Dickens 150 | Medway Council

info Coronavirus (COVID-19) announcement

In line with government advice to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, we've postponed Dickens 150 commemorative events.

But you can take part in the virtual activities below.

More about Medway's response to the coronavirus.

From 9 to 14 June, we’re celebrating all things Charles Dickens to commemorate 150 years since his death. Due to coronavirus, all activities will now be available online. 

There’ll be videos, quizzes, talks, virtual trails and lots more. Make sure you follow us on social media to keep up to date: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

To get you in the mood for this week’s festival of Dickens activity what could be better than losing yourself in one of his fantastic novels or inspirational essays?

Medway’s Library Service has a great selection of eBooks that library members can download for free using the Libby app from Overdrive.

Not a member of a library? It’s so easy to join online.

If you’re interested in reading Dickens’ great unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, then why not join in with our online reading and discussion group Reading Drood.

The novel, set in a lightly disguised Rochester, was never finished as Dickens sadly died midway through the task. What he did write was published in six instalments with the reader left with the never to be answered question ‘how should it end?’ Share with like-minded readers your thoughts, ideas, opinions not only on this book but on all things Dickens.

Dickens 150 anniversary

9 to 14 June 2020

Talented Medway artists and the Medway Print Festival team have developed an exciting online festival #mpf20lockdown and will be bringing you a host of online print treats from Medway and beyond across social media and their new website from 6 to 21 June.

They are encouraging the public of all ages and abilities, from children to accomplished print makers to post your prints on social media using the #mpf20lockdown tag,

Amateur and experienced printmakers can post their Dickens related prints during this time too.

Find out more about Medway Print Festival.

Medway Libraries and the Guildhall museum invite you to join them in their Reading Drood project, a collective reading together of the final novel that Charles Dickens was working on when he passed away. The book is called The Mystery of Edwin Drood. We're reading the book in monthly instalments, in exactly the same way that the original readers did back in 1870. Reading the book in instalments is a great way of giving Charles Dickens a go, if you haven’t read anything by him before. We will be reading chapters 6 to 9 during June. If you're starting now you can catch-up with chapters 1 to 5 quite easily.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Mystery of Edwin Drood, join us as we read The Mystery of Edwin Drood in instalments between May and October. Drood is the final, unfinished novel by Dickens. The central mystery, the disappearance of Edwin Drood, plays out in a thinly-disguised Rochester. This is gothic Rochester as you've never seen it before. The virtual book club Is open to everyone, you can join in at any time. Can you solve the mystery of Drood?

Take a look at instalment 1: The Dawn:

How to join in:

  • We're inviting everyone in Medway to join in

  • The Reading Drood project runs until the end of October 2020

  • We'll be reading chapters 6 to 9 during June. It’s early days so you can catch-up quite easily

  • If you are not already a member you can join Medway libraries online and start to read the eBook straight away

  • You can download the eBook

  • More details about the project: Virtual Book clubs

  • Join the discussion about the book on the blog

Don’t know where to start? There are some questions to help start you on your way on the blog…

During MPF20lockdown (Medway Print Festival - 6 to 21 June) The Huguenot Museum will be sharing information and images online from 'Phiz: The Huguenot who drew Dickens' a forthcoming display planned for the museum.

Hablot Knight Browne, better known as ‘Phiz’, helped Dickens create some of his most memorable characters from Sam Weller to David Copperfield, and was the descendant of Huguenot refugees.

Dickens 150

Charles Dickens was a very famous writer who lived and worked in Medway in the 1800s. Many of his stories were inspired by local people and places that he saw. His books are still loved and read today.

To pay tribute to this remarkable writer we want to decorate Medway with his favourite flower - the red geranium. Unlike a typical geranium, this flower will be made from paper - a fitting tribute to his paper writing career.

View how to make a geranium document

Once you’ve finished, share your work with us - tag us on Enjoy Medway social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Dickens 150

Organised by Animate Arts Company


Great Expectations: Enter the story of one of Charles Dickens most famous novels. A chance meeting with one of its lesser-known characters will open a world of gossip, murder and mayhem. Mrs Joe Gargery, wife of the blacksmith, invites you into her home. Pip, her much younger brother is missing again and Mrs Gargery is less than pleased. Step in if you dare...

