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Dickens anniversary should attract £4m to Kent

Gad's Hill School, Higham
Gad's Hill School, Higham

Gad's Hill Place - home to Dickens until his death in 1870

Our whole county is abuzz with Dickens - as Kent helps mark the 200th anniversary of the world-famous author's birth tomorrow.

Today we start a week-long look at the wordsmith's life - and his many connections to our county.

Kent is expecting a £4m tourism boost this year - thanks to our greatest ever author.

The buzz around Charles Dickens' anniversary is making our county a magnet for literary travellers, according to Sandra Matthews-Marsh, chief executive of Visit Kent.

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

Dickens lived in several towns in the county, before being attracted back to Higham to Gad's Hill Place in Higham, where he wrote such greats as Great Expectations and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Ms Matthews-Marsh said: "He wrote so evocatively about places in the county, so throughout all the books you've got these wonderful passages about Canterbury and Broadstairs, Rochester, Chatham - just almost every place he went to in the county.

"We know that people come to Kent for its literary connections already and Dickens is one of the big elements within that.

"We think it will give us another £4 million boost directly as a result of the anniversary, which is very significant."

Many events are also planned through the year, to attract more visitors and mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.

These include a free exhibition this week at Eastgate House in Rochester, and a reading by Gerald Dickens - the author's great-great-grandson on May 16.

Sandra Matthews-Marsh
Sandra Matthews-Marsh

Ms Matthews-Marsh added: "Audiences are now seeing the great adaptations that are made for film and TV and that's bringing a whole new generation to Dickens' work.

"There's a new blockbuster due out in the summer, with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter in Great Expectations.

"Certainly Americans absolutely love Dickens and will be coming to Kent to explore all the places he talked about."

She said 10% of users of Visit Kent's website are interested in Dickens which, she claims, could translate to up to 400,000 extra visitors that might come to Kent as a result of the anniversary.

The KM Group's Dickens: A Love Affair with Kent supplement is free in all KM Group paid-for newspapers this week. It will also be available from Linda Evanslevans@thekmgroup.co.uk.

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