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Seattle Community to Celebrate Jane Austen with Festival, Rare Books, and a Regency Ball

UW grad students and community organize 200th anniversary celebration of Jane Austen

October 11, 2017

Seattle, WA — On November 4, 2017, the inside of University of Washington’s Mary Gates Hall will look more like an historic English country house than an academic building as fans from around the Pacific Northwest gather to celebrate the life and work of beloved novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817). Commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of Austen’s death, JaneFest 2017 will offer a full day of activities, including expo-style informational booths and participatory activities, and will culminate in a Regency Ball, complete with fabulous historical costumes and a live band.

JaneFest 2017 has been entirely organized and facilitated by UW grad students, faculty, and staff, as well as volunteers from the community. The presiding spirit of JaneFest is Sarah Faulkner, a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of English, whose research focuses on Austen and other Romantic-era women writers. Faulkner envisioned JaneFest as a way to connect the things she loves best: Austen, community events, and dancing. “I wanted to plan the festival to bring the campus and community together in celebration of one of the most important and well-loved authors of English literature,” says Faulkner.

During the day, guests will be able to experience a number of booths, including Embroidery and Cooking booths sponsored by the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Puget Sound Region, where they can take home a pattern for an embroidered bookmark and a Regency recipe book. There will also be a fashion booth with period clothing items to try on sponsored by Washington Regency Society, and an area to write a letter to Jane with authentic quills and parchment, cosponsored by the Jane Austen Book Club of Greater Seattle and the UW Textual Studies Program. Additionally, local artists will be exhibiting Austen character designs and offering interactive gaming experiences. Of course, there will also be a photobooth where guests can take pictures with a Jane Austen cut-out or an “I <3 Darcy” sign.

That afternoon, guests will be able to watch a Regency fashion show organized by the Washington Regency Society; the fashion show will include local historians and costumers showcasing 1810s ware for various activities, including going for a morning walk and even going hunting. Local experts will be hosting trivia contests to suit a range of Austen knowledge, from novice to enthusiast. For those who haven’t danced a quadrille in a while, there will also be a workshop for guests to learn the steps for Regency era dance steps. There will be two UW Libraries workshops where guests can learn about Regency printing and bookbinding while exploring the 200-year-old books in UW’s Rare Books collection.

JaneFest 2017 will culminate in a Regency Ball, just like those seen in Austen adaptations. The dance will feature local English Country Dance caller Charlene Kern and a three-piece live band. Unfortunately tickets to the Ball have sold out, but Austen fans in the Northwest are enthusiastic: the event sold out in under five minutes. It will be a chance for those lucky people who got a ticket to get a glimpse of the atmosphere of a Regency Ball, as well as experience the joy of social dancing.

Though organized entirely by volunteers, JaneFest 2017 has been generously sponsored by campus and community organizations, including: Jane Austen Society of America- Puget Sound Region, Washington Regency Society, the Jane Austen Book Club of Greater Seattle, Seattle English Speaking Union, UW Textual Studies Program, UW Libraries, UW Department of English, UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, and the UW Eighteenth/Nineteenth Century Graduate Research Cluster.

Sarah Faulkner