WUTHERING HEIGHTS TEETERING ON KITSCH; Could the Japanese Save Bronte Village from Tea Shoppe Tourism?

Article excerpt

JAPANESE backpacker was peering uncertainly into the window of The Old Apothecary.

The Old Apothecary looks like an old chemist's shop done up to look like, well, an old chemist's shop.

'Bronte museum?' inquired the backpacker hesitantly.

'No. Shop,' said a man unloading a van outside.

'Sell Bronte books?' 'Books?' He reflected for a moment. 'No. I don't think so but there's lot of other Bronte things in there, love.' 'Ah,' said the Japanese girl, clearly confused that here was a shop in the Bronte village of Haworth which looked like a museum and sold Bronte things. But not books.

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The Bronte sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne - may be best known for their contribution to world literature, but a trip into any of the shops that crowd this West Yorkshire village's main street will reveal other less famous Bronte talents.

HE OLD Apothecary, for example,stocks Bronte Soaps at [pounds sterling]1.99 a go, Bronte Honeysuckle Hair and Body Shampoo for [pounds sterling]3.95 or Bronte Rhubarb and Ginger Jam at [pounds sterling]1.99.

Further up the cobbled street at Limited Editions, you can have a Bronte Sisters polo shirt for [pounds sterling]15.99. You didn't know the Bronte sisters were into polo shirts? Students of English literature will tell you that Heathcliff passionately stalked the moors around Wuther-ing Heights in little else.

A tourist gift shop can be defined as a shop that sells things any normal sane person wouldn't want to be given. But even by the bad taste standards of T

souvenirs, Haworth appears to be dredging the bottom of the barrel.

And those retail outlets on Haworth's main street that aren't selling Bronte fridge magnets or 'classic' sweets, are devoted to tourist lunches and cream teas.

This isn't just my opinion. Last week Haworth was up in arms when the Keighley News splashed on a 'damning report' by tour operators.

'Haworth is dubbed "one big tea shop" by tour firms,' read the headline to the story, which revealed that

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representatives from 11 Japanese tour companies had 'singled out Haworth for a slating'.

According to the national Press, which followed up the story, visitors were 'sickened by Bronte tack'.

The Japanese reps expected a 'wild and melancholy northern wilderness' but discovered instead vast numbers of 'similar tearooms and souvenir shops offering unoriginal goods for sale'.

RIAN HANDLEY, chief executive of the Yorkshire and Humberside Tourist Board, says the criticisms are actually very modest.

'Out of the three pages of the report which is largely very positive - there are just two lines of criticism which say that in Haworth there are two or three shops or cafes which "seemed rather complacent" and didn't offer the good value they got everywhere else B

and that the people serving in the shops weren't as attentive as they could have been,' says Mr Handley. …