Islington steps up to honour Dickens’

Charles Dickens display at Islington Museum
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Charles Dickens display at Islington Museum

Islington library and its local history centre are taking part in the international celebrations of Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday ‘Dickens 2012’ between 3 March and 31 May.

Teaming up with the first ever Cityread event in London, adults and children are all encouraged to read Oliver Twist in honour of, arguably, the most popular Victorian novelist’s birthday.

Local residents have joined in the Dickens 2012 event by visiting a special display in Islington library that has dedicated itself to the renowned writer. It focuses on the author’s interest in Victorian Islington and how Charles Dickens’ frequent visits often influenced his descriptive writing. Local residents that he met in the borough became inspirations for his own fictional characters and local settings appeared in various Dickens’ novels. Sketches by Boz (1836) contain descriptions of Islington; Oliver Twist (1837-39) depicts Victorian Angel and Our Mutual Friend (1864-65) features areas of Holloway.

The organised events and discussions have been a successful change, especially in the younger Islington residents. “It really brings Dickens alive for children,’ said local history manager Mark Aston, after taking a group of primary school students on a Charles Dickens tour. “Most of the children here haven’t finished the book yet, so it encourages them to do so and to keep on reading.”
A themed photo booth, ‘Who the Dickens are you’, has been set up in the museum located beneath the library. Pictures of children dressing up as their favourite Dickens character are printed and displayed on the library wall. However, primary school children were not the only ones to don the old fashioned costumes and have fun for a quick photo session; the booth has also proved to be popular with adult Dickens lovers too.

With workshops, film screenings and book discussion groups set up all over London, Cityread’s aim is to get more people into libraries and for classic novels to be appreciated. People of all ages and reading abilities can learn and experience reading a novel together as one big community.

As the soft footsteps of a dozen school children pad across Islington library towards the local history section they listen intently to the librarian’s words. They raise their hands excitedly, eager to show- case their own knowledge on the celebrated novelist. The man himself would be proud that such a fuss is being made of him.

A list of the Dickens 2012 events including Islington’s Dickens Pub Crawl can be found at:

http://blog.cityreadlondon.org.uk/events/category/local-history/2012-04/

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