Society.Campaigners pushing for the modernisation of the Brontë Society are standing for election to the organisation’s ruling council. The controversial campaign’s two leaders are among those responding to the society’s call for new blood to fill a ‘skills gap’ on the council. Success for John Thirlwell and Janice Lee could help drive through far-reaching changes to the way that both the literary society and Brontë Parsonage Museum is run. Also standing for the ruling council is Haworth vicar, the Reverend Peter Mayo-Smith, who hopes the society will do more to attract tourists to the village. The Haworth-based Brontë Society, which runs the museum, recently relaxed its rules governing council membership to help fill a shortfall in nominations. It is understood that at least five of the 12 council members are due to stand down on the annual meeting in June.
Mr Thirlwell this week warned that whoever was elected, it was vital the new-look council responded to concerns raised by the modernisers. He said key to this would be the findings of a review, currently being carried out, into the structure and governance of the Brontë Society.
Mr Thirlwell said: “The agreement was that we would see the report before going to the annual general meeting in June, so we can have some sensible debate about how the Brontë Society should operate. “The museum should be a separate entity with a trust running it. We’re hoping the review will give us a way to put a new structure in place. “We’ve had a lot of support from the people of Haworth saying ‘let’s get the society to work with local people, so that Haworth gains from this literary history’.” Mr Mayo-Smith, priest in charge at Haworth Parish Church, hopes to bring his past business experience to the council if he is elected. He also believes Haworth is failing to the most of its tourism potential, and wants the Brontë Parsonage Museum to pack a “harder punch”.
A spokesman for the Brontë Society said a sufficient number of members had put their names forward by April 11, the deadline for nominations, and the aim was to ensure the council had the “best possible skill set”. The spokesman said membership numbers had risen since the beginning of the year. Bonnie Greer, president of the Brontë Society: “It’s great that new members are coming forward to join council and we hope that any new members on the Brontë Society Council will continue the work and dedication of the present one.” “I’m working to help diversify membership and bring on younger members - local, regional, national and international - who are all crucial to the future of the Brontë Society.” (David Knights)