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Friday, 27 May 2011

Annual Weekend - soon

News release from the Parsonage:
With new President, Bonnie Greer, in attendance, the Brontë Society has a packed  weekend of events lined up for its annual gathering in Haworth, 3 -5 June.

Bestselling novelist Salley Vickers will launch the weekend on the afternoon of Friday 3 June. Her novels include the word of mouth bestseller Miss Garnet’s Angel. She will be will be reading from this and discussing her work at the West Lane Baptist Centre at 3.30pm. Tickets cost £6.00 and will be available on the door.

On Saturday 4 June literary lunatics Lip Service perform their cult classic, Withering Looks at 8pm. The show gives an intimate look at the lives of the Brontë sisters – well two of them anyway, Anne’s just popped out for a cup of sugar. But they do have maniacal laughter from the attic, consumptive coughing and some tormented souls to compensate! Tickets cost £20.00 and should be booked in advance from / 01535 640188. Tickets include admission to the museum on the day of the performance.

On Sunday 5 June, pianist Maya Irgalina from the Royal Northern College of Music will again be performing on the Brontës’ cabinet piano. Visitors to the museum can look around the Parsonage as the music, chosen from the Brontës’ music books and including Beethoven and Handel, drifts through the house. The piano was restored in 2010 and this is only the second time that it has been played in over 150 years. This event is open to all on payment of normal museum admission.

Visitors to the museum over the Brontë weekend will have a chance to see the museum’s current special exhibitions. Patrick Bronte In his Own Right  focuses on the remarkable life of the Brontës’ father, Patrick. To be forever known is a haunting sound installation for the Dining Room by artist Catherine Bertola, responding to the Brontës’ letters.  

In addition there are also a range of other events for Brontë Society members including the Society’s annual lecture, afternoon tea, a church service to commemorate the Brontës at St Michael & All Angels Church, social events and walks. For further information about the Brontë Society and forthcoming events contact

* There will be plenty of reports, reviews and photographs on this blog.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Blake Morrison's talk

D. Court writes:
Having attended school in Skipton at the same time as Blake Morrison I had looked forward with anticipation to the evening at Haworth when he was talking about his life and work.

It was very evident from the start that, although now based in London, his roots are very much in the North and this is reflected in much of his work. He talked about his poetry - The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper and Pendle Witches which had been illustrated with drawings by Paula Rego - a name familiar to Parsonage visitors - who had had an exhibition there of lithographs based on Jane Eyre. He described how, after much encouragement from Barrie Rutter of Northern Broadsides, he had written a play, which will tour in the autumn, portraying Chekhov’s Three Sisters as the Brontës. It was interesting to hear about the many parallels in the story- three sisters, an unpredictable, temperamental brother, sorrow and tragedy - but also the many differences- with Chekhov the father is dead, Patrick is the sole survivor of his large family.

Morrison talked about And when did you last see your father?  his memoir of his relationship with his father – which was later to be made into a film of the same name. He amused the audience greatly by reading how his father, a local doctor, embarrassed the family after getting increasingly impatient in a long traffic jam on the way to a motor race. Driving an Alvis convertible car,  Dr Morrison hangs his stethoscope on the mirror and sails past all the cars. Turning into the first gate he sees - of course it is not the correct one for his ticket - he somehow persuades the steward that he has been sent the wrong ticket, has paid for the correct one and is allowed in. Morrison  talked briefly about the complications of finding out that someone he called ‘ aunt’ was actually the lover of his father. 

He talked movingly about the death of his father and how he had insisted in the film that in this scene after his father had died, and he and his mother are at each side of the bed - just as it had happened on that day - the sheet was not pulled over his father’s body. His mother had wanted to look at the face she loved for as long as it was possible.

After writing this memoir of his father he went on to write Things my Mother never told me. He had never known that his mother Agnes O’Shea- also a doctor who had been born in Ireland - was one of twenty children.  He described finding letters his parents had written to one another suggesting various names for her instead of Agnes and she was always known as Kim. 

He ended a very enjoyable evening by reading from his book The Last Weekend - a story of rivalry between friends- one a leading barrister and the other a schoolteacher. He read about Ian’s struggle as a teacher and he left us wanted to know how things worked out for him as, after dealing with a particularly difficult pupil by leading him to the head teacher by his ear, he has to face disciplinary action, maybe termination of his employment, when the boy’s family make a complaint. Perhaps at the school in Skipton, when we were there, this thing was probably part of the school day.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and, although maybe a little different now in colour, it was good to see that Blake Morrison still has a good head of hair, which I remember him for, and still has great affection for Skipton and the local area!  

A good deal

Geoff writes:
Hello,  as an avid reader of this blog I thought readers may be interested in the availability of the 1973 Yorkshire TV production of The Brontes At Haworth.

The set is available for about £9 and the DVDs are playable on any DVD player in any country. Just go here:

This is far cheaper than the rather expensive £30 asked by Amazon.  Transfers are clear and sound very good, acting top class, highly recommended!

