Sitting With Jane has a happy ending

The Sitting With Jane event had a very happy ending as the BookBench auction raised nearly £100,000 – delivering a massive boost to the charity that is helping to fund a much-needed cancer treatment centre.

A Wild in Art event, delivered by Destination Basingstoke and in association with Festival Place, thousands of people enjoyed going around the Sitting With Jane public art BookBench trail between June 17 and August 30 – and the popularity of the benches, which celebrated the life of local author Jane Austen, was reflected in a very successful auction.

Twenty-two BookBench lots were sold for a total of £95,750 – and 75 per cent of the proceeds will go to Ark Cancer Centre Charity, leaving a lasting legacy that will help and support cancer patients and their families as Ark is raising £5million towards a unique local NHS cancer treatment centre that will be built in the Basingstoke area.

Merv Rees, Ark Cancer Centre Charity trustee, was delighted with the outcome of the auction, which took place at The Ark Conference Centre last Friday night (Sept 15), and thanked everyone who has been involved in making Sitting With Jane such a success.

He said: “Sitting With Jane has attracted a great deal of attention locally, nationally and internationally – and now the charity auction has delivered a superb final chapter.

“The amount of money raised for the charity – more than £70,000 – is a great outcome for the cancer patients and their loved ones who will be helped and supported by the new centre, which will be a beacon of hope.

“Thank you to auctioneer Andrew Smith and all involved in running a brilliant auction, to everyone who made a bid, and to the BookBench owners, who can be proud that they have made a difference by contributing to the creation of this much-needed cancer treatment centre.”

Charlie Langhorne, director of Wild in Art, which has masterminded scores of public art trails around the country, praised Destination Basingstoke for approaching his organisation with the Sitting With Jane BookBench trail idea.

“I think Jane Austen, who was born and lived much of her life in the Basingstoke area, would have loved and embraced this project, and she would have loved the fact that Basingstoke has now reclaimed her,” said Charlie.

He added: “The BookBench sculpture proved to be a fantastic canvas, inspiring such wide-ranging and unique artwork, and all celebrating a world-famous author and her heritage during this important anniversary year.”

Felicity Edwards, managing director of Destination Basingstoke, thanked everyone involved in Sitting With Jane, particularly the BookBench sponsors without whose financial support the event would not have happened.

Felicity said: “We are absolutely delighted that Sitting With Jane has culminated in raising such an incredible amount for our partner charity. It is lovely to know that some of the BookBenches will be staying local too.

“Huge thanks are due to everyone who shared Destination Basingstoke’s enthusiasm and passion for the project. Sitting With Jane has engaged with so many people – from the sponsors that funded it, to the schools, artists, venues and communities that looked after the BookBenches so well, and of course to the public who enjoyed it all so much.”

Picture caption: Members of Rotary Basingstoke Deane with artist Jenny Leonard, front row left. The Rotarians sponsored, and then bought, Jenny's 'Jane Talk' bookbench at the auction.