From beginning to end, the 2022 Jane Austen Festival was like no other that has come before it. We were delighted to welcome our largest ever number of Promenaders to Bath and to hold events in locations known and loved by Jane Austen that we have dreamed of for years. We also started the Festival with the sad news of the passing of our monarch of 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II, a momentous occasion in history which began a period of national mourning.
The first full day of the Festival started off with a minute’s silence in memory of our beloved Queen, ably led by our Master of Ceremonies, John White, and the 33rd Regiment of Foot. It was a sombre moment, and for many of us the first time we had said the words “God Save The King”. Our famous Regency Costumed Promenade then wound its way through the city, commencing at the Holburne museum, wending its way along Great Pulteney Street, passing the iconic Bath locations of the Guildhall and Roman Baths, before ending in Queen’s Square by the Jane Austen Centre. 573 wristband holders took part, as well as a goodly number of cute costumed babies, toddlers and four-legged friends!
This year, we were lucky enough to hold our ball in Bath’s famous Assembly Rooms, recreating an authentic Regency atmosphere throughout the whole building; attendees danced in the Ballroom, gamed in the card room (to our knowledge, no estates or fortunes were gambled away this time!) and took refreshments in the tearoom just as Jane Austen herself would have done. To welcome Festival guests to the historic Assembly Rooms in this way has long been an ambition of the Jane Austen Festival, and to see 300 people enjoying the rooms in just the same way as their Regency forebears would have done, in their Regency finery, was a magnificent sight.
The weekend continued with the 33rd Regiment of Foot’s drop-in camp at the Holburne (yes, we provided a whole camp full of soldiers!); the regiment welcomed guests, answered questions and demonstrated any number of Regency crafts, skills and professions- their surgeon’s talks are not for the faint-hearted- throughout the weekend. The weather was kind to us and on Sunday afternoon many Festival-goers gathered together in the tranquil setting of Sydney Gardens to picnic, play games, recover from the previous night’s ball and socialise in a setting Jane Austen loved.
Through the week, our Festival-goers enjoyed some new events (embroidery and calligraphy workshops were a sell-out success) as well as some old favourites; Bath Parade Guides led us round the city, showing the sights of beautiful Bath while teaching us all manner of Regency history facts, from topics as tame as tea and coffee to their scandalous “The Oldest Profession” walking tour!As dusk gathered on Thursday evening, Festival-goers donned their Regency finest and got ready for our torch-lit evening reception around the spectacular Roman Baths. To see people enjoying this iconic location after dark, with a glass of bubbly and music provided by the Pump Rooms Trio, was a stunning sight.
The second weekend of the Festival saw another new event take place at St. Swithin’s church, the site of Jane Austen’s parents’ wedding and where her father is laid to rest. The church provided the perfect space for a “roll back the carpet” informal Regency dance event, where Festival attendees could experience how the Austen family might have danced at home to entertain themselves between much-longed-for balls. Dancing was demonstrated and assisted by the talented Jane Austen Dancers and accompanied by live piano music.
Throughout the whole Festival, our wonderful stewarding team kept everything running smoothly. 2022 was a year like no other, with more last minute changes than we have ever needed to make before, and the Festival simply could not have taken place without the stewards’ friendly faces, welcoming demeanours and heaps of expertise. From checking tickets to running the hilarious “Stewards Takeover” of our Instagram, our stewards were constantly on the go. The informal nickname for our stewarding team has long been “the Jane Austen Ducks”, for their unrivalled ability to look like they are smoothly gliding along the surface whilst paddling like mad underneath; this year, more than ever, they earned that title! We would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to our stewarding team for all their hard work and support.
Whether you attended the 2022 Jane Austen Festival, or watched from afar via our social media, we very much hope you loved it as much as we did.