The cast, creatives, and some of the Octagon team went to Haworth to be inspired and learn more about the Brontë's
Even before we had arrived at the Brontë Parsonage, we were witness to one of the major influences on the sisters' work: the stark and stunning moors that surround the village of Haworth. In the brilliant talk delivered by Lauren Livesey later in the day, she spoke about how the moors represented both freedom and danger for the siblings, reflected in their writing.
Lauren's talk explored the lives of all the Brontës including their father, Patrick, an overlooked figure but one who was key in all of his children's lives and their creative development. Lauren blended biographies of the Brontës with their writings, showing how their experiences shaped the novels that they wrote.
Such is the power and precision of their writing that their words continue to strike a chord to this day. Lauren explained how it was the second wave feminist movement of the 1970's that rediscovered The Tenant of Wildfell Hall for a new generation.
Following the talk, we were able to explore the Parsonage. There is something incredibly moving about seeing the universality of this family home, including the young Brontës' scribblings on the wall and their toy collection, coupled with the extraordinary feats that we know were accomplished in its rooms. It's quite incredible to think of all the novels written at just one table in a quiet corner of Yorkshire.
I left the Parsonage feeling thankful that Lauren and all of the the team at the Parsonage work so hard to ensure that the Brontës are accessible to everyone and, above all, that the sisters challenged the established order of the time to create and write works that both challenge and inspire readers to this day.
It was a bleak day, with unrelenting sheets of rain accompanying us on our journey from Bolton to Haworth. As we left the motorway the roads transformed into narrow strips of tarmac, winding their way through the expanding moors - the stone walls separating the traffic from wild nature were bursting with overflowing rainwater. It was easy to see the savage beauty of the landscape that the Brontë family were so connected with and how dangerous nature can be.
Nature and the moors, as Lauren explained, were key creative fuel for the Brontë sisters. As was their experiences at school, at work (particularly for Anne, who worked as a governess for two families before returning home), and in the relationships they had with the people around them. It's clear that Anne drew inspiration from for the character of Arthur Huntingdon in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from her own brother, Branwell.
When we wandered around the parsonage, it struck on me that this was actually where the incredible Brontë novels were written. This is where the family lived - and died. It was eerie, but it gave us all a great insight into the family and their lives.
Watching the cast rehearse some of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in the room next door to where Anne wrote the original novel was amazing. The cast really engaged with their surroundings and environment, and it was beautiful to watch.
It was an insightful day, with my thanks to the Octagon Team and the Parsonage team who organised the visit. Also to Alex, who provided us with Yorkshire themed treats and cakes throughout the day! Now, let's start reading those Brontë novels again!
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is playing at the Octagon until Sat 22 April. It will then open at York Theatre Royal.