Syrie James at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath
I had the thrill of a lifetime participating in the Jane Austen Festival this month in Bath, England. It is the largest and longest-running Jane Austen Festival in the world and draws many thousands of people every year. The festivities started off on Saturday Sept. 9 with a Regency Costumed Promenade through the streets of Bath, with 800 participants led by the Master of Ceremonies/town crier, the Color Guard, and a troop of uniformed soldiers and drummers. Here I am with the Master of Ceremonies himself!
This was my fourth visit to Bath, and my first to the Jane Austen Festival (a long-cherished dream) — the last stop in a fabulous 16 day small group tour of Wales and medieval towns and cities of England including many 13th century castles, gardens, manor homes, museums, churches, cathedrals, and more (there was lots of high tea and a regal dinner with entertainment at the Clifton Assembly Rooms in Bristol)! The tour was created and led by the amazing Bonny Wise (center above, in the white pelisse and bonnet). Most of our tour members dressed up and participated in the Jane Austen Festival promenade — here are a few of them.
Before the promenade, the crowd milled and gathered and everyone delighted in the sight of so many participants in Regency attire.
I had the great good fortune to meet the lovely Silvana Casetta, a high school English teacher from Italy and lover of All Things Austen, who contacted me when she read my novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. She thought at first that it had been written by Jane Austen herself. How flattering is that!
I got there early enough to chat with the uniformed officers, many of whom have done this parade time and again for years. It was one of the hottest days of the year (an unusual 86 degrees Farenheit) and I felt for all the soldiers in their wool coats!
With a flourish and the beating of drums, the promenade began.
I was invited to walk just behind the soldiers, at the front of the parade, on the arm of a handsome officer!
What a marvelous time we all had taking part in this spectacle.
The promenade ended at the Bath Assembly Rooms (Jane Austen herself attended balls there), which hosted the Festival Fayre.
Since I was one of the first marchers in the promenade, I arrived early at the Festival Fayre and got a good look at all the merchandise on offer.
I coveted this bonnet, which would have matched my gown perfectly. Now I wish I had bought it!
Soon, the rooms were filled with a crush of eager buyers. Time to move on!
Dancers put on a charming show at the Assembly Rooms ballroom.
I spent the rest of the day strolling around Bath, admiring its stunning architecture. Here I am at the Royal Crescent.
Bath’s Pultney Bridge, which is lined with shops, above the River Avon.
The Bath Abbey.
Sally Lunn’s Eating House, famous for its Bath buns.
The gardens in Victoria Park, where I stopped at a nearby cafe for lunch and a cool drink.
All across England, I noticed that shopkeepers and restaurants are festooning their doorways with pretty garlands of artificial flowers. Here are just a few that I noticed in Bath.
On Sunday, Sept. 10, I participated in a lively Q&A as part of the festival’s Author Symposium at Waterstone’s bookstore, where I discussed my 3 Austen-related novels: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, and Jane Austen’s First Love.
That afternoon I had lunch with my dear English friend Sandra (AKA author Cass Grafton) who drove all the way down from Yorkshire (a 4.5 hour drive) to attend my Q&A and spend time with me. I am still stunned and honored that she went to such effort to join me in Bath. We’ve known each other virtually for ten years, and what a delight it was to finally meet in person! Cass/Sandra has a book coming out this week, “New Dreams at Polkerran Point” that I know you’ll love! Read my review here.
My tour group and I had tea at the Pump Room. Fun and delicious!
Our tour leader, Bonny Wise, proudly displays the antique parasol she bought at the Festival Fayre.
Sonja and Lane Strathearn and I tried the Bath waters. Not quite so delicious! (I didn’t dress up again that day because I’d just done my author talk.)
For my final festival event, I attended a delightful concert presentation of songs by vocalist Angela Milton from stage adaptations of Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Emma’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
I spent three days in Bath on this visit but the Jane Austen Festival lasted a total of ten days, with a host of fun activities and several balls. If you are an Austen fan, I highly recommend it.
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If you wish you’d seen the promenade, I will leave you with this: a YouTube video of the entire thing. You can see me marching along at the front, right after the men in red coats!
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