New treasures at the Parsonage

News release from the Parsonage:
Charlotte Brontë’s mahogany writing desk, a pen-holder and some sugar tongs are amongst the latest acquisitions to join the important collection of material owned by the Parsonage.  

These rare Brontë items once formed part of a large and important collection of Bronteana amassed by William Law who sought out people that knew the Brontë family in order to enrich his own collection. After his death in 1901, these passed to his nephew, Sir Alfred Law, who sold some of the drawings and manuscripts at auction. Some of the personal Brontë items, including the selection given to the museum, were previously given as gifts to his nurse.

Sir Alfred Law died in 1939 and the present whereabouts of the remainder of this unique collection, which is known to have included manuscripts and books of great rarity and value, remains a mystery.

Along with these Brontë treasures donated to the Parsonage were a wooden trunk, a display case, a black morocco stationery case, a pocket cigar case and copies of Brontë books- all previously owned by William Law himself.

It’s always exciting when new Brontë items come to light and when we’re able to add to the museum’s wonderful collection. But a donation on this scale, with an item as significant as the writing desk used by Charlotte Brontë, is very rare. We’re delighted that these items are now where they belong, here in Haworth; where they can be enjoyed by generations of visitors to the museum. We’re extremely grateful for such a generous donation.  (Andrew McCarthy, Director, Brontë Parsonage Museum)

The anonymous donor purchased these items from an auction at Sotheby’s in London on 17th December 2009 but decided that the appropriate place for them to be housed permanently would be the Parsonage museum.

The items will be on display from Tuesday 31 May.

Further information from: Ann Dinsdale (Collections Manager) 01535 640198 – or Sarah Laycock (Collections & Library Officer) 01535 640199 -

Monday, 16 May 2011

Jane Eyre showing in the States

Chrissy Breen Keffer writes:
Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre is marked by departures. The movie starts with Jane wresting open a door and fleeing Thornfield Hall. But the movie is marked by other departures as well. 

Mr. Fukunaga's main characters are far from the caricatures of past depictions. As Jane 
is about to be sent to the Lowood Institution, she confronts her Aunt Reed, and condemns the lie her aunt told Mr. Brocklehurst: "Deceit is not my fault." To which her aunt replies, "But you are passionate." Mia Wasikowska's Jane (played with an artless maturity that eludes actors twice her age) is no meek church mouse; she is a fiery red-head who doesn't cower before anyone. Similarly, Michael Fassbender (pictured below) brings subtlety and depth to the role of Rochester. In this movie, we see Rochester as Brontë intends him to be: purposeful, yet with a sense of humor and a soft vulnerability. 

Constrained by cinematic time limitations, Mr. Fukunaga necessarily weeds out scenes from the novel. Much of Jane's story - her years at Lowood, interactions with Rochester (farewell mysterious gypsy!), her stay with the Riverses - is whittled down to a bare minimum. Some of the complexity of the original story is lost - this is especially true of Saint John Rivers; he is no foil to Rochester - yet Mr. Fukunaga is still able to capture the essence of Jane Eyre.

Mr. Fukunaga takes directorial liberties, but to good effect. He restructures the book, weaving the story of her childhood into the story of her adulthood. The serene yet beautiful English countryside becomes a window to Jane's state of mind (expansive and blooming with Rochester, wind-whipped and snow-covered with Saint John). He also employs some tricks of the trade - thumps, creaks, startling noises, and whispers carried on the wind - to give the movie its gothic feel.   

This movie
 is marked by departures: from previous projects for the director (Sin Nombre) and cast (Wasikowska's Alice in WonderlandThe Kids Are Alright and Fassenberg's Inglorious Basterds), from previous portrayals, and even from the arc of the novel. But these departures, ironically and counter-intuitively, bring it closer to the original than any previous version. 

** Fukunaga visit to the Parsonage - see

Below- Cary Fukunaga:


Friday, 6 May 2011

Blake Morrison coming to Haworth

News Release from  Jenna Holmes:

Skipton-born writer Blake Morrison will be returning to Yorkshire later this month as part of the Parsonage’s contemporary arts programme. At an evening event on Thursday 19 May at 7.30pm, at the West Lane Baptist Centre, Haworth, the novelist, journalist, poet and critic  will talk about his latest novel and his upcoming stage play We Are Three Sisters, for Halifax-based theatre company Northern Broadsides. We Are Three Sisters will tour theatres around the country later this year and takes inspiration from the story of the Brontë sisters.

Blake Morrison worked as literary editor of The Observer and Independent on Sunday before becoming a full-time writer in 1995. He has published two memoirs, Things My Mother Never Told Me and And When Did You Last See Your Father? which was made into a film starring Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent. Blake Morrison is Professor of Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, London.

Tickets £6 from the Brontë Parsonage Museum / 01535 640188

*****read this article in The Stage on the opening of We Are Three Sisters in Halifax.