June 10, 2015
Infighting at the Brontë Society
by Zeljka Marosevic
Infighting at the Brontë Society has caused the author Bonnie Greer to resign from her role as president. Greer quit at the weekend following months of internal disputes between the trustees about how the organisation is run.
According to its website, the Brontë Society is responsible for “running the famous Brontë Parsonage Museum” in West Yorkshire, which was the home of the Brontë family and for “promoting the Brontës’ literary legacy within contemporary society”.
But the word ‘contemporary’ seems to be at the heart of the problem, with committee members apparently divided into “Modernists” and the “Old Guard”. At the weekend, over 100 people gathered to hear the verdict of a report produced by independent consultants on the future of the society. Unsurprisingly, the report suggested the members “draw a line under past conflict”.
According to The Telegraph:
More than 100 interested members were present at the Bronte Society AGM to hear the verdict, suggesting growing rifts in the area should be healed for the greater good ahead of the bicentenary celebrations for Charlotte Bronte in 2016, Emily in 2018 and Anne in 2020.
The hope is that the Brontë Parsonage Museum, which receives around 70,000 visitors a year (a falling number) and its surrounding village of Haworth, could become like Shakespeare’s Stratford upon Avon, and draw the same crowds. With anniversary celebrations coming up, the time is now to make that happen.
But the local parish council chairman, John Huxley, used the opportunity to criticise the society, saying:
They say they do not want to be seen as the snobs on the top of the hill – but they are…We have not enjoyed watching them implode. But the Bronte legacy is just bumbling on. It is not like Stratford upon Avon and Shakespeare. The Society needs to get its act together.
Greer’s performance during the meeting has also attracted attention. Before resigning, Greer used a Jimmy Choo shoe as a gavel while presiding over the meeting. She explained her reasons to BBC Radio 4’s The World at One:
I brought my shoe because it’s been, for some of us, so grim that I thought, I’m going to make this funny. So I brought out the shoe, made for me by Jimmy Choo himself, and said, ‘I’m going to bang this if it gets out of control’.
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.