Posts in Jane Austen

X-Boxes, Hamster and Pizza: Children's letters to Jane Austen

Posted Wednesday 14 February 2018 by Ian Anstice in Jane Austen, Opinion

One of the most lovely things, to me, that came out of the Travelling Letter Exchange project, where people were invited to write a letter to Jane Austen, was the responses of one school from Stockport. Broadstone Hall School got a lot of their children to write letters and they're a real pleasure. Have a look at some of them here.

The letters were written on Halloween, which the kids explained to Jane as being "where you knock on doors and say trick or treat and they give you sweets" and, interestingly (not come across this myself but it's genius), "when you are done you normally go back to my house and count your sweets and whoever has more you get to eat the first sweets".

Jane AustenAnother big topic was how different life is now compared to Jane's time. Transport came up again and again, with bikes, trams, busses and planes being often mentioned. And then there are computers. Oh my, there's a lot about computers, with X-Boxes being the main theme, including the line "I'm nearly always on my X Box because I could literally not live without it". Worryingly for me, books only come up once or twice, although quite a few expressed an interest in reading some Austen one day. Which was nice.Some were also curious as to how Jane herself lived, asking her if she lived in a castle or normal house or if she "struggled for money".

It was fascinating to see how different children's hobbies are now to when Jane wrote. Lists like "thai boxing, guitar, mountain biking and swimming" were not uncommon. Well, Jane might have been able to do two of those I guess. Another child listed hobbies where a whopping two (art and dance) out of three would have been possible for Jane. I don't think Jane did the third one though, which was rollerskating (or did she?). 

Life at school was also a favourite, with comments like "I didn't bring my PE kit. You probably didn't go to school since most girls didn't in your time" showing awareness of how much things have changed. And then there was food.Food was a big topic. Burgers, hot dogs, pancakes and pizza. There was a lot said about pizza. One girl bravely pointed out how much meat is eaten and said that she was vegetarian. My youngest daughter is also vegetarian so more power to her, I say.

Family was mentioned a lot, especially mums, and - for some reason - hamsters. Hamsters are clearly a big thing in Cheadle. Mums were mentioned a lot more than Dads, sorry Dads, with my most cherished comment to Jane being "My life is good because I have a lovely Mum ... I would tell you more about my life but sadly you [Jane Austen] are dead"

There's so much humour in these letters but they give you a real feel for what children consider important. And as long as they can write these down in letters then they give me hope, X Box or no X Box.

The Travelling Letter Exchange

Posted Thursday 10 August 2017 by Ian Anstice in Jane Austen


Travelling Letter Bureau‘The Travelling Letter Exchange’ is a touring letter writing bureau designed by artist Laura Jamieson. She invites you to sit down, write a letter and create a new archive of letters that shows what it is like to live in the North West in 2017. 

Designed to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, the bureau celebrates the art of letter writing, everyone who writes a letter will receive a letter in return from another participant.

Click this link for details about the Thrills and Quills LipService show.

The Exchange will be open at business at these locations and dates:


Wednesday 23rd to Saturday 26th                        Leigh Library, Wigan

Tuesday 29th to Friday 1st September                 Walkden Library, Salford


Monday 4th to Friday 8th                                      Ansdell Library, Lancashire

Monday 11th to Friday 15th                                  Formby Library, Sefton

Monday 18th to Thursday 21st                             Blackpool Central Library

Saturday 23rd to Wednesday 27th                       Padgate Library, Warrington

Friday 29th to Monday 2nd                                   Northwich Library, Cheshire


Wednesday 4th to Friday 7th                               Urmston Library, Trafford 

Monday 9th to Thursday 12th                              Birkenhead Central Library, Wirral 

Saturday 14th to Tuesday 17th                            Littleborough Library, Rochdale

Thursday 19th to Saturday 22nd                          Blackburn Central Library    

Tuesday 24th to Saturday 29th                            Cheadle Library, Stockport    

