Celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens

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The World Celebrates Dickens’s 200th Birthday on 7 February



The Prince of Wales andThe Duchess of Cornwall visit the Charles Dickens Museum and attend Wreathlaying Ceremony at Westminster Abbey

Wreathlaying Ceremony features readings from actor Ralph Fiennes and author Claire Tomalin

British Council‘s 24 hour Global Dickens Read-a-thon will take place in 24 countries from Albania to Zimbabwe beginning in Australia with a reading from 'Dombey and Son’

Special Guest on stage at London’s BFI Southbank as Centrepiece of Global Read-a-thon

Premiere of New Films Inspired by Dickens

Dickens in London, an innovative cross-platform project, transmitted on Radio 4 and online throughout the week of Dickens’s birthday

Dickens 2012 Newspaper Launched in Print and iPad App

Birthday celebrations in Portsmouth, across the UK and internationally and much more

To mark the bicentenary of Charles Dickens's birth on 7 February 2012, celebrations under the Dickens 2012 banner will be taking take place all over the world from Australia to Zurich.

Charles Dickens Museum

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will visit the Charles Dickens Museum on the morning of the bicentenary. Their Royal Highnesses will see some of the world’s finest Dickens-related collections in the only surviving London home of Dickens. A special programme has been put together for the Royal visitors, including a private reading by Emmy-award winning actress Gillian Anderson who played Miss Havisham in the BBC’s recent adaptation of 'Great Expectations'. This is the first Royal visit to the Museum since 1957 and marks the commencement of the Museum's bicentenary redevelopment programme for 2012. The Museum will open to the public at 12noon and will celebrate Dickens’s bicentenary with a birthday cake and free cupcakes for the first 200 visitors.

Wreathlaying Ceremony at Westminster Abbey

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will also be guests of honour at the Wreathlaying Ceremony commemorating the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens at Westminster Abbey. BAFTA® award-winning actor and director Ralph Fiennes, acclaimed biographer Claire Tomalin and Mark Dickens, head of the Dickens family, will be readers at the special service in Poets' Corner where Dickens was buried in 1870, in front of an audience of well-wishers from the worlds of literature, film, theatre and media.

British Council Dickens 2012 Global Dickens Read-a-thon: 24 Countries in 24 Hours

A special guest will provide the centerpiece of the British Council Global Dickens Read-a-thon live onstage at London’s BFI Southbank, as 24 counties from Albania to Zimbabwe, participate in 24-hour reading marathon to celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Dickens. Beginning in Australia with a reading from ‘Dombey and Son’, the journey will encounter ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ in Korea, ‘A Christmas Carol’ in Kazakhstan, ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ in Syria, ‘Oliver Twist’ in India and will conclude with ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ in UAE. The Dickens 2012 event at the BFI will provide a half-way point to the marathon at 6.30pm UK time. You will be able to follow the Read-a-thon live via @BritishCouncil twitter. The Read-a-thon forms part of the British Council’s programme for Dickens 2012 which spans over 50 countries. The British Council’s programme for Dickens 2012 also features major UK writers including Claire Tomalin, AS Byatt, David Nicholls, Craig Taylor, Louise Doughty, Toby Litt, DJ Taylor, Denise Mina, John Burnside and Philip Hensher as well as work by immersive theatre company Punchdrunk Enrichment; and Dickens themed English language teaching materials.

Dickens 200th Birthday Event + World Premiere of Dickens in London

BFI Southbank hosts the London leg of the Global Dickens Read-a-thon with a special guest, and celebrates the continued influence of Dickens 200 years after his birth with a showcase of new films inspired by the man and his work. Dickens in London is an interactive, cross-platform project which brings together artist film-maker Chris Newby and writer Michael Eaton to form a biographical portrait of Dickens’s life via film and the spoken word. With stunning visuals and a voice cast that includes Samuel Barnett, Alex Jennings and Antony Sher, who each take their turn to play Dickens, the films feature original music composed by Neil Brand. Screened exclusively in its entirety at this special birthday event, Dickens in London will also be broadcast Monday 6–Friday 10 February at 10.45am on BBC Radio 4, with the films available online at www.bbc.co.uk/radio4 or at the Red Button. Three new short films from London film-makers and commissioned by Film London will also screen at the event hosted by the BFI’s Dickens on Screen co-curator Adrian Wotton. This event forms part of the BFI’s comprehensive three month season showcasing the whole history of Dickens film and TV adaptations.

