Books

Ever wondered what Jane Austen would be like on Twitter?

Theatre production Thrills and Quills will bring a fresh slant on the words of Jane Austen by re-imagining the Pride and Prejudice author's ditties in 140 characters

The portrait of novelist Jane Austen by James Andrews.

Jane Austen – who died 200 years ago – is being brought back to life and into the Twittersphere in a new show.

While Tory MP Andrea Leadsom may think that the 19th-century novelist is still among the living, theatre company LipService will help to almost make that a reality with new production Thrills and Quills.

The show will take a comic look at Austen’s letters and examine the quirks of the Georgian postal system, while pondering the witty words that she would have conjured up on Twitter.

Jane Austen will be given a modern update in the touring show

Audiences will get a potted history on the world of communication from the days when a quill pen ruled the roost to the modern trappings of SnapChat with extracts from Austen’s novels, letters to family members, and even wickedly funny observations on her neighbours.

Sue Ryding of LipService said: “LipService are delighted to be working with Time to Read and to explore the world of correspondence from quill pen to autocorrect.”

The hour-long show, which is available in libraries all around the north west of England between August 26 and December 16, will run in conjunction with a touring letter bureau.

Jane Austen is obviously famous for her books, but many people don’t know about her prolific letter writing

The Travelling Letter Exchange, designed by artist Laura Jamieson invites people to sit down and write a letter to create a new archive of letters that shows what it is like to live in the north west of England in 2017.

This bureau, which is styled as if from Austen's era, will be used for writing letters

The bureau is aiming to celebrate the lost art of letter writing. Everyone who takes part will receive a written response from another participant. A selection of the letters from the ambitious project will be published in e-book form in early 2018.

Miss Jamieson said “Jane Austen is obviously famous for her books, but many people don’t know 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.”

The idea of one library in every authority putting on a top-notch show and, having a first-rate interactive display as well, is fantastic

The project is jointly funded by the Arts Council England ‘Grants for the Arts’ lottery-funded grants programme and Time to Read – a unique partnership of 22 library authorities in the North West of England working together to promote reading.

Each person who writes a letter on the exchange will receive a reply

Ian Anstice, Time to Read’s strategic lead, said “This is a great example of what libraries can achieve if they work together.

“The idea of one library in every authority putting on a top-notch show and, having a first-rate interactive display as well, is fantastic and I know that everyone, not just Jane Austen fans, will gain something from it.”

The Big Issue has long championed the importance of reading and literacy, and we launched our #WhyBooksMatter campaign earlier this year to fight for the future of our under-threat libraries.

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