Entertainment & Arts

Author Bonnie Greer quits troubled Bronte Society

Bronte Parsonage Museum
Image caption The parsonage where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte lived is now a museum

Writer Bonnie Greer has resigned as president of the Bronte Society after an internal feud over how to preserve the legacy of the Bronte sisters.

The Bronte Society runs a museum in the former home of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

Greer's departure follows months of turmoil over the society's direction.

She stepped down at the annual general meeting on Saturday and the two leaders of a campaign to overhaul the society's leadership were elected to its council.

Around 1,500 Bronte enthusiasts are members of the society. Last autumn, more than 50 forced an extraordinary general meeting, claiming the organisation had "lost its way" and needed to "modernise".

The society's council chairman Christine Went then quit after less than a month in the job and hit out at "agitators" among the membership.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bonnie Greer had been Bronte Society president since 2011

Greer said she took a high-heeled shoe to Saturday's meeting as a light-hearted prop to use to keep order.

"I brought my shoe because it's been, for some of us, so grim, that I thought, I'm going to make this funny," she told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

"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'."

Six members of the society's 12-strong council also stood down at the AGM.

Greer later tweeted: "Lot of Council gone because for many last year has not been fun. Thus my Jimmy Choos. Levity desperately needed."

The six new council members include John Thirlwell and Janice Lee, who were reported last year to have written to some members calling for fresh leadership.

The meeting was also given a report by external consultants Dr Rowie Shaw and Sue Charteris, who conducted a review into how the society is run.

Image copyright Rischgitz/Getty
Image caption Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte were painted by their brother Branwell [circa 1834]

In a statement, they said their review followed "a period of vigorous debate within the society".

"Students of organisational dynamics will know that it is not unusual for any organisation to experience periods of storming which can lead to positive change," they said.

"During the period of our research and at the AGM we were met with kindness and openness by all parties and there is ample evidence of goodwill among the trustees and the modernisers to take the society forward positively.

"All parties are passionate about the society and the Brontes. This work of moving on had begun well before the publication of our report."

'Imploding' organisation

But John Huxley, who chairs the local parish council, told Radio 4 he was "very sad to see a respected organisation that has been apparently imploding for the last two or three years".

He continued: "The general feeling around the community is that they have become very isolated at the top of Church Street at the museum, and although several attempts have been made... to engage more with us, that hasn't yet happened."

A spokeswoman for the society thanked Greer for her work.

She added: "We are building on our established links with Haworth businesses and the local community to ensure the Bronte Parsonage Museum continues to play its part in contributing to the visitor economy, encouraging visits by new, younger, more diverse audiences as well as by returning loyal Bronte enthusiasts."

The society is now planning for the forthcoming 200th anniversaries of the births of sisters Charlotte, who wrote Jane Eyre; Emily, who wrote Wuthering Heights; and Anne, who penned The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

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