New ideas for Haworth village to ‘set it buzzing’

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BRONTE society president Bonnie Greer is to bring in special advisors to develop a strategy to boost visitor numbers to Haworth and “make it buzz all year round.”

The playwright and novelist is setting up an advisory group to discuss new ideas with the aim of refreshing the work of the literary society.

Bronte Society president Bonnie Greer outside the Parsonage in Haworth. Picture by Tony Johnson

Bronte Society president Bonnie Greer outside the Parsonage in Haworth. Picture by Tony Johnson

She spoke exclusively to The Yorkshire Post yesterday following a long-running row among members about the direction of the 120-year-old society.

Critics have claimed that the Society needs to engage more with people in Haworth and must stop “micro-managing” the running of the Museum.

Ms Greer has drafted in Helen Boaden, director of BBC Radio and a former producer with Radio Leeds, to be on a new president’s advisory group.

The president expects to recruit other experts as well as bringing in “one or two” Haworth residents to draw the Society closer to the village, home of the Museum.

The Chicago-born writer plans to use connections in the United States to encourage more tourists and Bronte fans from across the Atlantic to visit Haworth.

She also wants a younger Society membership and to increase the 1,750 membership to 2,000 within two years.

Asked about her role as president, she said it was “ambassadorial, honorary” but that she now wanted to spend more time in Haworth and stimulate debate about new ideas.

She is keen to work with “constructive critics”.

“I think with the President’s Advisory Group, the first thing we will aim to do is work with those constructive critics - I’m very interested in them, the ones that say ‘let’s work together’. I’m not interested in the divisive ones.”

Ms Greer said the critics - who tried to force a change of leadership at a recent emergency meeting - had damaged the reputation of the Society and the Museum and leaks to the Press had upset her.

“My first concern is not me. What we have is a very fine museum, with very fine people. For critics to run amok and put them in professional jeopardy is untenable.”

Her idea for an advisory group has been given informal support by members of the ruling Bronte Society Council, which meets today in Haworth.

One of her main aims, she said, was to “bringing money into the village.”

“I want to do a writers’ festival and exchange visits. I want this village filled 365 days a year with things that emanate from us.”

On the subject of in-fighting, which led to 52 disgruntled members forcing an emergency meeting, she admitted she had not got to the bottom of it.

“Whatever has been going on, I don’t even know all of it. I’m not saying it’s a bed of roses. I don’t know who they (the critics) are.”

Recent troubles had made up her mind about the need for change.

“I feel I have permission to do it now. This crisis has given it to me...it’s a juncture for change. I’m interested in keeping the Society going and making it even greater. I’m interested in what people have to say. I’m not interested in those who undermine us.”