• Jane Austen 200

A recently published report by Tourism South East (TSE) has concluded that last year’s Jane Austen 200 commemorations contributed £21 million to Hampshire’s economy with more than a million extra visitors being attracted to the county to follow in the author’s footsteps.

2017 marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) took the lead in celebrating the author’s life and work. In collaboration with Jane Austen’s House Museum and many other partners across the county including Winchester Cathedral, Chawton House and Visit Hampshire, a number of exhibitions, events, performances and talks took place throughout the year.

A major highlight of the commemoration was The Mysterious Miss Austen, an exhibition at the Gallery in Winchester’s Discovery Centre which gave visitors a unique opportunity to view six portraits of the author under one roof for the very first – and probably only – time. A lasting legacy of the year’s events came in the form of the world’s first life-size, bronze statue of the author which has become a major visitor attraction in Basingstoke, the borough of Austen’s birth. The statue was made by Hampshire sculptor, Adam Roud, and is installed outside the town’s Willis Museum which hosted Jane Austen themed exhibition Retail and Romance that broke visitor records.

The independent report, which was commissioned by Visit Hampshire and HCT, commented that the Austen-inspired ‘events and activities had a clear positive effect on visitor numbers at various visitor attractions across Hampshire…’. Not only that, the commemorations also boosted the local tourism and hospitality sectors, with significant numbers of visitors choosing to stay in local hotels.

The report cites Chawton House as attracting 9,724 visitors over the period 20 March to 27 October 2017, a significant increase on the 3,973 attracted in the same period in 2016, while it noted that City Space in Winchester Discovery Centre enjoyed a 74.6% increase in visitors during June 2017 and a 61.6% increase during July.

Jane Austen’s House Museum attracted 25,526 visitors between 1st June and 31st August 2017, again marking a significant upturn compared with 2016’s figures. This was similarly ascribed to the events and activities related to the Jane Austen bicentenary and the accompanying global media coverage.

Overall, the TSE report estimated that an additional 1,062,000 visitors were attracted to Hampshire, many of whom were inspired in part by Jane Austen 200. Looking at the direct economic impact of the celebrations, the TSE report said: “An additional net of 265,500 visitors were attracted to Hampshire specifically because of the Jane Austen 200 events and activities in the summer of 2017. This resulted in an additional 69,600 bed nights in Hampshire, and an additional direct spend of £13,738,000.”

It also concluded that new jobs and income were generated by Jane Austen 200, which in turn had a positive effect on the local goods and services industries, adding an extra £7,143,900 to Hampshire firms’ coffers.

In short, the report declares: “We therefore estimate that the total economic impact of the Jane Austen 200 celebrations was £20,882,000.”

Janet Owen, Chief Executive Officer of Hampshire Cultural Trust, said: “The TSE report is testimony to Jane’s incredible legacy and how our county’s partners, museums and attractions embraced Jane Austen 200 to create a wealth of events and exhibitions that attracted huge numbers of visitors.”

She added: “Rather than rest on our laurels, we have introduced a new celebratory theme for 2018 – ‘Creative Genius’ - highlighting creativity and ingenuity that has come out of Hampshire, with a particular emphasis on technology, engineering and design. August marks the 80th anniversary of the Spitfire being introduced as a fighter plane and it was developed right here in Hampshire.”

Throughout 2018, some of Hampshire’s greatest inventions or technological innovations - and the people who made them - will be showcased by Creative Genius, from the Deane brothers and the diving helmet to Blanche Thornycroft’s contributions to naval history, to the remarkable Tilly Shilling and her ‘orifice’. In summer 2018, HCT will be staging Mission Mega Machine at its flagship venue Milestones Museum in Basingstoke, which will take visitors on a time-travelling journey through the world of machines, from steam engines to flight and bang up to date with robotics.

Janet Owen again: “We often forget the contribution that our county made, not just to the arts, but also to science and industry. Reginald Mitchell’s work in transforming the Spitfire from a racing plane to the iconic victor in the Battle of Britain is just cause for reflection, as is Samuel F Cody’s transition from American showman to early pioneer of flight. All of the people featured in Creative Genius led fascinating lives and, just as we did with Jane Austen 200, Hampshire Cultural Trust will be working to connect the public with these people and their incredible contributions to our island’s story.”

For more information, visit www.creativegenius.org.uk.