Call for Jane Austen fans to help save West cen­tre

Western Daily Press - - News - JONATHAN COLES news@west­erndai­ly­ You can do­nate at www.crowd­fun­­tre­fundraiser/back­ers

APOPULAR mu­seum ded­i­cated to the life of Jane Austen could be forced to close af­ter be­ing hit hard by the coron­avirus pan­demic.

Bosses at the cen­tre in Bath are hop­ing to raise £15,000 to be able to pay staff, es­sen­tial bills and en­sure nec­es­sary safety mea­sures are in place.

The tourist at­trac­tion is en­tirely de­pen­dent on the money brought in by vis­i­tors but has seen its foot­fall drop to zero fol­low­ing the out­break of Covid-19.

This is in com­par­i­son to the 150,000 or so peo­ple it would usu­ally wel­come through the door each year.

The Jane Austen Cen­tre is also pop­u­lar with celebri­ties, hav­ing hosted Ricky Ger­vais and Alan Titch­marsh – among others – over the last two decades.

Direc­tor Paul Crossey is now ap­peal­ing for financial help to en­sure the mu­seum sur­vives post­lock­down.

Austen lived in the city be­tween 1801 and 1806 and set her nov­els Northanger Abbey and Persuasion there.

Mr Crossey said: “We are a small, in­de­pen­dent busi­ness that re­lies solely on the 150,000 or so vis­i­tors that come through our doors each year.

“Ob­vi­ously, since lock­down, that num­ber has dropped to nil. Even when we do open again, pos­si­ble travel bans and en­hanced re­stric­tions within the tourist in­dus­try in gen­eral, will make the pe­riod fol­low­ing re­open­ing tough.

“So far, our fundrais­ing cam­paign has raised al­most a third of the to­tal £15,000 re­quired and ev­ery pound counts. If you are feel­ing more gen­er­ous, how­ever, there are re­wards for those who do­nate higher amounts.

“Th­ese in­clude 12 months un­lim­ited free en­try to the cen­tre when it does re-open, cream teas and cham­pagne.

“If we do get through this, then ev­ery cham­pagne cork popped will be cel­e­brat­ing our sur­vival.”

The cen­tre, on Gay Street, is not the only Austen-re­lated es­tab­lish­ment in need of money.

Jane Austen’s House in Chaw­ton, Hamp­shire, was re­cently saved by gen­er­ous do­na­tions.

Mr Crossey added: “We’re aware Chaw­ton re­cently held a suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing cam­paign and we’re happy the house Jane Austen lived in and com­pleted her most fa­mous nov­els has been saved.

“Bath, how­ever, also played an im­por­tant part in her life. She lived here for sev­eral years and two of her nov­els are set in the city. Even though our tar­get is more mod­est than Chaw­ton’s, it is just as es­sen­tial we reach our tar­get so that her con­nec­tion to the city is main­tained.

“That is why we are ask­ing ev­ery­one, whether a Jane Austen fan or not, to con­trib­ute to mak­ing sure the cen­tre con­tin­ues.”

Jane Austen’s House in Chaw­ton, Hamp­shire, was re­cently saved by gen­er­ous do­na­tions. It is hoped The Jane Austen Cen­tre in Bath, below, will also sur­vive

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