Charles Dickens officially celebrates his 200th birthday on the 7th February next year and the party planning is already in full swing.
From January ‘the BFI is staging a three-month retrospective of Dickens on film and TV’ and we will also witness the Royal Mint introducing a personal tribute to one of Britain’s most successful literary figures of the modern ages with a new £2 coin that will feature his portrait and a list of his most famous and revered works.
“For once an exhibition’s chief claim – that London was Dickens’s muse – needs no arguing. Whatever the claims of Rochester or Broadstairs, Dickens is London’s writer and London Dickens’s city.”
As well as this, ‘Dickens’s hometown is organising a year-long programme of activities to mark the bicentenary of its most famous son’ and ‘Dickens-themed activities are expected to bring together millions of people worldwide with new events and special editions of key annual festivals being staged to mark the bicentenary’.
It must be noted that Portsmouth was in fact Dickens’ original home town, but he and his family moved to London when he was just ten years old. Victorian London was therefore the prominent landscape with which Dickens was inspired when writing many of his best known works. The Victorian East End – specifically Saffron Hill – was the grim and unforgiving setting for Oliver Twist, within which perhaps his most famous protagonist Oliver was helplessly thrust into.
For Londoners, specifically those culture vultures searching for an acute literary fix, the Museum of London has just launched the ‘Dickens and London exhibition.’
Visitors to the exhibition will be taken through a visual, atmospheric and ‘haunting journey to discover the city that inspired his writings’. For those keen to immerse themselves in the gritty reality of Victorian London city life, this is not one to miss.
Other highlights to get a taste of include:
”An innovative audio-visual experience bringing to life the desk and chair where Dickens wrote some of his greatest works, and a specially commissioned film by one of the UK’s leading documentary film-makers, William Raban, which will explore the similarities between London after dark today and the night time city described by Dickens over 150 years ago.”
So, putting pen to paper as it were, what are people making of this cause for celebration? Artistic enthusiast, Philippa summed the exhibition up rather curtly:
”Rather a counterpoint to the Muppets’ take on A Christmas Carol but it sounds fascinating.”
Whilst David Sexton concluded rather more frankly it would seem, in the Evening Standard last Tuesday, that ‘more or less anything that the Museum holds from the London of Dickens’s time could be included at a pinch – and the overall impression this show leaves is that it has been’. A view that is critical of the sheer volume of material the exhibition has tried to squeeze in.
Londoniscool tell everyone to ‘mark this one in your diary’, with the author dedicating a personally self made ultimatum to the great writer;piled on its plate, and has struggled to digest perhaps.
“As a mark of respect and gratitude to the great man I plan on reading one of his classics next year.”
Like Mr Sexton, the guys at Londonist are rather more sincere, providing the view that ‘there’s no great thesis at work, or deep insight that was previously lacking, yet this volume succeeds in pulling together some of the most absorbing photographs from the era,’ a view that again criticises the quantity versus quality stance.
So why not test these opinions out and head down to the exhibition yourself. There’s much discussion surrounding the showcase already and we’d love to hear your thoughts too.
And for those who cannot wait that long, and who preferably own or have access to an iPhone, the ‘Museum of London have also released a new iPhone and iPad app drawing on the work of Charles Dickens’ so everyone can now get a piece of the action!