Thursday, 31 July 2008

Strba at the Parsonage

An exhibition of new work by Swiss artist Annelies Strba will go on show at the Parsonage tomorrow, Friday 1 August. The exhibition will be opened by Christoph Grunenberg, director of Tate Liverpool.

‘My Life Dreams’ is a series of digitally-manipulated images in response to the Brontës and the Parsonage, displayed throughout the period rooms of the museum. The exhibition is funded by Arts Council England and forms part of the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s contemporary arts programme.

‘My Life Dreams’ takes inspiration from Wuthering Heights, and the illustrations for the 1935 edition of the novel by the artist Balthus. Annelies Strba portrays a magical and entirely feminine world, in which her daughters and granddaughters (always central to Strba’s work) appear as ethereal figures suspended in dream-like landscapes.

The series of tiny works will be displayed imaginatively throughout the Parsonage, placed in spaces within the period rooms and amongst the Brontës’ own possessions.

‘My Life Dreams’ will be on show until 31 October 2008 before it transfers to The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin.

“We are tremendously excited to be working with Annelies Strba and this exhibition continues the museum’s programming of bold visual arts projects. Annelies Strba‘s images visualise her own emotional response to the Brontës’ radical creativity and these vibrant images, placed amongst the Brontës possessions in this way, create powerful connections between the imaginative worlds of the Brontës and Strba’s own contemporary artistic practice.”

Jenna Holmes, Arts Officer.

Annelies Strba’s work has been inspired by a diverse range of locations and subjects, including her own life in Melide, Switzerland, the earthquake-stricken city of Kobe, the gloom of Auschwitz and the Cottingley Fairies. 

She has exhibited widely in recent years throughout Europe and the USA. Her work has been shown at, amongst others; James McCoy Gallery, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague; European Museum of Photography, Paris; Tate Gallery, Liverpool and Barbican Centre, London.

Annelies Strba is represented by Frith Street Gallery, London.

Eighty years on

The Parsonage Museum will celebrate its 80th anniversary by holding a free open day for local residents next Monday 4 August. The museum will also be offering visitors aged 80 years or over free admission to the museum throughout August.
In addition, residents with a BD21 or BD22 postcode can gain free admission to the museum by presenting proof of address.

Artist Lesley Martin will be working with visitors to create a giant artwork on the front lawn, made from natural materials. Visitors are invited to bring along their own flowers and leaves found on walks in the area and to learn about the plants growing around the Parsonage.

The open day will launch a series of special arts events at the museum throughout August, including a chainsaw sculpture created from Charlotte Brontë’s tree and a specially commissioned puppetry theatre performance.

The Parsonage was acquired by the Brontë Society in 1927 and its doors opened to the public on 4 August 1928. A crowd of thousands arrived in Haworth to witness the opening.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Dewsbury events next year

Ruth Battye writes:

Patrick Brontë arrived in Dewsbury on 5 December 1809. To celebrate this event there will be special services in Dewsbury Minster on 6 December 2009. Dewsbury wishes to involve the Brontë Society and so a meeting was arranged in the Minster on 28 July 2008.

Those present were Rev Canon Kevin Partington, Team Rector of Dewsbury, Museum & Galleries (Kirklees) Manager,  a representative of Dewsbury Matters (a local history group), Batley & Dewsbury Town Centre Manager, a member of Dewsbury District Council, the President of Mirfield Historical Society and myself, representing the Brontë Society.

It was felt that although December would be a more appropriate time to hold celebrations and it would be good to share in the services which are to take place, the difficulty in travelling to Dewsbury during that month may well prevent many members from attending and so it was suggested that, in addition to the service in December, we hold our celebrations during a long weekend in September. The provisional dates are Friday 25 to 28 September 2009 inclusive.

Once we have a committee established we can begin coordinating all the different groups to organise what promises to be a thrilling time for local people as well as Brontë Society members. Hopefully this will be the launch of an annual event in Dewsbury.

