Whether you watched the musical adaptation of Oliver! in awe as a kid or you raced through the pages of Bleak House on a particularly gruelling train journey while backpacking, you’ll know some of Charles Dickens’ tales.
February 7, 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the Victorian writer’s birth. And to celebrate, London has dished up a host of exciting events in honour of his work. The first starts with booze, a pub quiz and a gay choir – all laid on by the Museum of London, to kick off their Dickens And London exhibition. It examines the city’s influence on the accomplishments of the literary great and includes a specially commissioned film showing the similarities between the nighttime activity of Dickensian London and what happens after dark these days.
The opening night will feature a modern twist on a Victorian Christmas – people will be greeted by festive tunes from the London Gay Men’s Chorus. Then, they’ll be treated to a performance in the museum’s recreation of a sinful Georgian pleasure garden. Rachel Crossley, the museum’s event manager, promises an entertaining evening. “It’s a one-man show with a life-sized puppet of Scrooge. It’s really fun and there’s a violinist playing alongside,” Crossley says. ”The puppeteer will be doing the first 20 minutes, which is quite dramatic as it’s when all the ghosts come in.”
A Christmas Carol
As well as catching one of the shows – happening at 6.50pm and 8.50pm – listen to a reading from a lifelike Charlie impersonator about poverty in Dickensian London. Then grab yourself a mulled wine from the bar and test your knowledge with a pub quiz on Victorian literature from 8-9pm, bumping into some of Dickens’ characters – Scrooge will make an appearance – on the way.
And if one night of Dickens-related shenannigans isn’t enough for you, the BFI is launching a Dickens season in January, with more than 50 of the best films, documentaries, TV dramas and shorts based on the author’s works, dating all the way back to 1901. There are as many famous old favourites as film geeks’ treasures, all telling the story of how the literary great has been represented on screen. And as always with Dickens, who was born in the East End and spent a lot of his life in London, the works depicted in the movies have strong links to the city. Adrian Wootton, the co-curator of the BFI Dickens on Screen season, says most of the great films and TV series of Dickens’ work were shot in and around England’s capital.
“As Dickens was one of the great Londoners who wrote about the city, his life is forever associated with in the minds of its inhabitants and visitors who travel here,” Wooton says. “And as the most famous writer in the world in his day, he was like the first rock star, with public reading tours, where everything he did or said was reported and mattered.”
Words Clare Vooght
Dickens And London, £10.
Until Jun 10
150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN
Barbican BFI Dickens on Screen season
Belvedere Road, SE1 8XT