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Rochester: Dickens Festival weekend to coincide with the Battle of Medway events

By Angela Cole

Top hats and bonnets will be the dress code for a parade through Rochester this weekend.

More than 60,000 people are expected for the annual summer Dickens Festival. Hundreds of local schoolchildren and enthusiasts will be taking to the streets for the celebrations in costume, as they follow in the footsteps of author Charles Dickens.

The festival weekend, which runs from Friday, June 9 to Sunday, June 11, is the centrepiece of the county’s Dickens festivities and this year also links with the 350th commemorations of the Battle of Medway.

Fagin at last year's celebrations in Rochester Picture Steve Crispe

Fagin at last year's celebrations in Rochester Picture: Steve Crispe

Taking the theme of Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers, some 800 primary and secondary schoolchildren and staff will be taking part in the grand parade at 1.30pm on the Friday.

Dressed in Victorian and Dickensian costumes, they will walk along Rochester High Street, where Dickens once wandered to gather inspiration for his novels, past the crowds who will line the route.

Throughout the day more than 1,200 will also join in with fun and educational workshops, from making framed illustrations of Dickens’ famous characters to screen prints of Victorian silhouettes.

They will also be able to explore a collection of Victorian objects and clothes, join in guided tours of Rochester and the cathedral and watch an open air production of A Dickens Dictionary, by students from London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.


Miss Havisham blends with the crowd. Picture Steve Crispe

Miss Havisham blends with the crowd. Picture: Steve Crispe

The weekend features street theatre and live music, a craft fair and country market on the Saturday and Sunday, as well as talks, displays and shows.

Cllr Howard Doe from Medway Council, said: “The Grand Parade will be a lively spectacle. Lots of activities have been arranged throughout the Dickens Festival weekend for all of the family to enjoy.”

The Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Future Picture Steve Crispe

The Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Future Picture: Steve Crispe


The main parades will take place in the High Street and Boley Hill at 1.30pm on Friday, and noon and 4.45pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The Mayor of Medway’s procession and dedication, with a procession from the Guildhall to Rochester Cathedral at 2.55pm on the Sunday for a choral evensong.

There will be a music hall finale for the day at the Boley Hill stage on Saturday and Sunday. 

The parade in Rochester High Street

The parade in Rochester High Street

As part of Medway Print Festival, there will be opportunities for children to create Victorian silhouettes screen prints showing images from Victorian life at the Guildhall Museum and London’s Charles Dickens Museum will also be showing the children a collection of mystery objects from the Victorian era and they will have the opportunity to guess what each object was used for.

There will be Punch and Judy in St Mary’s Meadow and guided walking tours of Rochester will be on offer from the Visitor Information Centre at 10.45am and 2.15pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The ever-popular fun fair will be in Rochester Castle Gardens and there will be a Victorian Life and Times display where visitors can experience the sights and sounds of everyday Victorian life through moving pictures and voices.


The Dickens Festival will take place in the centre of Rochester, and runs from Friday, June 9 to Sunday, June 11, between 10am and 6pm. For a full programme, go to medway.gov.uk/dickensfestival

Fagin leads the parade in Rochester High Street Picture Steve Crispe

Fagin leads the parade in Rochester High Street Picture: Steve Crispe

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