The Jane Austen effect has given a boost to Basingstoke following a number of events to celebrate the bi-centenary of the Steventon-born writer.
Visitor figures to the cultural heart of the town centre, the Top of Town, were up 80 per cent in July, with a daily average of 200 people at the Willis Museum, compared to around 80 visitors a day at quieter times.
This has been put down to the unveiling world’s first life-size bronze statue of Jane Austen along with the bookbench public art trail as well as Hampshire Cultural Trust’s Retail and Romance: Jane Goes to the Ball.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for arts, heritage and Top of Town, Terri Reid, said: “It has been thrilling to see the Top of Town bustling with more visitors than ever before this summer.
“Jane Austen was born in the borough, spent more than half her life here and drafted some of her greatest works here.
“We are immensely proud of Jane Austen’s strong connection to Basingstoke and our cultural tributes to her legacy to mark the 200th anniversary of her death have captivated residents and visitors alike.
“By coming to the see the marvellous sculpture of Jane in Market Square and finding out at the museum how Jane shopped and attended balls in the Top of Town, we have captured people’s imaginations and, as a result, the area has thrived too.”
Basingstoke has also been thriving on social media with the Willis Museum’s facebook video of the statue unveiling receiving more than 100,000 views as well as attracting media coverage home and abroad.
Austen fans are being encouraged to take a selfie with the sculpture and post it to social media using the hashtag #SelfieWithJane.