Nov 22, 2012

19th Century Dance and Costume Retreat

Dear Friends

We are so thrilled that some overseas friends might be joining us for next year’s Jane Austen Festival Australia (JAFA) from the evening of Thursday 18 April 2013 to evening of Sunday 21 April 2013. We plan to give you the most fabulous time over those 3 days (will unwrap more of the detail over the next month or so).

Some visitors coming from overseas and interstate have already started to ask what they might tag onto JAFA – knowing that in each of the past 2 years we have added on before or after JAFA an optional 3 days here in Canberra of extra dance on a different but related theme. Those extra workshop days have always been very enjoyable, and appreciated by visitors who’ve travelled a long way, but they are exhausting for us to organise and we were thinking of passing on the ‘add-ons’ this year… but, the news that we might have people coming all the way from overseas has inspired us to not only start planning an add-on but making it the most wonderful ever, by booking for the 3 nights that follow JAFA (i.e. Monday 22nd, Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24th) all 40 beds at the beautifully restored ‘manor’ house at Yarrangabilli Caves in the northern Snowy Mountain National park (2 and ½ hours south west of Canberra-photos at end of this email). This building dates back to 1901/1917, is in the most idyllic setting, has large porches for eating meals on while watching kangoroos on the lawn out front, has a range of bedroom, kitchen and bathroom configurations, has some beautiful lounges for relaxing and sewing or playing games, and has a function room where we could schedule morning and evening dancing- leaving every afternoon for visiting different caves (all spectacularly lit etc, some with guided tours some without), going on a bushwalk, relaxing in the nearby natural-heated thermal pool (up and over a rise, so a decent walk or very short drive), sewing, playing games, or sleeping (there’s no T.V.!). It’s also the case that a short drive from the cave there are also some fascinating early settler cottages and the exquisitely beautiful ‘Blue Water holes’. It would be a wonderful Australian experience for our overseas visitor and a great memorable post JAFA retreat for everyone.

The plan would be for us to all travel down on the Monday by car pool and/or rent a small van (leaving Canberra late morning or lunch time and regrouping down there mid-or late afternoon), for us all wear  Jane Austen / Regency period clothes (1800-1820s) or Victorian era cloths (1830-1890s) all/most of the time (prize for anyone who finds or makes a Victorian bathing costume!)—even on the cave walks, as it was traditional 200 years ago for well-off people living in Sydney to take holidays in Cave areas such as Yarrangabilly and to tour caves in their top hats and bustlegowns, and then dance in the evening – and the rangers at Yarrangobilly have photos of visitors in such dress from that time and are really looking forward to us coming and reliving it. If we get the 40 people necessary to take the whole complex, there will not be another person apart from us at the building while we are there, and just a few visitors to the caves below during the daytime. We would make the dress theme anything 19th century.

In self-arranged groups people can organise their own breakfasts, lunch and dinners- to be taken in lounge, dining or deck areas around, and people could also arrange their own times for swimming and cave exploring, etc. We can facilitate some of this organising by having 3 plenary meeting times each day to discuss logistics and plans - perhaps 8:45am, 1:00pm and 7:15pm.

For two mornings (Tuesday & Wednesday) from 9:00-12:00 we’d enjoy dance workshops (with section for all levels of experience) broken by a ½ hour morning tea, and for three evenings (starting M, T, W) 7:30pm-10:30pm we will enjoy dances and dance games from the Victorian era (perhaps Monday evening- dances from 1810s-30s that bridge Jane Austen and Victorian era, Tuesday- all the new dance crazes of the 1840s & 50s, and Wednesday dances from 1860s onward) broken by mid-way refreshments (and those needing a rest from dancing can work on a period sewing project or play some of the great period games Aylwen has been collecting and will bring).  

The miracle is that the whole complex is available for the 3 days we want and that although the charges have gone up considerably since our last visit the per bed cost is still extremely reasonable (cheaper than a hotel while being much more beautiful- for though a heritage building it is run by the National Parks), and the wing which they have been restoring these last 3 years and wasn’t ready last time I was there will be ready early next year, and they are prepared to let us have it as well- and the function room which wasn’t in use either when I was there last time. The other good news is that our great pianist Sally and her guitar playing husband Peter, are happy to commit to coming and offering all the music we need, and to help make this idea work and be affordable for everyone Sally, Peter, Aylwen and I are all prepared to give our time for free to the project and entertainment, so the only costs people need meet are our cost of paying for the accommodation.