Although this may seem to be a long way ahead, the planning of such an event does take time. I will keep the Parsonage Blog  informed of developments but people who are interested could contact me at +44 1535 642219, preferably on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, or e-mail
Imelda Marsden raised this matter to start with: you could contact her at 

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Rare portrait on loan

See a BBC video about the portrait of Emily Brontë here.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Meeting in Amsterdam

Maddalena De Leo writes:

In the first days of July just before leaving for The Netherlands on holiday I proposed that
Helen MacEwan, the BS representative for Belgium, should gather the Belgian members from Brussels and possibly from The Netherlands for a meeting in Amsterdam in the period I should be there. It might be interesting for our two sections to exchange opinions and to know us by person in a country different from ours. It was also something not attempted by the Brontë Society as yet and eventually a key to new collaborative plans for the future.

Helen was really enthusiastic for the idea and in a short time she emailed all the BS members she knew, receiving a positive answer from all. On my part, I got in touch with
Veronica Metz, the lead singer of the Dutch Celtic band ‘Anois’ since I heard she’s working on a project based on Emily’s poems set to music at the moment. Veronica promptly agreed to be present to the meeting.

On 8 July 2008 at 3 pm sharp my hotel in Amsterdam saw the arrival of a group of people, each coming on their own and asking for me. Surprisingly there were at the door Helen MacEwan,
Selina Bush, Eric Ruijssenaars, Maureen Peeck-O’Toole, Sherry Vosburgh, Jenny Hoffman's friend (she was ill and unfortunately couldn’t come that day), Veronica Metz with her band and, absolutely by surprise, my Belgian BS penfriend Luc Bormans and his girlfriend.

When we sat down in the small breakfast room of the hotel and after having bravely defied the hotel receptionist’s fury, calming him down by buying some drinks, I started by asking Veronica about her musical work on Emily’s poems and about her inspiration for it. She told us that all was due to her visit to Haworth Parsonage some years ago and to the magnificent view of the moors behind it. She kindly handed each of us a CD-demo of her
Emily Brontë and the conversation so started was followed by questions and answers dealing with the organization of our two sections, on our meetings, the blogs, the web and the magazines edited by each section.

After a short break with the Anois music filling the air and a really friendly atmosphere among members - all chatting as old friends both in Dutch and English - I gave Helen an Italian ceramic plate commemorative of the event and we all drank a toast with the champagne I brought from Italy for the occasion. I then read my lecture ‘The Brontës and the Sea’, a topic I chose for our being in Amsterdam, thanking all for their presence there.

What a success and what an incredible BS meeting this was, only planned in a few days and by e-mails! By leaving as real friends we all wished to possibly meet again in Brussels or Italy in the future hoping to experience again so lucky a Brontë day.

Below, the complete group, Maddalena with Helen MacEwan, Maddalena with Anois:

Friday, 11 July 2008

The Perfect Heathcliff

Richard Wilcocks writes:

I'm starting to feel sorry for Gordon Brown, after, I admit, a few sniggers yesterday. I travelled down to London at an unearthly hour yesterday morning, so missed out on the Radio 4 Today programme and the morning papers. I have now caught up, thanks largely to exhaustive coverage of the matter on Brontë Blog.

Andrew McCarthy (Parsonage Acting Director) said all the right things, of course, as did Juliet Barker (hear her again online at the BBC) we really want a man who identifies with a character who hangs dogs as PM? It's an amusing parlour game, I suppose. Which character in fiction most resembles (insert name here)? It's a parlour game played by point-scoring politicians as much as by journalists who would have us believe that they have actually read Wuthering Heights rather than just seen the film or the synopsis on Wikipedia. Mind you, I'm not sure whether Gordon Brown has read the book or what did he actually say in the New Statesman?

Not very much, it seems. Thanks again to Brontë Blog for quoting this from the NS:

Heathcliff? Absolutely

Most observers agree the Prime Minister has improved at the despatch box after being mauled by David Cameron early on. But Brown remains an unsympathetic figure in the eyes of the electorate. His advisers may have tried to turn his brooding seriousness into an electoral asset, but they must secretly hope he would share more private moments with the public, which seems to have decided that he lacks warmth.

There is a human side to Gordon. He may be uncomfortable talking about himself, but on the train home our conversation is punctuated with laughter, and most of it is neither nervous nor insincere.

Is he a romantic? I ask. "Ask Sarah," he chuckles. Some women say you remind them of Heathcliff, I suggest. Brown is, after all, brooding and intense. "Absolutely correct," he jokes. "Well, maybe an older Heathcliff, a wiser Heathcliff." (Gloria di Piero)

So Gordon Brown chuckled. He was picturing in his mind some of the women who thought he reminded them of Heathcliff, no doubt. He was recognizing the ludicrous nature of the comparison. After all, he doesn't look at all like Sir Laurence Olivier. You don't find women like that everywhere! What else could he have said other than what he did say?

