Sitting With Jane starts to take shape

A key event of the Jane Austen 200 celebrations will start to come to life next week as the first artist gets to work on creating a bookbench for Sitting With Jane – the high-profile project that is set to deliver a big boost to Ark Cancer Centre Charity.

Ark Cancer Centre Charity is proud to be the charity partner for Sitting With Jane – one of the most exciting projects in a milestone year of events that will celebrate the life of Jane Austen.

Sitting With Jane will be among the showcase projects in Hampshire as the county hosts a series of events and activities to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of the world-famous author, who spent the first 25 years of her life in Steventon near Basingstoke.

A ‘Wild in Art’ event, being delivered by Destination Basingstoke and in association with Festival Place, Sitting With Jane will be a public art trail featuring 24 specially-designed sponsored bookbenches which will be on display during the summer.

The bookbenches will eventually be auctioned off in the Autumn and 75 per cent of the proceeds will go to Ark Cancer Centre Charity's £5million appeal to help fund a new cancer treatment centre – leaving a lasting legacy that will help and support local cancer patients and their families.

A shop unit opposite Laura Ashley in Sitting With Jane headline sponsor Festival Place will be the venue for Lois Cordelia Bulow-Osborne to get to work on creating her bookbench next week.

As with all of the 24 iconic bookbenches, the artists’ designs will be painted on to a template bookbench that acts as a 3D canvas – making the finished creation not only a work of art, but an attractive piece of street furniture that will be accessible for all to see and sit on.

Lois, from Ipswich, said: "I will paint my design on to the blank bookbench during a two-day live speed-painting demonstration in Festival Place on Tuesday, February 28 and Wednesday, March 1.

"I welcome a live audience while I paint, so don't be shy – drop by, ask questions, and be inspired!”

Sitting With Jane will form part of a worldwide celebration of Jane Austen’s life, and the ‘Jane Austen 200 - A life in Hampshire’ event spearheaded by Hampshire Cultural Trust.

The Sitting With Jane project has been up and running for more than six months, but January saw one of the significant events take place at Oakley Hall as representatives from the companies and organisations that are sponsoring the bookbenches came along to choose their designs.

There was a great selection, and the 21 chosen artists are now preparing to start work on the bookbenches.

June will see the exciting unveiling of the bookbench public art trail and thousands of local residents and visitors are expected to make the bookbench tour a key part of their Jane Austen 200 experience this summer.

Ark Cancer Centre Charity trustee Merv Rees said the eventual auction of the bookbenches will deliver a boost to the charity’s £5m fundraising appeal which is helping to fund a unique local cancer treatment centre that will help and support Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust residents.

Merv added: “There is no doubt that Sitting With Jane will attract a great deal of attention locally, nationally and internationally.

“The 24 professionally designed bookbench sculptures will be landmark attractions during the events to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and those involved in sponsoring and purchasing them will be contributing to a longer lasting legacy.”

Artists will be painting in Unit 56 of Queen Anne's Walk in Festival Place between February 28 and mid-April.

Picture caption: The back of the Sitting With Jane display bookbench, created by renowned artist Jane Callan. Work is now about to start on the remaining 23 bookbenches that will make up the Sitting With Jane public art trail.