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A feast of fiction at the Dickens Festival

Date: 29/05/2008           Category: Events

This year marks the 30th year of the Rochester Dickens Festival from Friday, 30 May – Sunday, 1 June. Fans seeking a fictional fix of the great man’s work will not be disappointed. In addition to a host of costumed Victorian characters parading through the streets of Rochester, there will be readings and performances as well as a funeral procession led by Oliver Twist. Parades happen twice daily, once at noon and again in the afternoon. On Friday, 30 May at 3pm the Dickens Funeral Procession will make its way from Eastgate House to Rochester Cathedral. Watch Oliver Twist take part in the procession on his first day of work for Mr Sowerberry, the undertaker. Eastgate House is an attractive and impressive Elizabethan building built in 1590. In the gardens is the Swiss chalet from Gad’s Hill Place, Dickens’ last home. It was here that the author was writing the final chapters of The Mystery of Edwin Drood just before his death on 9 June 1870. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Eastgate House was a boarding school for young ladies. It was used as a fictional setting twice by Dickens, in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Pickwick Papers. The Rochester Dickens Fellowship will make use of the setting for their reading of Mr Pickwick and the School for Young Ladies. Readings will take place at 10.45am and 2.45pm each day of the Dickens Festival from Friday, 30 May – Sunday, 1 June. Also at Eastgate House, Gerald Dickens, great-great-grandson of the author will perform Dr Marigold each day at 1.30-2.30pm. Charles Dickens used to perform this popular reading on his tours between 1866 and 1870. The character, Dr Marigold, narrates the story of his life, mixing humour with sadness. Entertainment for the children is offered at 1pm and 3.45pm on Friday and Saturday and at 1pm on Sunday by Jean Haynes, alias Mrs Crummles. The children’s reading, also at Eastgate house, will last for approximately 30 minutes. The famous Dickens short story, Signalman’s End will be performed by Lewes Repertory Theatre at Medway Visitor Information Centre each day at 1pm and 3.30pm. The ghostly tale of a lonely signalman at his post beside a dark tunnel draws on Dickens’ familiarity with Rochester and the River Medway. The Guildhall Museum offers Dickens devotees an insight into conditions of the old Medway prison hulks depicted in Great Expectations. The Dickens Discovery Room, also located at the Guildhall Museum, is home to objects and paintings relating to Charles Dickens and his family. Exhibitions will also be on display at The Corn Exchange and Rochester Cathedral. Dickens buffs will be able to visit buildings of fictional interest, Restoration House and the Six Poor Travellers’ House. As usual, competitions, parades and entertainment will fill the streets of Rochester with colour and a flavour of Victorian life. For further details about all exhibitions, times and locations of events, pick up a brochure from Medway Visitor Information Centre or visit www.medway.gov.uk/dickensfestival