Bronte Society urged to get village more involved in plans

Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte
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POLITICIANS are calling on leaders of the Bronte Society to improve their engagement with Haworth, home of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, following weeks of internal strife.

The Society has been embroiled in unrest which came to a head last month when 53 members called for a change of leadership and forced an emergency general meeting in Haworth to discuss the issues.

The group of critics have claimed the long-established literary society has “lost its way” and this was having an impact on the Parsonage Museum, which it owns.

Politicians said yesterday that internal arguments among Society members appeared to be taking precedence over more pressing matters.

Councillor John Huxley, chairman of Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury Parish Council, told The Yorkshire Post that recent developments were “perplexing” for everyone in Haworth.

He said the people in the village had seen a number of Society directors “come and go” over recent years and engagement with the community had fallen away.

Councillor Huxley said changes in leadership did not help the Society build on earlier successes in engaging with the community.

“There is a real tension in the air. People are asking about the latest development and are totally perplexed about what is happening. Everybody is conscious there has been a lot of trouble.”

He said that “internal Bronte matters have taken over from engagement with the community” and it appeared that the Society leadership had “gone back into their shell”.

“We were looking to develop something and then the director goes (Ann Sumner, who departed in June). This latest thing is really concerning; nobody knows what’s happening. A lack of consistency is not helping the working relationship.”

Last night a spokesman for the Bronte Society said recent meetings had involved Society members, Museum staff and representatives from the village in discussions around plans for several forthcoming bicentenary celebrations.

“Jenna Holmes, contemporary arts officer, her colleagues at the museum and the trustees, were thrilled to hear this month that an application for grant funding from Arts Council England has been successful. This grant funding for a contemporary arts programme for 2015/16, will assist in developing and delivering an exciting and innovative programme of events and exhibitions around the bicentenaries – bringing not only major events and new displays to the Parsonage, and visitors to Haworth but also enabling engagement with audiences nationally and internationally.”

The spokesman said the Society was in the process of reviewing governance procedures with help from an external consultant while a new operations manager had joined the Museum’s management team.

“We are also currently in the process of recruiting a project manager to co-ordinate the bicentenary plans, with a focus on working closely with local people, businesses and community groups as well as with the newly-appointed membership officer and the marketing and communications officer

“The leadership team at the Parsonage and the trustees are determined to renew and develop relationships with local, national and international partners to ensure that we not only continue to safeguard the legacy of the Brontë family, but add valuable new chapters and interpretations to it over the coming years.”