We’ll make no charge for workshops, dances and entertainment for JAFA ticket holders (Non-JAFA ticket holders will be charged an extra $50). Although the parks service has not fixed the final price with us yet (because the new wing has not yet officially got a fee regime made up) I’ve been told what to expect and believe that if we get enough to fill all the beds (about 40-44 ) the cost, which will include bed-linen, will be about $175 per adult. If we fall a short on numbers the basic cost might be closer to $200. On this basis I’ve put down a deposit of just short of $2,000… and think we can make the adult fee a rock-bottom $175 for those paying before the end of this year (to make it cheapest for those with whom we are already in touch and  to start getting me out of debt!) and $200 for people paying in January or February, and perhaps $225 (or more if we need it!) for people paying in March or April. Aylwen and I would arrange and pay for the drinks and food for morning teas and the suppers, but people would have to cover the cost of their main meals, guided cave tours and petrol (or make contribution to driver’s petrol or to the cost of hiring the people mover).

Children are welcome! There may be a slight discount for children under 15 years of age but I’m not sure what that is (can find out if interested- and even if there isn’t we might be able to offer families a slight discount) and we assume they don’t charge for babies in their own or parents bed. There’s all kinds of room and bed arrangements on offer (see list below) so hopefully there’s a combination that will suit everyone—but first, first choice  and we have no idea at this stage if it will be the singles, doubles or family rooms that are most requested.

I don’t think anyone in Australia has ever tried to organise such a Victorian era costume/sewing/dancing/music retreat—and I do hope it appeals to you!

It will be ideal for dance enthusiasts because you can get 3 days doing dances from the decades beyond those covered at JAFA (and John’s dance books will be out for those that want a record of the dances) all for no tuition or ball - and its going to be fantastic listening as we let Sally loose on my mounds of original 19th century music folios—and there’s old piano in the biggest lounge of one wing and we’ll bring our portable piano for the ‘ballroom’.  It should also, however, be perfect for anyone just wanting a full historical immersion weekend for enjoying sewing, friendship, nature, relaxing etc—so we’d like you all to come!

If you think it’s a great idea and think you could be part of it, please let us know. We’d love to know at this stage that the idea can fly and Aylwen might even set up a system to start taking money soon and checking out the beds listed below.

If you are from overseas and want also to have a beach experience, we might suggest that you don’t come directly back to Canberra afterwards, but group with like-minded people and go half way back to Canberra but then at Cooma continue on to the coast, and head up to a place called Tilba-Tilba – a gorgeous heritage town, not far from some lovely beaches and coves. We’d come with you but back in Canberra on the Friday the 26th April our core musicians and dancers are expected to be offering the entertainment for a big Regency (c.1800) banquet at a national Science fiction convention being held in Canberra that weekend. We are not in the Science fiction world but believe it will be a great night and have been made to feel very welcome. Then Saturday 28 April we finally stop dancing and sleep!

If anyone wants to get in with their first choice, let us know which room you’d like:

1901 section East Wing
a)      1 double-shared bathroom
b)      1 bunk- shared bathroom
c)       1 singles- shared bathroom
d)      1 singles- shared bathroom
e)      1 singles- shared bathroom
f)       1 singles- shared bathroom
g)      1 singles- shared bathroom

1901 section West Wing
h)      1 double& bunk - shared bathroom
i)        1 double - shared bathroom

1917 section Ground Floor
j)        1 double- ensuite
k)      1 double ensuite
l)        1 king / twin share & sofa bed – accessible ensuite

1917 section First Floor
m)     1 double - ensuite
n)      1 double - ensuite
o)      2 room suite with king/ twin share in each room –ensuite/accessible ensuite
p)      2 room suite with king/ twin share in each room –ensuite/accessible ensuite
q)      1 king  / twin share & sofa bed - ensuite
r)       1 double with shared bathoom

Looking forward to making history together!

John (& Aylwen)

Here are some pictures of Yarrangabillly caves, thermal pool, accommodation, setting etc:

Here are some more:



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