Don't forget to follow Enjoy Medway on social media to keep up to date:

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Organised by Play on Words.

Based at The Brook Theatre, Play on Words is an award winning professional theatre company. They are the co-creators of the annual Brook Theatre Christmas show for young children and run multiple Youth Theatre groups and community programmes.


Alternate Shadows has provided roaming interactive Victorian characters for The Dickens Festival since 2016. There are many who dress up but not many who will interact with you in character to keep you amused as you wander the streets of Rochester.

Wouldn't it be great to skip the dusty novels and experience life in Victorian Rochester first hand?

How would it feel to interact with a local of the time? What if you had a time machine that could take you back there? How would it be to step back in time and walk amongst a gathering of unscrupulous and colourful characters in Victorian times?

Well an inventor who is believed to be called George believes he has... but something has gone wrong - his time machine has malfunctioned there has been reports of time bubbles appearing and disappearing and Victorians walking the streets of Rochester once again.

Maybe you will bump into Eliza and her unsavoury pies - sample them if you dare, hear some gossip from Sidney Rolfe, local hack looking for juicy stories to sell. Then there's a gruesome twosome of colourful ladies working the streets with their feminine charms. What dark turns will fortune the few who cross palms with silver for you? But it's not all doom and gloom as you may bump into George and Georgina Frightful - the Victorian bathing darlings - come on in the water's lovely! And if you are very lucky you may even meet George himself desperately looking for his time machine...Here is one such bubble recorded on film...

Alternate Shadows look forward to returning to Rochester in the future, or should that be in the past?

Organised by Alternate Shadows. Alternate Shadows.

Video A short introductory talk by Jeremy Clarke to set the scene for the week of commemoration. This illustrates Charles Dickens’ association with the Medway area and how it influenced his work.

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Having spent some of his childhood in Chatham, what brought the great author back to Medway and what was his life like when he returned? Jeremy will give a glimpse into the private life of Charles Dickens at his home in Higham.

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Take a virtual stroll around Rochester seeing all the places that have inspired the author. A short film detailing where, later in the year, there will be blue plaques fixed to inform visitors of the sites featuring in Dickens’ novels or places he would have recognised.

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Rochester Art Gallery is delighted to announce the long awaited winners of the Dickens 150 Print Open Call.

The categories are:

  • Edwin Drood Book Cover - Neil Mattingly - 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' Inspired by Edwin Drood's uncle and opium addict John Jasper
  • The Victorian Way of Death - Gloria Holden - 'City Ghosts Inspired by dark Dickensian overcrowded Victorian streets, and the ghostly atmosphere at twilight
  • Dickens and Medway - Adam Hanson - 'Through the Dead Night' Inspired by the prison hulks on the Medway that Dickens saw as a child

(joint winner with)

  • Dickens and Medway - Heather Haythornthwaite - 'Dark Cathedral' Inspired by Cloisterham (aka Rochester) Cathedral as a central location in Edwin Drood
  • Death in Dickens Life and Novels - Paul Jerome - 'Bullseye' Inspired by Bullseye the bulldog and the death of his owner Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist
  • Young Printmaker Under 21 - Tilly Flood 'Where he Rests' Inspired by Dickens wish to be buried in the moat opposite the cathedral that he was denied

The winners each receive a £100 prize.

Our judges had an extremely difficult task selecting and scoring the 100 entries and they were very impressed by the high standard of works submitted, the range of print techniques used and the ideas and varying approaches to the themes.

All the work submitted will feature in the much awaited 'Last Dream of my Soul' exhibition at the gallery which is currently being rescheduled.

Keep an eye on the Rochester Gallery Facebook and Instagram as we explore the work of each winner over the coming days throughout #Dickens150 as well as other entrants in the run up to the show.

