Chawton House launches an ambitious online programme during the Covid Crisis

May 11, 2020

Chawton House Lockdown Literary Festival: celebrating women’s writing with 3 days of talks, Q&As, interviews and readings… all online, and all for free

Chawton, Hampshire May 2020. When Chawton House closed on 20 March, they took the decision not to fade away, but to continue to deliver a vibrant digital programme to inspire and entertain thousands of people staying at home.

Chawton House therefore launched the biggest programme of online events and activities they have ever staged, so that everyone staying at home can continue to enjoy much of what Chawton House has to offer.

A highlight of the digital programme is their Lockdown Literary Festival, happening on 15, 16 & 17 May. Over the course of the three days, Chawton House will host a series of talks, discussions, workshops and Q&As, all online, and all for free. The exciting lineup includes best-selling authors Joanna Trollope, Gill Hornby, Hilary Davidson and eminent Jane Austen academic Professor Janet Todd. There will be nearly thirty talks happening over the three days, with topics including the Lady Aeronauts, female pirates and eighteenth-century women who masqueraded as soldiers. Natalie Jenner, author of new novel The Jane Austen Society, will be doing one of her first UK digital events. Natalie’s debut novel, The Jane Austen Society, coming May 2020, was inspired by her visit to Chawton House. The actor Richard Armitage narrates the audiobook. The festival will include many live elements, with authors answering questions live on Twitter and Zoom after their talks have aired.

Amongst the talks, Chawton House will be showcasing many treasures within their collection. Beginning the festival is Chawton House’s Curator, giving an exclusive look at their Emma display. Caroline Knight, who was the last direct descendent of Edward Austen Knight (brother of Jane Austen) to grow up in Chawton House will be giving an insight into her childhood spent living in the grand Elizabethan manor. Secrets about Chawton House will be revealed.

There is a sign up button on the website so that people can keep up-to-date with events and people can get involved in the festival by using hashtag #ChawtonLitFest. Alongside the Festival, Chawton House will bring a Zoom-based version of their popular creative writing workshops, with Claire Thurlow.

However, the digital programme has already begun, with their Man Up! exhibition now online and the recent launch of their Poetry Challenge. Over the next few weeks, there will be a new Chawton House podcast, as well as cookery and photography projects, as well as sharing little snippets from the Chawton House collection through #rainsbowsofhope and #quoteoftheday. 

Two weeks after their Lockdown Literary Festival (15-17 May), on the 30 and 31, they will hold a virtual Garden Festival, using the Chawton House Gardens and collections as the theme and inspiration.

Chief Executive Katie Childs said: “When we had to close Chawton House on 20th March, we decided that, if we could not welcome visitors to Chawton House, we would have to bring Chawton House to our visitors. We know that it is in challenging times like these that people need the entertainment and escapism of arts and culture, and to use it to make sense of the world around them. The Lockdown Literary Festival is a celebration of women’s writing, and of the remarkable stories of Chawton House and our collection. It has been made possible by the generosity of those who continue to contribute to our Emergency Appeal and are helping us not just survive the financial impact of the closure, but make sure we are still able to create fascinating and inspirational content.”