Sunday, 15 February 2009

Refreshed

Richard Wilcocks writes:

Everything has been refreshed, thanks to the hard work of the Parsonage staff during the closed period. In general, more is on display, and costumes from the ITV version of Wuthering Heights (expect it on UK screens this year, ‘possibly in the early summer’) have been placed in the spruced-up rooms, so visitors will be able to see what Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley wore for the filming when they walk around with the television images in their recent memories. The costumes all look freshly-stitched and ..….pristine. I suppose it would be too much to expect a line of dried moorland mud on Cathy’s hem.

The Genius exhibition is very impressive, a great improvement on what was there before, and the newly-uncovered window makes a significant difference. There are brief quotes on the walls, displays at appropriate eye-levels, intelligent selection and labelling, increased colour and a sense of airiness. There is also a section for younger children, who are invited to lift little blue lids to see illustrations of what it was like in the mid-nineteenth century. In an ideal world in which large sums of money can be brought by obedient genies, in some kind of separate visitors’ centre, there would be an abundance of stimulatory material for primary school visitors – toy soldiers and more....

Something like ten years ago, there was much talk on Brontë Society Council about a new visitors’ centre – should it be an earth-sheltered, ecologically-sound structure, or a kind of converted barn, and so on, and at one stage plans were drawn and a booklet produced. I remember contributing a piece. It was all fantasy, though, a series of optimistic speculations based on the supposition that a huge grant would be given.

Bonnie Greer (pictured below) was the guest at the official opening on Friday evening. She said all the right things, wonderfully, after an introduction from Director Andrew McCarthy. She was genuinely overwhelmed by simply standing inside the Parsonage, the place where so much of global literary significance had happened. She mentioned the influence of Patrick, the loving and unusually liberal paterfamilias who had allowed his daughters to read and write so much, and the continuing power of the Sisters: “I read Wuthering Heights at a young age, and if Emily Brontë can have such an effect on a little black girl in Chicago, she can have a big effect on anyone.”

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