Haworth’s Bronte Schoolroom was packed out for a unique concert by New York punk legend Patti Smith on Friday.
All 125 tickets for the tiny gig sold out in just two days, and the lucky few who managed to get their hands on them weren’t disappointed, as Smith played an acoustic set that included shout-outs to Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff and Cathy, to whom she dedicated Dancing Barefoot, and the Bronte sisters’ tragic brother Branwell.
Hitting it big in the 1970s with her debut album Horses, Smith helped define the New York punk scene, and has since been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Smith is also a published poet, and the concert mixed music with poetry readings.
She is also a huge fan of the Bronte sisters, and after visiting Haworth last year offered to play a fundraising gig for the Bronte Parsonage and schoolhouse. The money will go towards the upkeep of the building, where Charlotte Bronte taught.
Backed by guitarist Tony Shanahan, Smith enthralled the crowd with a mix of classics and newer songs, and spoke of her love for the sisters in between tracks.
She dedicated the first song, Wing, to her sister Linda, who introduced her to the books.
She said: “She gave me the great gift of appreciation of Charlotte Bronte.”
At one point, she brought Kizzy Brown to the stage to play flute while she read one of her poems, Night Wind. She had only met the young musician the day before on a visit to Ponden Hall.
Smith referred to the often overlooked Bronte sibling, Branwell, who died young after bouts of alcoholism and drug abuse.
She said: “When you come here you think of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, but Branwell gave the sisters the gift of the dark romance – it was a world they created together.”
Parsonage arts officer, Jenna Holmes, said: “It is a very personal journey for her – she is a huge fan of the Bronte’s.”
Smith also toured the Parsonage Museum for Radio 4’s Today show.
During Saturday’s broadcast, she said: “Most of the Brontes passed away here, they did their work here, wrote masterpieces here and experienced so much beauty and tragedy here – it’s quite moving.”
Patti said she and her sister, Linda,were both big fans of the Brontes’ work, and would read and discuss the books in great detail and phone each other daily to talk about them after Patti moved away when she married.
Patti was in Haworth with her sister on a trip she described as a “pilgrimage”.
She said: “I promised my sister that when she turned 65, I would bring her here, and so I planned this little trip, and we’re going to end it in Scarborough on Charlotte’s birthday, which is on April 21, and go to visit Anne’s grave.”
l The Bronte Parsonage also featured in Sunday night’s Countryfile programme on BBC One.
Presenter Ellie Harrison met with collections manager Ann Dinsdale, who introduced her to some of the key historical items on display, as well as some of the surrounding countryside that inspired the literary sisters.