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Step back in time at the Jane Austen Festival, in Canberra this Easter

HerCanberra Team

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a true Austen-lover in possession of a lively mind must be in want of a true Austen festival. 

The Jane Austen Festival Australia is certainly an event proven to delight any Austenite, providing all manner of Regency delicacies to tempt the keenest connoisseur…and it’s happening in Canberra from Thursday 10 to Sunday 13 April.

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The festival attracts enthusiasts of many different fields: history, literature, dancing, costuming, sewing, and even war re-enactors. So whether you like “dancing every dance” like Lydia and Kitty Bennet, or sitting industriously at your needlework like Jane Bennet, or even reading quietly in the library like Mr Bennet, you can experience it all at the Jane Austen Festival Australia.

Festival participants will experience a wide range of elements of Regency life, including dressing in traditional garments. In addition, this year’s festival will incorporate the celebration of 200 years since the publication of Austen’s novel, Mansfield Park.

The festival opens on Thursday night with a true celebration of the Regency social gathering: the gaming table. Traditional games are supplied that include loo, whist, speculation and commerce, and there will also be a special guest speaker – the last living descendant of Jane Austen . It has also traditionally become a time for costumers to gather and madly make those finishing touches to their garments for the festival.

The following three days are full of dancing classes, sewing and costuming workshops, and lectures on various topics. One of this year’s guests is the previous fashion curator of the Museum of London who will be exhibiting her reproduction of Jane Austen’s pelisse, which was constructed exactly 200 years ago.

On Sunday there is the addition of a Symposium featuring some eminent guest speakers focusing particularly on topics that relate to the novel Mansfield Park. These talks, as well as those presented on the previous days, cover a broad range of topics including education, war, music, history, and significant Regency people. On Sunday afternoon there is a slight deviation from the previous two days, with a picnic lunch and the ever-popular promenade at the Botanic Gardens. It is a perfect chance to relax and enjoy the gentle autumn sun in the shade of your parasol.

The nights are as exciting as the days, beginning with the Friday night Variety Concert. This evening is, quite literally, a feast for your senses and includes a Georgian dinner to enjoy. A variety of acts follow, ranging from music, singing, dancing displays and theatre items that all combine to send you back to the early 1800s.

On Saturday night is the much-anticipated and glittering Regency Ball. This is an opportunity to practise the dance steps learnt earlier in the festival, but also to view the delightful variety of costumes that people are wearing. There is even an opportunity to have a portrait picture taken! A good host is aware that not all guests have a love of dancing, and for those people so inclined there is a room set aside for traditional games and cards, just as it was in Jane Austen’s time. In the late afternoon on Sunday is the second ball, the Jane Austen Cotillion Ball, and is one not to be missed.

the essentials

What: Jane Austen Festival Australia
When: Thursday 10 to Sunday 13 April
Where: University House, Australian National University
Tickets: From www.janeaustenfestival.com.au. Season tickets are $345 but HerCanberra readers pay just $295 (click here to buy)
Web: ]janeaustenfestival.com

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Her Canberra

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