Join The Rotary Club of Leicester and Charity Link for an evening finding Leicester’s Mrs Austin…America’s First International Prima Donna!

8th March 2019


The Rotary Club of Leicester and local charity, Charity Link are presenting an evening of music and mystery which will unlock the 180 year old puzzle of what happened to Leicester’s Mrs Austin – who reigned supreme as America’s first international prima donna for almost a decade in the early nineteenth century before vanishing!


The fundraising event, on the evening of Friday 29th March, is being led by Professor Patrick Boylan, of the School of Arts, City, University of London who will, after over five years of research, finally pull together the threads of a mystery that has survived untold for years.


Taking place in the fantastic setting of Leicester’s Unitarian Chapel on East Bond Street (which is known historically as ’The Great Meeting’ and is amongst the city’s oldest surviving brick buildings), the evening will feature local soprano, Nicky Bingham, who will perform arias by Handel, Mozart, Arne, Rossini, Bellini, and Flotow from Austin’s repertoire. She will be accompanied on the piano and organ by John Dilleigh.


Professor Boylan, former Director of Museums and Arts of Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, says: “Mrs Austin was born in Leicester in 1797 and went on to be trained by the leading amateur musician William Gardiner in the Great Meeting Chapel itself. Being in the same building for this event, there is going to be a fantastic atmosphere on the night”.


Professor Boylan continues: “Mrs Austin became a huge star in America for a number of years but we didn’t know what happened to her after she took the train from Philadelphia to New York ready to take a ship back to England.  She apparently totally vanished and was never heard from again.  I look forward to sharing my surprising findings with our guests!”.


The evening is part of a calendar of events by current Rotary Club of Leicester President Colin Derrick who has pledged to raise £20,000 for Charity Link during his year in office.


Tickets, which cost £12 including refreshments, are available to purchase online from Charity Link at  by calling Colin Derrick on 0116 2434256.



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The Rotary Club of Leicester was founded in 1916 and is one of the oldest and largest Rotary Clubs in the United Kingdom, with approximately 70 members, drawn from men and women living in, or whose business serves, the City of Leicester. The Club’s accent is on fellowship, and on service projects for the benefit of those less fortunate than the membership. Directly, and through the worldwide Rotary movement, the Club cares for the local community and for the world through international service, particularly in developing countries such as water purification and supply projects. Equally, Rotary cares for the people of the world through programmes such as the Rotary Foundation which among many other things provides scholarships for young people to study in other countries

Charity Link was established in 1876 by local business people and caring individuals to assist those in Leicester experiencing poverty, hardship and crisis. In 1975 the charity expanded its work to include the areas of Leicestershire and Rutland and in 2012 it expanded its work into Northamptonshire to reach out to more vulnerable people in the East Midlands. Though times have changed Charity Link’s services are as vital today as they were 140 years ago.  Charity Link finds funding to provide items that the majority of us take for granted, such as beds, fridges cookers, clothing, and in emergencies, vouchers for food. It also offers help with mobility equipment and visual aids not available on the NHS.  Its unique way of working – accessing money from charitable trusts around the UK that are available to help people in need – means that for every £10 donated Charity Link can raise £50 – all of the £50 goes to provide items for those most in need within the local community. Charity Link believes that all local people deserve a decent standard of living and should be able to fulfil their potential in life – with a right to adequate food, shelter and the means to keep warm, clean and rested – no matter what crisis, difficulty, disability or illness they may be facing.  The charity currently helps round 5,000 people each year, over a third of which are children and young people.  In 2015/16 Charity Link raised over £880,000 in charitable funds for those in need within our community.  Further information on the charity can be found by visiting or by calling 0116 222 2200. On Twitter @charitylink and Facebook /charitylink