I, like many fans around the world, am waiting in anticipation for next year, because 2025 makes 250 years since the birth of Jane Austen. However, unlike most fans, I am lucky as I live in her favourite place and home town: Basingstoke. Jane was born in the borough and spent the happiest years of her life here. Her friends were here, and many of the events, like balls and parties, that shaped her stories, took place here. Sadly, her brother demolished the house in which she was born, leaving few landmarks to celebrate her locally. We have only the church of which her father was rector, a telephone box converted into an Austen micro-museum, the book bench outside of the discovery centre, a blue plaque from the Basingstoke Heritage Society, and the statue out side of the Willis Museum.

Bath, which Jane hated, and where she lived unhappily after her father moved there for his health, has an annual 10-day long Austen Festival, which includes cosplay, lectures, plays, balls and workshops. Nearby Winchester, a city that Austen only lived in briefly for a couple of weeks while she was dying, and where she is buried, has an Austen Festival with live music, recitals, guided tours and events, and recently commissioned a s statue to stand near the cathedral. There are even Austen Festivals in the USA and Australia.

READ MORE: 'Winchester need not follow Bath’s hijacking of the Jane Austen brand'

It’s brilliant that we can share our most famous daughter with the world, and that she is loved and honoured with festivals, events, and public works of art across the globe. I’m constantly disappointed that not more is done to celebrate Jane locally, in her hometown. We are blessed with two theatres, recital spaces in places of worship, and two cinemas. We have two museums, and attractions with large open spaces capable of holding fairs or events. Why are we not utilising these resources to put on our own Austen Festival? Not only would it be a fitting tribute to a world famous author, but it would also bring visitors and the economic benefits that come with them to our town. I would love to see living history displays of the militia at the time at which Pride and Prejudice was set, to watch screenings of Sense and Sensibility in the cinema, to attend a Ball like one from Emma, or to listen to a lecture about Austen’s life and times in one of our excellent theatres. I would even love to go on a zombie run in Basing house, which was used for filming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

I really hope that the town can get behind the 250th celebrations of Jane’s birth next year. For too longer we have not gone far enough to honour her love for Basingstoke, and I hope that we can address this, initially with our own Austen Festival, and look towards installing a permanent museum or attraction in years to come.

Alison Pinto

Bramblys Drive


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