‘Agitators’ criticised as Bronte Society chairman quits

Christine Went outside Bronte Parsonage in Haworth
Christine Went outside Bronte Parsonage in Haworth
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THE chairman of the under-fire Bronte Society council has resigned less than a month after taking up the post during a period of turmoil at the famous literary society.

Christine Went cited personal reasons for stepping aside but hit out at “agitators” who have been making calls in recent weeks for fresh leadership, saying they were “behaving irresponsibly” in seeking power for themselves.

Her decision to resign comes just two weeks before an extraordinary general meeting in Haworth which has been forced on the Society by 53 disgruntled members who claim it has “lost its way” and needs to be “modernised”.

Ms Went, a member of the ruling council for four years, told The Yorkshire Post that she had decided to step down because a family member was seriously ill.

Asked about the ongoing arguments over the governance of the Society, she said that for the vast majority of the 1,700 members there was no row.

“A small number (of members) are behaving irresponsibly,” she said.

“I think there is a personal aspect for some people - these people want the power. If they ever get it, they may be staggered to discover the amount of work involved in being on the council.”

She said 70-hour working weeks were common, despite the positions on council being voluntary and unpaid.

Critics were surprised by her sudden departure.

John Thirlwell, a TV producer, who last month helped force the extraordinary general meeting by collecting 53 members’ signatures, said: “I think there is a lot of unease in the council and rightly so.

“It’s a great shame there is more unrest.”

Mr Thirlwell said the aim of the EGM was not to be “antagonistic” but to bring about change.

A Society member who asked not to be named said: “Clearly it’s a blow for council to lose not just another council member but the Chair at a time when strong leadership is essential.

“Over the past year, two further council members have resigned as well as a high profile museums’ professional who acted as advisor to the Council. Brontë Society members will be disappointed.”

A Bronte Society spokesman said Ms Went stepped down “due to her own ill health and an urgent family matter”.

“Christine Went has been forced to take the decision, which was formalised on Thursday October 2. For the same reasons, she has also resigned from the Brontë Society Council.

Christine was appointed as Chairman on September 6, with a unanimous vote. She had been a member of the Bronte Society Council for four years, during which time she held the role of heritage and conservation representative.”

Council member Doreen Harris is taking on the work of the chairman.

“The Bronte Society Council will now begin the process to elect a new Chairman, “ said the spokesman.

“Nominations from a proposer and seconder will be invited from the Trustees currently serving on the Council, which will then be voted on. The post of Chairman is for a term of one year.”