Jane Austen Festival 2016

First timer’s report

After 8 years of Jane Austen festivals in Canberra, I finally succumbed and attended this year’s festival held in both the Albert Hall and The Hyatt Hotel. For seasoned and novice dancers there were workshops in the Main Hall and balls on each of the 3 evenings. Parallel sessions held upstairs in the Albert Hall and at The Hyatt ranged from talks on etiquette to making bonnets, jewellery etc. The majority of attendees during the day wore Regency day wear, then in the evening, attendees wore magnificent evening wear. Examples may be viewed at Steven Shaw’s website, ausact.com/jafa.html.

At least one attendee finished her ball gown 2 hours prior to the ball. Others with even less gaps in time. The 3 balls were splendid occasions with dancers having learnt the dances during the day, performed the dances superbly at night. On the night of the Grand Napoleonic Ball one male guest was spotted with false side burns and for a moment I thought perhaps I was at the Elvis Presley Festival instead of Jane Austen! Statistically the majority of attendees were from outside of Canberra with many coming from interstate including NT, WA and some afar from New Zealand.

The Sunday picnic allowed attendees to parade their “Sunday best” from the Albert Hall to the Old Parliament House Senate rose gardens. During and after the picnic, various games were played including a sort of aerial hoop la and included a large photo shoot.

The day and evening’s proceedings were enhanced by the numerous musicians ably led by Sally Taylor and many others in the form of the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy players and the Aeolus Wind Trio.

Many thanks go to Aylwen and John Garden for their behind and front of scenes work. I did find the Impro Theatre ACT was appreciated by many but I found their performance a bit too long. The choir and Sarah Bull’s poetry recitations were lovely. Perhaps in future years, the dance calling could be improved by the sharing of the load with others. Colin Fong, Sydney

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