/ Sunday Arts Magazine / Arts / Sharmini Kumar talks to David Hunt about Austen Con on 7 November 2020

 

Running live online for ONE DAY ONLY on Saturday the 7th of November 2020, the third annual Austen Con is a much-loved celebration and exploration of all things Jane Austen.

One of England’s most beloved novelists, Jane Austen was born in 1775 and wrote from a young age, initially to amuse her family. Her six major novels, of which Pride and Prejudice is probably the best known, are set amongst the British landed gentry and lauded worldwide for their wit, romance, and social commentary.

Completely online and interactive, this year ticket holders can partake in workshops from Bonnet-making and painting, to dancing and baking, with a wonderful array of local and international guest presenters and expert enthusiasts. They are also invited to join lively discussions and watch some of Melbourne’s finest arts companies bring Austen’s words to life.

Running concurrently across two Youtube stations on the day – Pemberley and Netherfield – the program includes:

Pemberley (click to link to online program)

Session 1: 9am – 10am
Choose Your Own Austen Adaptation: Join a panel of Austen-enthused creatives who will match her major novels with outlandish adaption pitches.

Session 2: 10:20am – 11:20am
Love and Friendship – Exploring Austen’s Literary Legacy: Join Lauren and Hannah from the podcast Bonnets at Dawn as they talk about the authors that inspired Jane Austen and how Austen influenced the work of other classic women writers including Elizabeth Gaskell and Anne Brontë.

Session 3: 11:40am – 12:40am
Austen’s Landscapes: Join Jo Russell-Clarke for an introduction to the landscapes of Austen’s writings. This includes a drawing session.

Session 4: 1pm – 2pm
Performing To Strangers – Reading neurodivergence in Pride and Prejudice: Join Hannah Aroniand James Matthews of A_tistic as they consider what it might mean to read both Mr Collins and Mr Darcy as autistic, and talk about their work creating a neurodivergent retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

Session 5: 2:20pm – 3:20pm
Austen-twisted Cabaret and Burlesque: Presented by Bradley Storer and colleagues, during this hour Melbourne performers bring their unique perspectives to themes in Austen’s work.

Session 5: 3:40pm – 5pm
Beginner Regency Dance Lesson: Brought to you by Jane Bullock, Regency dancing is the perfect socially distanced activity. Clear a space, grab your water bottle, and put on your flat, non-slip dancing shoes!

Netherfield (click to link to online program)

Session 1: 9am – 10am
Choose Your Own Austen Adaptation: Join a panel of Austen-enthused creatives who will match her major novels with outlandish adaption pitches.

Session 2: 10:20am – 11:20am
Oranges and Cloves: Kelly Lock runs a workshop with participants making traditional, edible Christmas decorations.

Session 3: 11:40am – 12:40am
English Paper Piecing: Kelly Lock joins us again with an introduction to an age-old quilting technique.

Session 4: 1pm – 2pm
Austen’s Bath Buns: Former MasterChef contestant Jess Jenkins takes us through techniques and a recipe for making the some of the buns that Jane Austen loved, adapting a period recipe for modern kitchens.

Session 5: 2:20pm – 3:20pm
Improvised Jane Austen with Melbourne’s Soothplayers: Come and experience a wonderful array of curious characters that could have walked straight out of the pages of a Jane Austen novel. Featuring seasoned performers from The Improv Conspiracy, Big Hoo Haa, Impro Melbourne, iO Chicago and Second City Chicago.

Session 6: 3:40pm – 4:40pm
Austen’s Global Fashion Industry: Austen’s heroines dress in a way that we think of being specifically English, but Regency-era fashion has influences and impacts around the globe. Join Hilary Davidsonfor this fascinating hour.

Also included in the ticket price is access to the wonderful Mansfield Park Market Hub (including discounts with participating vendors) and to the 24 Carrot Productions online Jane Austen-themed Escape Room. Events and escape room are still accessible for ticket holders 48 hours after the end of Austen Con.

“There are a lot of similarities between Austen’s life and some of our lockdown/iso experiences at the moment”, explains writer and Artistic Director Sharmini Kumar.

We’re all trying to find ways to entertain ourselves. I love fan conventions and I love the real mix of things that go into them – fan art, merchandise, meeting other fans. I wanted to do something for Austen fans that captured that – the community, the fun, the thoughtfulness. This year we also have increased accessibility due to the online format, including participation from vendors and contributors from various continents. It’s exciting. We’re keen to use this year’s event to continue to offer more accessibility into the future.”

Running prior to the day from the 5th of November, and as a part of Austen Con, 24 Carrot Productions also presents a limited season of their new online show Introduction to Emma. Written by 24 Carrot Productions Artistic Director and Austen Con Director Sharmini Kumar, Introduction to Emma invites audiences into an ordinary (online) university classroom where a passionate English Lit lecturer is welcoming students to their first class of the semester. Both heartfelt and humorous, the students wander through discussions about fandom, race, gender, class and privilege. And this is only their first lesson…

Following on from two highly successful years, Austen Con is normally a Melbourne/Australia-based live event, however the current global pandemic has created a unique opportunity for international access to the convention. A one-of-a-kind Austen Con, it truly is not to be missed.

 

About the author: Rob

 

 

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