Tuesday 31st to Friday 3rd November                 Tameside Central Library 


Monday 6th to Tuesday 7th                                  Penrith Library, Cumbria

Thursday 9th to Saturday 11th                             Newton Le Willows Library

Tuesday 14th to Friday 17th                                 Oldham Library

Monday 20th to Saturday 25th                              Halton Lea Library

Tuesday 28th to Saturday 2nd                              Manchester Central Library


Tuesday 5th  to Thursday 7th                               Huyton Library, Knowsley

Saturday 9th to Wednesday 13th                          Liverpool Central Library

Friday 15th to Tuesday 19th                                 Bolton Central Library

Wednesday 21st to early January                         Bromley Cross Community Library

Thursday 21st to Tuesday 9th January                 Bury Central Library

Laura Jamieson said “Jane Austen is obviously famous for her books, but many people don't now about her prolific letter writing that documented the minutia of her everyday life. These letters now act as documents that give us an insight into the passions and interests of society in the 1800's. In response to today’s environment of digital communications where we can be in contact with someone on the other side of the world instantly, but also where we don't keep or cherish our conversation, the letter exchange is an invitation to sit for a while, reflect on your life in 2017 and commit your thoughts to paper.”

"Thrills and Quills": LipService Show on Tour

Posted Wednesday 9 August 2017 by Ian Anstice in Jane Austen

Britain's "favourite literary lunatics" do Jane Austen across the North West

LipServiceIn a show entitled Thrills and Quills, professional theatre company LipService, once called “Britain's favourite literary lunatics” by The Guardian, will take a comic look at Jane Austen's letters, examine the vagaries of the Georgian postal system and wonder what witty words Jane could have conjured up with a Twitter account. They will examine the world of communication from quill pen to SnapChat. With extracts from Jane Austen's novels, letters to family members and wickedly funny observations on her neighbours, the show will look at the vivid account Jane conjures of everyday life.

Shows last up to one hour and are ideal for adults and those over 12, although younger children can come along if necessary. There will be questions and answer sessions after the main show at some venues.

Click this link for details about the Travelling Letter Exchange

Show details

August 26th 11.30am                       Leigh Library, Wigan

October 5th 6pm                              Blackpool Central Library Book here

6th October 7pm                              Padgate Library, Warrington

18th October 2 pm + 7pm                Touchstones, Rochdale Book here

19th October  7.30pm                      Ansdell Library, Lancashire

20th October 7.30pm                       Blackburn Central Library

21st October 7.30pm                       Urmston Library, Trafford                           

24th October 6.30pm                       Northwich Library, Cheshire  Book here

25th October 2.30pm                       Birkenhead Central Library, Wirral

30th October 11am                          Huyton Library, Knowsley

1st November 10.30am                   Widnes Library, Halton Book here

2nd November 6.30pm                    Cheadle Library, Stockport Book here

4th November 2pm                          Liverpool Central Library

6th November 11am                        Formby Library, Sefton

7th November 6pm                          Tameside Central Library

8th November 7pm                          Carlisle Library                                  

13th November 7pm                        Newton Le Willows Library, St Helens  Book here

14th November 7pm                        Oldham Library Website              

2nd December 2pm                         Manchester Central Library

9th December 3pm                        Ramsbottom Library Bury Book here

16th December 2pm                        Bolton Central Library

Jane Austen comes to the North West

Posted Monday 12 June 2017 by Ian Anstice in Jane Austen

Jane Austen in lithograph in centre of image of her writing room

We're delighted to announce that Time To Read will be teaming up with "Britain's favourite literary lunatics" LipService to produce a new piece of (probably hilarious) touring theatre. As if that wasn't enough, we have also commissioned the artist/producer/maker Laura Jamieson to create a new visual art element looking at Austen’s letters. Remember those days when people actually used to write to each other, on paper, rather than email or text? That sort of thing will be involved.

Both pieces will be touring North West libraries later on this year.Want to know more? Keep on checking the Time To Read website.

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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