t’s time to put on your crinolines, bonnets and top hats – the Dickens Festival begins tomorrow. Tens of thousands of people are expected to fill Rochester’s historic High Street and surrounding area for the annual celebration of the life and works of the famous author.
Visitors in Victorian costume at an earlier festival
Many of them will be in Victorian costume, eager to take part in the daily parades and competitions that prove popular with festival fans. Dickens spent much of his life in Medway, moving to Chatham with his family when he was just five, and many of his novels and characters were inspired by his experiences of living here. This year’s festival will pay homage to his most autobiographical novel, David Copperfield. It was also the book he liked best. In the preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens wrote: “Like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.” Local company Play on Words has been commissioned by Medway Council to write and perform a bite-sized theatre piece about David Copperfield that they will act out a dozen times.
Scrooge in action at the Dickens Festival
As well as costumed characters and parades, there will also be street entertainment, readings, music and plenty more. Step into the Amazing Travelling Camera Obscura based in the castle gardens to experience some ‘eye magic’ or hear Victorian tales about grandma’s bloomers and more in the Guildhall chamber. Watch out for the Seven Dials Rapscallions who will be roaming the High Street. The gang portray characters living the down and dirty side of Victorian life; a word to the wise – watch your pockets. There will also be a fun fair in Rochester Castle gardens as well as a craft fair for visitors to browse.