ALTON will re-establish its claim next weekend to England's best known lady author - the indomitable Jane Austen. It is to stage its local "Jane Austen In Alton Celebration" with a view to raising the profile of an author who many believe regarded the area as her home. According to organiser Pat Lerew, the idea had developed from a decision, taken last year by Alton Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), to try once more to give Alton its rightful place in Jane Austen's history. Key to the ACCI initiative was the renewed interest in the life of Jane Austen following the release of the most recent adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Mrs Lerew said: "For too long Bath, which she hated, and Winchester, where she went to die, have taken ownership and Alton – which was her place to walk, shop and visit her friends for all the years that she lived in Chawton, years during which she published all her great works – has been sidelined. "It is like only including Ann Hathaway's cottage in Shakespeare's history without mentioning Stratford-upon-Avon." According to Mrs Lerew, the ACCI was pleased that Alton had figured in the Great Hampshire Read, and has planned its event to complement this and to coincide with the AGM of The Jane Austen Society in Chawton on the afternoon of Saturday, July 15. On that day ACCI will be launching a new Jane Austen Trail leaflet which gives details of a self-guided walk between Jane Austen's House in Chawton to Alton High Street, with photographs and information about the various places she would have visited on the way. ACCI is said to be indebted to local historian Jane Hurst for her invaluable help with putting this leaflet together. Also on the Saturday, ACCI will be staging a Jane Austen Regency Evening at Alton Assembly Rooms. Starting at 7-30 pm, this event will offer a Regency-style supper, preceded by a display of Regency dancing by pupils from Amery Hill School and followed by a performance of readings and music of the period. In true Regency style, the supper will consist of a selection of 11 hot and cold dishes, all set out on the table to make up one course, which will be quite a different experience for most of the diners. "Although we are hoping that some of the Hampshire Jane Austen Dancers will be joining us and they will be quite used to this tradition," said Mrs Lerew. Tickets at £18 are still available for this event and can be reserved by contacting Alton Community Centre on 01420 85057. On Sunday, July 16 Jane Hurst will be leading a guided "Jane Austen Walk" around Alton, starting 2 pm from the Curtis Museum, which currently has a pelisse, thought to have belonged to Jane Austen, on display. Both the museum and the Allen Gallery will have a special Sunday opening for this event. Pre- booking is essential at the Curtis Museum on 01420 82802.
Weekend aims to re-establish Austen claim
Thursday 6th July 2006 10:00 pm