Tricia Knight and the Centennial Belles were going to take a break from attempting to break a Guinness World Record at the annual Jane Austen Festival in Port Alberni.
However, that was before Chamber Opera Tours from Chicago announced their intention to bring Jane Austen’s Persuasion: A Musical Drama to Port Alberni for the festival, which this year will be Thursday, July 5 through Saturday, July 8.
“We weren’t going to do the count this year,” Knight said as she sat waiting at the Port Alberni Youth Centre for people to show up for a recent costume workshop.
While they drew 286 people to Glenwood Centre in 2017, it wasn’t enough to beat the world record of 409 people gathered in the same place and dressed in Regency costume. However, it was close. And this year, with the 80 members of Persuasion, they already have a healthy head start, she said.
The original musical adaptation of Persuasion will be featured in two shows, Thursday, July 5 and Friday, July 6, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s novel of the same name.
Earlier this year Knight and other Jane Austen Festival faithfuls created a Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) chapter for Central Vancouver Island (it’s the third chapter in B.C.—there is also an Island chapter in Victoria). Knight plans to phase out the Centennial Belles, a group that was created in 2010 to celebrate Port Alberni’s centennial. The JASNA chapter needed a minimum of eight members to form officially, and they already have 10 and more expressing interest.
To prepare for the annual festival, Knight and other JASNA volunteers have started hosting costume workshops for people wishing to create their own Regency wear a la Jane Austen or Mr. Darcy. The next workshop will be a doubleheader on Monday, May 21—coincidentally, Victoria Day—from 12–3 p.m. and again from 6–8 p.m. All of the workshops take place at the Port Alberni Youth Centre, 4210 Cedarwood St., where the Centennial Belles/ JASNA have a workshop and costume storage.
Other costume workshops are planned for Monday, June 4 and June 18 from 12–3 p.m. and 6–8 p.m., and Saturday, May 26, June 8 and June 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please pre-register at www.centennialbelles.ca/workshops so volunteers will know approximately how many people will attend.
There are costumes available for rent or purchase, and the website has numerous tips for converting thrift store finds into acceptable Jane Austen attire. The JASNA chapter often sees people donating their costumes after deciding to make a new one, or in the case of children’s outfits, their children outgrow the clothing.
For more information on costume workshops and the 2018 Jane Austen Festival, go online to www.centennialbelles.ca and follow the link at the top of the page to the festival.
The Jane Austen Festival is also looking for china teacups and saucers for their high teas at Echo Centre.