‘Bringing the Brontës to the world and the world to Yorkshire’
The Brontë Society unveiled some of its plans for next year’s bicentenary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë at a special event at her birthplace on Tuesday 21 April. The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth teamed up with Mark de Luca, proprietor of Emily’s in nearby Thornton, to host a party to celebrate the author’s 199th birthday and launch Brontë200, the Society’s programme of events celebrating the bicentenaries of the Brontë siblings: Charlotte in 2016, Branwell in 2017, Emily in 2018 and Anne in 2020. The Society also plans to commemorate Patrick Brontë in 2019, 200 years after he was invited to take up the Parson’s role in Haworth.
Attendees at the party, comprising Museum staff, Society members, Brontë enthusiasts and VIP guests heard how the Society intends to ‘bring the Brontës to the world and the world to Yorkshire’ through a series of events, exhibitions and partnership projects.
Working with the Museum team as a Creative Partner during 2016 is Tracy Chevalier, world-renowned author of ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’, ‘Remarkable Creatures’ and ‘The Last Runaway’. Tracy is developing a number of projects supported by Arts Council England, including a special exhibition at the Parsonage which will contrast the smallness of Charlotte’s world with the greatness of her ambition and achievements. The exhibition, named ‘I Shall Go Off Like a Bombshell’, will open at the Museum in February next year.
Tracy is also editing a collection of short stories influenced by the writing of Charlotte Brontë. ‘Reader, I Married Him’ will be published in the spring of 2016 by the Borough Press and will comprise stories by British and North American women writers including Helen Dunmore, Susan Hill, Emma Donoghue, Audrey Niffenegger and Jane Gardam.
“I have long loved Charlotte Brontë and am thrilled to be involved in the upcoming celebration of her bicentenary. The Parsonage is a unique house; it’s incredible to see the place where so much creativity arose. I’m hoping to sprinkle some surprises in amongst the dresses and writing desks – including a Twitter tour of the house and exhibition, and even a knitted Jane Eyre!”
Also being announced is ‘Celebrating Charlotte’, a touring exhibition which will be shown at the National Portrait Gallery in London before crossing the Atlantic to the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.
The Society also launched the #seekingcharlotte social media campaign. Marketing Officer Rebecca Yorke explained:
“We often have visitors to the Museum who tell us that they were named after one of the Brontë sisters, so we thought it would be fascinating to find women of all ages called Charlotte who share her birthday. We are asking Charlottes born on or near 21st April to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can invite them to share our celebrations in 2016.”
To support the bicentenary programme, the Society is developing a dedicated website www.bronte200.org which will serve as a hub for all events and activities connected to the programme and a Brontë200 logo which will be available for use by other organisations wishing to celebrate the bicentenaries. Matthew Withey, Chair of the Brontë Society Bicentenary Committee, said:
“The bicentenaries of the Brontë siblings provide a tremendous opportunity for the Brontë Society to celebrate the legacy of the Brontës across the globe. We recognise that arts organisations, museums and individuals will want to help us mark these special anniversaries and look forward to building new partnerships and reaching new audiences during the five-year programme.”
Bonnie Greer, President of the Brontë Society, is developing a number of personal projects aimed at growing and diversifying the membership of the Society during the bicentenary period. These include BSide - a programme aimed at engaging young women with the work of the Society - which gets off to a start with a ‘Jane Eyre’ fanfiction workshop in London. She is also developing an award named after Patrick Brontë and an initiative with Bradford Council that will commemorate Branwell Brontë. Bonnie has also made a short film with Ann Dinsdale, Collections Manager at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, inviting people to come to Haworth during the bicentenary celebrations.
Ms Greer said:
“We recognise that the Brontë Society and Parsonage Museum have an important role to play in growing the visitor economy and supporting local businesses. We look forward to working with Bradford Council, Welcome to Yorkshire and other stakeholders to ‘bring the Brontës to the world and the world to Yorkshire’ during the bicentenary period.”
Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said:
“The Brontës provide a huge draw to Bradford and Yorkshire for visitors, especially those travelling from abroad. The added bonus is that it’s so easy to fall in love with Brontë Country and the whole story of this world famous family. It’s only right we celebrate this key bicentenary and the plans already look exciting.”