I Am Jane – update 20 June

Update from Monday 20 June

I’ve been working with Mary Swan, of Proteus Theatre Group, and Ben Mills, an independent film maker, on this project led by Proteus.

We visited two Basingstoke comprehensive schools (Vyne and Costello) to work with groups of girls aged around thirteen and fourteen. The idea was to draw out comparisons between Jane Austen’s life growing up in Hampshire two hundred years ago, and the modern equivalent today.

Mary workshopped some themes which arise out of Austen’s writing, encouraging the students to apply these themes to their own experiences and create their own versions of them, in whatever medium they wanted.

I talked to the groups a bit about Jane’s life: how and where she lived, and how she worked. I read them a couple of the poems I’ve written for Chawton House (where Jane Austen’s brother lived). These were written very much as a modern women’s viewpoint on the restrictions on a Regency woman’s life and ambitions. The girls were interested to hear how I viewed both the differences between then and now – in terms of the achievements of feminism – and also how enduring some of Jane’s preoccupations still are today.

I brought along some Austen quotations to illustrate the points I was making, and also some Jacky Fleming cartoons to show how women –including Austen – have often cloaked real frustrations in humour to make their point.

I’ve been helping some of the students with their scripts and poems during the sessions.

Currently (with two out of three sessions completed at each school) we have groups working on vines, poems, videos and snapchat narratives. Ben will pull these together into a film to be shown on Thursday 23rd June.

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