Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire, has announced that Laura Wade, Olivier Award-winning playwright and screenwriter and her partner, actor and theatre director Samuel West will be its joint Ambassadors for 2020.
Wade’s play The Watsons, a witty adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished story of the same name, was first produced at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre in 2018, directed by West. Following a successful transfer to the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2019, the play will make its West End debut at The Harold Pinter Theatre in May this year.
Laura is looking forward to her role as Ambassador alongside The Watsons director, Samuel West. Laura said: “We had a great morning at Jane Austen’s House with our cast early on in rehearsals and the visit really informed their work on the show. We already feel like we have a connection to the Museum and are very proud to be associated with such an important and resonant place – it means a great deal to us.”
Collections and Interpretations Manager at Jane Austen’s House, Sophie Reynolds, said: “We are delighted to have Laura and Sam as Ambassadors for 2020 and look forward to working with them throughout the year. Jane Austen is known for her love of theatre, and Laura and Sam’s love of Austen is tangible in their beautiful, clever production. It feels like the perfect match.”
2020 will also see Jane Austen’s House and garden reflecting Jane – and her characters’ – love of nature and the outdoors. A first edition of Pride and Prejudice will take pride of place in the Reading Room, celebrating Lizzie Bennett’s famous walk through muddy fields, alongside a pair of Regency ladies’ walking boots and a pair of pattens, which nineteenth century ladies would wear to keep their feet dry.
The Historic Bakehouse will feature a new chalkboard for children of all ages to record the wildlife they spot in the garden, encouraging visitors to keep an eye out for everything from birds, bees and insects to the more elusive hedgehogs and bats.
And the vibrant Chawton Leaf wallpaper installed in the Dining Room in September 2019 continues to be a favourite – bringing the outside indoors.
The House will also be offering a series of nature-themed events throughout the year:
- ‘To look upon verdure’. Gardener, historian and author Carol Chernega will present a talk exploring the Garden at Jane Austen’s House, what it was like when Jane lived here, how it developed when the Museum opened in 1949 and how it has expanded in the past twenty years. 15 February 2020.
- Spring Flowers Workshop. Inspired by the beautiful garden at Jane Austen’s House, this three-hour long workshop brings professional florists from Winchester’s Blooming Workshop to the House to guide participants in arranging a take-home bouquet of their own. 3 May 2020.
- A series of guided walks, including two shorter family-friendly walks over the Easter and May Bank holidays aimed at under 11s and their families.
More details and events can be found on the Museum’s website: https://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/.
Sophie Reynolds continued: “Nature is not always the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Jane Austen, but we know from her letters that Jane was a keen walker and enjoyed the countryside. It is this love for the outdoors that she instilled in her heroines that we are celebrating through our events programme, items in our collection and by encouraging visitors to fully enjoy the House’s beautiful cottage garden.”
Jane Austen’s House re-opens to the public on 1 February 2020.