‘BookBenches’ to mark art trail

By Farnham Herald in Local People

THIS summer, Alton will host part of an inspirational Jane Austen-themed art trail covering the north of Hampshire.

The ‘Sitting with Jane’ project will comprise 25 ‘BookBenches’ each uniquely designed and painted by a professional artist with their personal interpretation of a Jane Austen theme.

A ‘Wild in Art’ project, run in partnership with Destination Basingstoke, a not-for-profit organisation working to promote the town and its surrounding area, the trail will link locations key to the life of Hampshire’s famous author.

It will come through Alton High Street, where a bench, designed and painted by a local artist, will be on display for a 10-week period, from mid-June to the end of August.

Visitors to the region will search for benches on the trail using a promotional map or a mobile phone app.

A call for artists went out last October and last week designs by 37 artists from across the country, among them five by East Hampshire artists, were displayed at Oakley Hall near Basingstoke, where sponsors of the Alton BookBench had the difficult task of deciding which artist to choose for the town’s bench.

According to Alton business development manager Julie McLatch, while the first of the 25 benches has already been designed and was on display at Oakley Hall, Altonians will have to wait until June to find out what their bench will look like.

Commenting on the project, town clerk Leah Coney said: “The site for the Alton bench is a beautiful part of town, and the design the sponsors chose needed to be in keeping with the grand buildings around it.

“The competition between all of the designs, and especially those submitted by artists from Alton, was very close. We can’t wait for the grand unveiling!”

Felicity Edwards, managing director of Destination Basingstoke Ltd, said after the event: “The Sitting with Jane trail is part of a county-wide celebration of Jane Austen taking place this year. This weekend, Excursions 2017, an annual exhibition held at Alexandra Palace in London which showcases group packages for day trips, tours, short breaks and longer group holidays, took place when representatives from East Hampshire District Council ensured that Alton was publicised, taking along Alton Town Council Events Guides and Pocket Guides, as well as information about the town’s Regency Week celebrations and the Jane Austen trail.

“Jane Austen’s House Museum and Chawton House Library had separate stalls at the travel show and are at the forefront of the celebrations for the year.”

Ms Edwards also confirmed that the name of the artist selected to design and paint Alton’s BookBench “will be released in a few weeks time”.

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