year through, not only in September.  What kind of people are Jane’s admirers? Is there a common feature they share or are they most a miscellaneous fond crowd? The common denominator is that they all love Austen’s  work, whether it be reproduced on film or they read the books. Other than that they are from all walks of life, male and female though the majority are female, of all ages and come from all over the world. Now, my last request is...  How would you invite My Jane Austen Book Club readers not to miss the event and visit Bath in September ? You’ve got  50 words! The 2012 Jane Austen Festival, nine wonderful days celebrating all things Austen in the beautiful Georgian city of Bath. Attend the world famous and record breaking Regency Costumed Promenade, plus workshops, talks, soirees, and more and don’t miss the magical and spectacular Masked Ball. Full details available from the website Thank you so much Jackie for taking the time to answer my questions. Keep up with the good work and great success with your Festival!

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