I think he has a hidden witty side, a dry sense of humour, perhaps.

The publicity people at Birmingham Rep have moved swiftly. There is now a site devoted to windswept Gordon here. You can add your comment if you want.

Wuthering Heights in Birmingham

Pictured here - April De Angellis

Here are some publicity paragraphs from Birmingham Rep:

A brand-new adaptation brings Emily Brontë's passionate and spellbinding tale of forbidden love and revenge to life on stage. Set on the wild, windswept Yorkshire moors, Wuthering Heights is the tempestuous story of free-spirited Catherine and dark, brooding Heathcliff. As children running wild and free on th emoors, Catherine and Heathcliff are inseparable. 

As they grow up, their affection deepens into a passionate love, but Cathy lets her head rule her heart as she chooses to marry the wealthy Edgar Linton. Heathcliff flees broken-hearted only to return seeking terrible vengeance on those he holds responsible, with epic and tragic results.

April De Angelis is one of the UK's most innovative dramatists. Her plays have included A Laughing Matter at the National Theatre, Hush at the Royal Court and The Warwickshire Testimony for the RSC.

More information from Birmingham Rep

Birmingham Repertory Theatre 20 September to 18 October 2008

Invitation to vote

Chris Routledge writes:

I am the online editor of The Reader Organisation. You may have heard of us in connection with The Reader magazine.

We are starting a campaign to get 'classic' literature on the Richard and Judy TV Book Club show and we are holding a poll to decide which of five novels to champion. One of the five is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and I wondered if your readers/members might be interested in voting. The link (to a post on our blog) is here.

The poll closes at the end of July.

Best wishes!

Richard Wilcocks adds:

I voted for it - that's one more! The Reader is now on our links list.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Emily portrait comes home to Haworth

Arts Officer Jenna Holmes writes:

A National Portrait Gallery Loan and rare poems manuscript return to Haworth for first time in nearly 150 years to crown the 2008 exhibition No Coward Soul at the Parsonage.

As part of the 2008 exhibition focusing on Emily Brontë, the museum is delighted to able to display her Gondal poems notebook and a rare portrait of Emily painted by her brother Branwell. Both of these items are currently on loan to the Parsonage for a limited time only.

In 1861, after the Brontës had died, the Gondal poems notebook left Haworth for Ireland with Charlotte’s widower Arthur Bell Nicholls. Following his death in 1907, the manuscript was auctioned in a sale at Sotheby’s and purchased by Mrs George Smith, widow of Charlotte’s publisher. It was then bequeathed to the British Library in London by the Smith family and for the first time since 1861, returns to the Parsonage where it was originally composed.

The iconic portrait of Emily by her brother Branwell was once part of a larger painting called ‘The Gun Group’ portrait. It was cut out by Arthur Bell Nicholls on the death of Patrick Brontë in 1861 and was later found on top of a wardrobe along with ‘The Brontë Sisters’ portrait (also by Branwell) by Arthur’s second wife Mary Ann Nicholls after his death.

It is now owned by the National Portrait Gallery. This is a very rare opportunity for visitors to see the portrait outside of its usual London location.

Special loans and No Coward Soul exhibition 2008 – Ann Dinsdale Collections Manager – 01535 640198

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

McCain recalls loss on 'Jeopardy'

Paul Daniggelis sends this Associated Press report:

PIPERSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Who is Heathcliff?

The name of the doomed romantic hero in Emily Brontë's novel 'Wuthering Heights' eluded John McCain more than 40 years ago, robbing him of a second straight win as a contestant on the televised quiz show 'Jeopardy',  the Republican presidential hopeful said Monday.

Riding aboard his Straight Talk Express campaign bus, McCain, well-read and a trivia buff, recalled his two-day appearance on the popular program in 1965. He won the game the first day, and lost the next day in the final round.

So, what was the Final Jeopardy question that tripped him up?

The famously competitive Arizona senator recalled it exactly. "Cathy loved him, but married Edgar Linton instead."

McCain said he knew the name of the book, but that his answer — What is Wuthering Heights? — led to his elimination.