Thanks go to our expert panel of judges:

  • Emma Stibbon RA - Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Printmaking at the University of Brighton
  • Ian Bottle - Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, UCA Canterbury
  • Dr Jeremy Clarke - Education Officer, (and Dickens expert) The Guildhall Museum
  • Cllr Howard Doe - Deputy Leader, Medway Council
  • Peter Hatton - Director of Design Programmes, University of Kent
  • Steve Martin MBA - Rochester and Chatham, Dickens Fellowship
  • Allison Young - Freelance Curator, Rochester Art Gallery

Image credit: Neil Mattingly

Dickens 150

Image credit: Gloria Holden Dickens 150

Image credit: Adam Hanson Dickens 150

Image credit: Heather Haythornthwaite Dickens 150

Image credit: Paul Jerome Dickens 150

Image credit: Tilly Flood Dickens 150

Medway Print Festival website.

A series of 5 quizzes all about Charles Dickens spanning a variety subjects and abilities. Designed to encourage group participation, but can also be completed over a cup of tea and a favourite biscuit for a bit of a lockdown break.

Answers will be made available the following day.

Stay up to date by following Enjoy Medway on social media:

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Chosen by the team at the Guildhall Museum, each day will see a different quote from a Dickens’ novel with a short explanation given by Dr Jeremy Clarke.

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Downloadable document

Looking for something to do with the under 5s? Encourage them to get creative with our fun to follow drawing class.

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Downloadable document

A fascinating look at Medway in the time of Charles Dickens. Discover what life was like for the men, women and children who lived here in the 19th century.

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Rachel Moore, of iprintedthat in Rochester, is leading an online 'watch and print along' Dickens inspired screen printing workshop, using an embroidery hoop and credit card. The images used will include Victorian silhouettes, symbols and Victorian lettering. The film will be 'launched' on Thursday, 11 June and will then remain available on the Medway Print Festival website as a YouTube film permanently.

Suitable for adults and children 8+ with some supervision.

Dickens 150

Organised by Rachel Moore.

Downloadable document

Dickens created hundreds of funny, complex and intriguing characters. Here we look briefly at our selection of twenty of his greatest, and tell you why they made our list.

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The Empty Chair in Lockdown - hear modern writers' give their take on Charles Dickens.

The Empty Chair podcast, created in response to Lockdown, will feature voices from Medway and further afield, reading their own poems and stories inspired by Charles Dickens' life and works.

The podcast will be launched on Friday 12 June. It will be available to listen to via the Wordsmithery website and on SoundCloud.

The podcast features poems and stories, many written in or inspired by Wordsmithery's Empty Chair workshops earlier in the year.

The Empty Chair podcast is part of Wordsmithery's The Empty Chair - a year-long writing project for Dickens 150, including workshops and a poetry trail which will go live in December (Lockdown permitting). Find out more at Wordsmithery website

*This podcast is for those aged 14 and older. Contains words some might find offensive.

Dickens 150

Organised by Wordsmithery.


Last year, American singer songwriter Bret Rider embarked on a trip around Europe to find new inspiration to write a hit song. During that time he stumbled upon the Historic town of Rochester during its annual Dickens Festival. Having never heard of Charles Dickens or indeed Dickens festival, Bret was taken on a journey of discovery which highlighted Rochester’s Dickensian features.

The experience left him spellbound by Charles Dickens and he returned this year to finish his song about Rochester. However, with the outbreak of COVID-19, Bret now finds himself locked down in the humble English home of his assistant Jim. In spite of this Bret is determined to finish his Dickensian song at Jim’s house, whether Jim likes it or not...

The moment you've all been waiting for...

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Organised by Pretending People


Discover just how famous Dickens became and how this was managed, looking at his writing, performance and commercial legacy. Using objects from The Guildhall Museum Collection Jeremy explains how Charles Dickens became a worldwide, household name.

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In this Dickens 150 special, Dizzy O’Dare shows you how to write a Dickens novel. This includes everything you need to know to create your own masterpiece.

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Organised by Dizzy O'Dare.

Get the popcorn ready, put your feet up and enjoy any one of these great films or TV productions based on the great works of Charles Dickens.

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Want even more Dickens? We'll be providing a little teaser of something very exciting coming to the Guildhall Museum in Rochester very soon!