Arts Update: Austen anniversary

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This year is the 200th anniversary of publication of one of the world’s most famous novels, Pride and Prejudice, which helped create a Jane Austen, pictured, world of romance and country houses.

A talk at Off the Shelf next week shows that the reality of early 19th century England was very different and for most people two centuries ago there was no Jane Austen romance. They worked hard lives from a very young age, primarily as servants, agricultural labourers, in the textile mills or down the pit. The country was at war, prices were rising and wages falling.

Because life was tough, many people resorted to crime simply to survive. Punishments were harsh, and hangings were commonplace for fairly trivial offences. To act as a deterrent, the bodies of executed criminals were wrapped in chains and suspended from gibbets, for all to see, and one traveller called Johnson Grant described the Sheffield neighbourhood as “adorned with men hanging in chains”.

Roy and Lesley Adkins, authors of Trafalgar and Jack Tar, will be talking about their new book, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, on Wednesday at the Central United Reformed Church, Norfolk Street, revealing many aspects of life in the 19th century, from selling your wife to surgery without anaesthetics. You’ll never read a Jane Austen novel the same way again!

Renaissance One are presenting a new commission of writing and spoken word in collaboration with Off The Shelf and Writing Yorkshire, on themes of Pride and Prejudice. Poets Jean Binta Breeze, Mark Gwynne Jones and Sureshot along with young Yorkshire writers aged 15-21 will offer an exhilarating and inter-generational experience on Friday at the Foundry, University of Sheffield.

Tying in with Tour de France TV reporter Ned Boulting’s Off the Shelf appearance at the Showroom on Monday to talk about his love of cycling, Sheffield artist and photographer Andrew G Smith will be in the cinema cafe presenting Every Race Is Races – The Vélo Project, his own musings on the greatest two-wheeled event in the world.

Strictly Come Dancing star Anton Du Beke, pictured, has announced a spectacular new production, Ballroom To Broadway, to tour next year. The show celebrating the golden sound of musicals through a star-spangled programme of dance and song comes to Sheffield City Hall on February 27.

Artist Viv Owen will be running a ‘make your own extraordinary sketchbook book and then draw in it’ workshop at the Cupola Gallery on Sunday.

The Huddersfield-based artist and tutor will show how to make compact concertina sketchbooks, ones that expand out to become large sheets of paper allowing people to do a big drawing anywhere.

A book-making workshop will be held in the morning and then there will be drawing tuition in the afternoon.

It cost £20 per person and money raised will go to support future subsidised arts activity.

Booking is essential on 2852665 or email

Languages Sheffield and City of Sanctuary Sheffield are putting on Stories Across the World in the Central Library on Saturday morning. They will be told in both their original languages – Hungarian, Mandarin and Maasai – as well as in English. There is also a dinosaur story in English, specially written for this occasion and performed by its author.