Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Byron's Birthday - Rochdale 2012

Monday 23rd January, 2012

I had the pleasure of speaking at the celebration of Byron's Birthday  on Saturday in the beautiful Victorian Gothic surroundings of Rochdale Town Hall (Byron's birthday is actually on
he 22nd, so we hope he didn't mind).  A very big thank you to Suzi Heslan and Rochdale Central Library for arranging such a splendid event. Despite the rather chilly day it was an exceptionally good celebration. I think Byron, Baron Rochdale, should be very proud!

Dr Jonathon
Shears from Keele University opened the proceedings by talking about Byron's life and poetry. A dancing group, Regency Re-jigged, performed dances of the period (and in period costume, too) then held a short workshop, for those of us brave enough to join in. They were performing country dances rather than the waltz or cotillion, and these are surprisingly energetic. After attempting the final, circle dance I felt quite dizzy!  Thank you to my dance parther (a very smart beau!) for helping me to get through that!

Christina Courtenay gave a fascinating talk on perfumes from the Georgian period, with lots of examples for everyone to try - I fear we all came out smelling, as the expression goes, "like a tart's boudoir"!  Some of the perfumes are still available today, others (such as those using bear's grease, are thankfully no longer available).

Tracey Jackson gave a talk and demonstration of Regency fashions (even turning one brave male volunteer into a Regency beau). Sid Calderbank spoke (and sang) of Lancashire in Byron's time and the day ended with an impressive display of Lancashire Clog Dancing from Rossendale Heritage Clog troupe.

Throughout the day we had the army on hand to keep the peace: members of the 22nd Foot had a fascinating array of artefacts from their collection, including many of the games used by soldiers of the day - like backgammon and solitaire, cards and dice. Their authentic uniforms are beautifully made and they caused quite a stir wandering around the building! You can see more of them at their website. They were all charming, and even allowed me to join them for a photograph (after a very harrowing display of how to handle a musket - thankfully we were indoors so they couldn't actually fire them.)

I could not resist trying on a hat -
not sure if it
suits, though!

A very poor photo (apologies)  of Christina and I manning the bookstall.

The dancers gathering ready for their performance....