Image via Wikipedia
If you’re into Charles Dickens there’s a hell of a lot going on in Portsmouth over the next week or so.
The City Museum in Portsmouth is hosting an exhibition, aptly-titled ‘A Tale of One City’, looking at Dickens and Dickensian Portsmouth, and exploring some themes that Dickens wrote about – poverty, money, crime, they’re all things that Charles Dickens wrote about in Victorian times and we are still faced with today. The exhibition also features part of the original manuscript of Nicholas Nickelby, the only Dickens novel which features the town of his birth, on loan from the British Library. The exhibition runs until November.
Tomorrow (Sunday 5th Feb) the Charles Dickens Birthplace is free entry all day. And on Tuesday 7 February, on the great man’s two hundredth birthday itself, the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth will be hosting special events throughout the day. There will be a range of activities and celebrations in Old Commercial Road, including street performers, musicians, food, craft activities and readings. At 10.45 the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and Ian Dickens will speak outside the Museum, before laying a wreath. At 11.30am the Museum will open to the public. The birthplace itself is a small terraced house, so expect it to get very busy! For more information click here.
At 12 noon there will be a thanksgiving service at St Mary’s Church in Fratton, where Charles Dickens was baptised in 1812. Simon Callow and Sheila Hancock will both give readings, and there will be a performance of Songs from Oliver by the choir of St Johns RC Primary School. In the evening at the New Theatre Royal Simon Callow will be reading excerpts from his book ‘Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World’. Later in the year the Dickens Fellowship are planning to unveil a statue of the great man himself, appropriately outside Portsmouth Central Library Square.
I’ve always been a great fan of Dickens and his works. The funny thing is, I don’t actually enjoy reading the books that much – the manner in which they are written does not, I feel, lend itself well to reading from cover to cover. The books were initially serialised by chapters, in cheap popular magazines of the day. This is probably how they should be read – a bitesize chunk at a time. Or performed – I feel that it is a true testament to Dickens that his works translate so well onto screen and stage, when TV was invented almost a hundred years after he was born!
The themes, subjects and stories that Dickens wrote about are very much still relevant today. What would Dickens have to say about Bankers bonuses? or last summers riots? Or social media? That’s the funny thing about history – and social history in particular. Whilst on the surface life has changed immeasurably, actually, humankind hasn’t changed all that much.