It seems that almost every town in Kent boasts a Dickens connection – and Sheerness is no exception.
This weekend, the author’s links with Sheerness are being celebrated across Sheppey with Promenade 2012 – What the Dickens?
Dickens’ father worked in Sheerness Dockyard for a short while and his family lived in nearby Blue Town.
The spirit of the Sheppey is found throughout Dickens’ works,with influences such as the hustle and bustle of dockyard life, a colourful Jewish community, the marshes and the prison hulks which featured in Great Expectations.
Sheppey Little Theatre and Blue Town Heritage Centre will host a weekend of events, with supporting activities taking place at Harty, Queenborough, Minster Gate House, Bartons Point, Eastchurch and Norwood Manor.
A Dickensian parade will take place in Sheerness. It starts at 11.30am at Beachfields near the seafront before heading to the Clocktower at noon on Saturday, September 22.
Featured guests during the celebrations include Michael Palin’s son Will, who lives on Sheppey, who will discuss his time at the helm of SAVE Britain’s Heritage and BBC Radio Kent’s Paul Harris talking about music hall.
Big Fish Arts will perform Strength and Durability, an historical play and John Styles will talk about Punch and Judy.
At 7.30pm, James Hyland presents Fagin’s Last Hour at Sheppey Little Theatre, based on Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist. This re-imagined stage adaptation is told from the point of view of Fagin, an hour before his execution.
This unique and powerful one-man show offers a fresh insight into literature’s most controversial villain.
Film buffs should make a date at the Blue Town Heritage Centre, where various versions of Oliver will be screened – Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! and both David Lean and Roman Polanski’s films, Oliver Twist, plus a silent film of the same name.
There will be a mixture of readings from Dickens’ works and local writers, plus a book launch at Castle Connections, Queenborough.
The same venue will feature 365, A Year in the Life of Sheppey exhibition and Sheppey in Dickensian Times, an exhibition of old photographs.
The Island’s churches will also taking part, with readings at Eastchurch and Harty churches.
A family event with a Victorian beach theme will be staged at Barton’s Point, with a prize for the best dressed person in Victorian swimwear.
What the Dickens? runs from Friday, September 21 until Sunday, September 23. It features events, talks and readings at venues across the Island. Ticket prices and times vary but many events are free. Tickets for Sheppey Little Theatre performances are available from Sheppycorrect spelling- their business name Glass, 24 The Broadway, Sheerness or on 01795 580006. Check outwww.sheppeypromenade.org for the latest information.