Mansions in the Sky, Celebrating Branwell Bronte’s Bicentenary

Hello Lovelies, how are we all today?

For those of you that follow me on Instagram (or read my blog from time to time), you will know well enough by now that my life basically revolves around the Bronte family.

You will also know that I recently took a trip back up to Bradford to visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum in a private viewing of their new exhibit, Mansions in the Sky, curated by local poet, Simon Armitage.

I should point out, I wasn’t invited on my own, it was an invitation for myself and another as I’m a member of the Bronte Society (obviously). So myself and a whole host of other society members crowded into the old School Room at 7pm on a rainy Friday evening to sip glasses of Prosecco and discuss our favourite family.

In spite of the swathe of people, I was quite happy to spot Simon Armitage chatting in the crowd. I’ll admit I had mixed feelings seeing him, while I thought it would have been nice for him to say a few words about the exhibit he had helped put together, I couldn’t help having flashbacks of toiling over his poetry in my GCSE English Anthology.

I blotted out the flashbacks, swallowed my last mouthful of Prosecco and settled in for an informative speech. They started by discussing the end of Charlotte’s Bicentenary and its success, before moving on to Branwell.

I was quite surprised to hear that the Parsonage had been uncertain if they should celebrate Branwell’s 200th birthday. While it is well known that Branwell had his issues with drugs, drink and women (well, one woman, he wasn’t quite Lord Byron), and indeed, he provided considerable inspiration for his sisters’ work, but aside from that he was also creative in his own right.
Nonetheless, I’m very happy the Parsonage decided to celebrate his birthday.

 

While the Parsonage have planned events throughout the year for all the family, it’s fair to say their crowning glory is the re-creation of Branwell’s bedroom. What was once simply a room to feature portraits painted by Branwell, has been transformed into a cave of chaos and creativity, with stacks of books stashed away in corners of the room, scrunched up pieces of paper with half-baked ideas, ink bottles on the floor, staining the carpet. Paints, brushes, and sketches you can hardly see because the room is so dimly lit.

You really get a stark impression of Branwell’s mentality, desperate to succeed in some creative outlet, growing increasingly desperate and despondent as time goes on.

Once you’ve worked your way through the house, you’ll reach the final part of the Branwell exhibit, featuring a collection of Branwell’s poems, a masonic apron, a watercolour and his wallet, accompanied by a selection of poems Armitage has written in Branwell’s honour.

Not only will you find the Branwell Exhibit, but you’ll also see scripts, costumes and props from the feature-length drama To Walk Invisible, which helps visitors imagine the family living their day to day lives, while also learn a little bit about how the drama was brought to life.   

Whether you’re a life-long Bronte lover or think Jane Eyre wrote Pride and Prejudice (as a friend did once, before I swiftly corrected them), I highly recommend visiting the Parsonage, ESPECIALLY while this exhibit is on show.

To be honest, I’m actually hoping the Parsonage will choose to keep Branwells’ bedroom as it is. I think it would be a shame to say goodbye to all that hard work at the end of the year, but still, that’s up to the curators to decide!

It’s always a pleasure to return to the my literary spiritual home. I suspect it won’t be the only trip I make there this year.

If you take a trip to the Parsonage this year, do let me know your thoughts!

Till next time,

love, Leigh

xx

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