A Dickens of a time

Date Posted: 07/07/2011

Next February marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth. We take a look at the programme of events and activities that commemorates this very special anniversary.

Dickens 2012 is an international celebration of the life and works of the one and only Charles Dickens, marking the bicentenary of his birth, which falls on 7th February 2012. A number of institutions and organisations are working together to deliver a programme of events and activities to commemorate this very special anniversary.

Although a writer from the Victorian era, Dickens’s work transcends his time, language and culture. He remains a massive contemporary influence throughout the world and his writings continue to inspire film, TV, art, literature, artists and academia. Groups can visit the real-life settings that fired his imagination too, from Portsmouth to London and Kent.

A Tale of Two Cities- a small selection of places to visit connected with Dickens

Portsmouth

Charles Huffam Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812, and his family’s modest terraced house, now the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, can be found on Old Commercial Road. Visitors can see the parlour, dining room and bedroom, furnished to recreate middle-class tastes of the time; and discover more about Dickens and Portsmouth in the exhibition room featuring intriguing personal memorabilia (even the couch on which he would die at his house in Kent in 1870). Groups can also book a specialist guided walk to really get a taste for the city’s Victorian past.

London

Next, we head for London. Enter Dickens’s world at The Charles Dickens Museum on Doughty Street, the only one of his London homes to survive. He lived in the tall, narrow, Georgian building between April 1837 (a year after his marriage to Catherine Hogarth) and December 1839. At this time, with the serialisation of The Pickwick Papers, the writing of Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, he was on the way to becoming the most celebrated author of the 19th century.

Kent

Now make the short journey from London to the maritime towns of the Medway estuary. Charles had moved here with his family in 1817 when he was five years old and stayed until 1822: they were said to be the happiest years of his childhood and sparked a life-long love of the area.

The Dickens family lived for a while at No. 2 (now No. 11) Ordnance Terrace. Privately owned, it’s not open to the public but a plaque celebrates its literary connections. Then tour Chatham Historic Dockyard, where John Dickens clerked in the Royal Navy pay office.

Or why not embark on a Great Expectations style boat ride at Dickens World located in Chatham Maritime? The themed attraction includes a variety of interpretations of Dickensian life, including Peggotty’s Boathouse 4D cinema show. A discounted rate is available for groups of 15 people or over.

Great Expectations- A selection of events planned for Dickens 2012

Set in the grounds of Kent's Rochester Castle, overlooking the River Medway and just a few steps from Rochester's picture-postcard Victorian High Street, a Dickensian themed Christmas market will open from Thursday to Sunday between the weekends of the 24th November and the 18th December this year.

There will be a major Dickens exhibition opening in December, and running until June next year at the Museum of London. Dickens and London will explore the author’s links to the English capital, which inspired much of his writing.

Dickens on Film will be the largest retrospective ever staged of film and TV works based on or inspired by Charles Dickens. The three-month season will premiere at the BFI Southbank in London in January and will embark on a national and international tour thereafter.

 In 2012, the Barbican in London will host a retrospective on silent film (pre-1930) adaptations of Dickens's novels as part of the centre’s regular Silent Film and Live Music series. Dates are to be confirmed.

The annual Dickens Festival will be held in Rochester during June next year. Charles Dickens was a national legend when he returned for the last 13 years of his life (after living in Medway as a child), dying at Gad's Hill in 1870. This annual festival has evolved over the years to become what it is today – a combination of music, dance, drama and street theatre.

Dickens and Art aims to explore the significant connection between Charles Dickens and visual art. A remarkably visual writer, Dickens grew out of a tradition where illustration formed a significant part of both serial and book. The influence of Dickens was also widespread, and many artists chose to depict scenes from his novels. The exhibition will run during the summer of 2012 at the Watts Gallery in London.

Image credits: The Museum of London 

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