Bicentenary Dinner at Mansion House

By kind permission of the Hon. Lord Mayor of the City of London, the official Dickens 2012 Bicentenary fundraising dinner at Mansion House. It will include Dickensian entertainment including readings by Sir Patrick Stewart (A Christmas Carol) and musical performances by West End Kids. Proceeds of this event will be donated to the Great Expectations redevelopment fund of the Charles Dickens Museum. The event is supported by Royal Mint, who will present coins of the new £2 Dickens coin to all ticket holders, and by Bodegas Williams & Humbert, Jerez, Spain. Tickets are £120, contact events@dickensmuseum.com for more information.

Dickens 2012 Newspaper and iPad App

7 February will see the launch of a new Dickens Newspaper to mark the bicentenary. Using Dickens’s works as its content – the inaugural issue is Nightwalks – the Newspaper will not only celebrate the timelessness of Dickens’s writing but also explore his impact in changing the reading patterns of the public during his time. In 2012, as people increasingly source their literary and news content digitally, this Dickens 2012 Newspaper is also available as an innovative iPad App with additional interactive content available. However, it respects and honours the format Dickens himself used printed as a collector’s edition newspaper. Both will be issued bi-monthly throughout 2012 and are designed by KentLyons.

'What the Dickens?' at the House of Commons

Jim Dowd MP hosts a reception at the House of Commons to launch ‘What the Dickens?’ an educational programme developed by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the National Schools Partnership. Aimed at inspiring and encouraging creative writing in schools and nurturing an appreciation of the importance of copyright, the launch event will include a presentation from Dr Florian Schweizer of the Charles Dickens Museum as well as Rt Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons.

Southwark Cathedral’s Celebrates with Biographer Claire Tomalin

Dickens is known to have spent many evenings in the Southwark Cathedral’s Bell tower, so in a day of festivities, the Cathedral will ring out a full peal of Bells from 12 noon – 4.30pm to be heard throughout central London to celebrate Dickens’s bicentenary. Claire Tomalin, author of ‘Charles Dickens: A Life’ will be speaking at the Cathedral at 6.30pm following a commemorative Choral Evensong at 5.30pm. 

The Nation Votes for their Favourite Dickens Character

Penguin Classics has launched a poll to find the nation’s favourite Dickens character. Whether it’s Miss Havisham or the Artful Dodger, vote here www.penguinclassics.co.uk/dickens2012 until 31 January. Results will be announced in time for the anniversary on the 7 February.

Portsmouth Celebrates its Most Famous Son

Celebrations will take place in the city where Dickens was born, including a special ceremony outside his birthplace, a thanksgiving service at St Mary’s Church with readings from Simon Callow and Sheila Hancock and a Victorian street market.

Birthday celebrations in the shape of special readings, performances and more will also be taking place across the UK in places including Newcastle, Gateshead, Peterborough, Rochester, Chatham, Gravesend, Horsham, Bath, Kingsbridge, Stockport and Teesdale. Visit the Dickens 2012 online calendar for more details.

Additional international activity on 7 February:

- Miriam Margolyes will be performing her acclaimed ‘Dickens’ Women’ show at the Glen Street Theatre in Sydney as part of the show’s Australian tour

- ‘The Mysteries of Charles Dickens’ exhibition at Museum Strauhof in Zurich, Switzerland, will explore the life and works of the English novelist until 4 March

- On the day alongside the Read-a-thon, the British Council’s global programme for Dickens 2012 will include film screenings of Dickens adaptations in Bangladesh, Italy, India, Nigeria and Macedonia; a day of events in Albania including students from the capital's  high schools performing and reading from Dickens’s work plus a lecture by Ian Hadyn Smith; Argentinean actors and writers performing in the old orphanage’s dining-room hidden within the walls of a 1700’s cloister in downtown Buenos Aires; teachers workshops in New York, literary salons in Beijing, and a Victorian evening of performance, readings and an exhibition in Singapore

- ‘Charles Dickens at 200’ runs until 12 Feb at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, with a film retrospective planned later in the year at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

- The Centre Culturel de l’Entente Cordialein Condette, France, is hosting ‘Le Petit Dickens’, a special exhibition of Dickens illustrations by artists including Phizz, Cruikshank and Leech (until 4 March)

- Bloggers in the Spanish region of Catalonia will honour the master by publishing tribute articles simultaneously throughout the day

- Activities to recreate Dickens’s wildly successful tour of America in 1842 will be taking place in West Virginia, US

- Special tours of the house of American poet Henry Wandsworth Longfellow in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with whom Dickens was very close, will focus on Dickens’s visits to his friend