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Celebrating 200 years of Charles Dickens' relationship with Northern Ireland
Bust of Charles Dickens, parian porcelain, Belleek Pottery First Period (1863-1890) modelled by W W Gallimore. Ulster Museum Collection.

BELFAST.- To celebrate Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday the Ulster Museum will host an exhibition marking the author’s special relationship with Northern Ireland as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s this month.

Entitled “Celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens and his Unique Relationship with Ulster”, the exhibition will run from 19 October to 3 November. It will chronicle the novelist and social critic’s three Belfast Reading Tours in 1858, 1867 and 1869, when Dickens wooed the Northern Ireland audiences with his stories mixing humour, sharp societal satire and tragedy.

The most prolific author of his time, Dickens’ defining novels, such as David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol, are still regularly adapted for the stage, radio or cinema, as they remain socially relevant to this day.

A champion for the marginalised, Dickens fought oppression and inequalities through his work, which pointed an accusatory finger to public institutions and the aristocracy, and influenced a generation of journalists and authors in denouncing injustice and putting pressure on policy makers.

Dickens struck a chord with the people from Belfast, “a fine place with rough people” and in turn formed some strong friendships with Belfast-born politician and merchant James Emerson Tennent, with Francis Dalziel Finlay, owner and editor of The Northern Whig, and with the politician and diplomat Lord Dufferin.

Paddy Gilmore, Director of Learning and Partnership, said: “The Ulster Museum is proud to showcase a selection of original material from the Charles Dickens Museum in London. Through this exhibition visitors will learn about how Dickens made a unique and lasting impact on the thousands of Ulster people who experienced these renditions from his most popular tales in the late 19th century.”

The exhibition will launch on Friday 19 October with a ‘one night only’ reading from the classic Oliver Twist performed by Dr Leon Litvack, who is Festival Director for Dickens 2012 NI, followed by a musical performance by the Belfast Pickwick Players. Family events will follow all weekend, featuring Victorian Arts and Craft workshops for children aged 7+ (bookable on the day) and a puppet show, based on Dickens’ ghost story ‘The Signalman’, so that children and adults alike enjoy this exceptional event.

The opening event, which takes place at 6pm on 19 October in the Belfast Room at the Ulster Museum, costs £5 and includes a guided tour of the exhibition. It will be ticketed and sold through the Festival ticket office or box office 028 9097 1197. From 20 October entrance to the exhibition will be free.

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