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Charles Dickens at St George’s Hall


Spirit of Charles Dickens Returns to St George’s Hall

Shameless star, Gillian Kearney, will lead celebrity readers in a unique Christmas event, recreating Charles Dickens’ first public appearance at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall.

The ‘Penny Readings,’ organised by the University of Liverpool’s Reader magazine in support of ‘Liverpool Reads,’ will be held in recognition of the popular Dickens’ readings which began in 1858, which took place at the Philharmonic Hall and later at St George’s Hall, attracting crowds of more than 2,000 people. He read extracts from A Christmas Carol, Little Dombey and The Poor Traveller, insisting that people were charged just a penny entrance fee to enable all social classes to attend.

Gillian Kearney will be joined by University of Liverpool Vice-Chancellor Professor Drummond Bone; star of The Smoking Room, Nadine Marshall; Editor of Liverpool Echo, Alastair Machray; BBC Radio Merseyside’s Angela Heslop and Professor of English at the University Philip Davis. They will read from Victorian classics such as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Dr Jane Davis, editor of The Reader magazine, said: “We are fortunate today that literature can be enjoyed in so many different forms – individual reading, audio books, radio plays, and film adaptations. During Dickens’ life-time public readings were as popular as today’s pop concerts and as we approach Liverpool’s Year of Heritage it is essential we recognise the value of reading and the ways in which it can bring people together.”

Contemporary novels will also be read at the event, which is supported by the Liverpool Culture Company and book freight providers, Publiship. Actress Nadine Marshall will read from Small Island – by Andrea Levy, winner of the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction. Nadine also reads the part of Hortense in a Radio 4 play of the book.

The Penny Readings will take place in the Small Concert Hall in St George’s Hall, at 6pm on Sunday, 3 December. Tickets are available from Bea Colley by telephoning 0151 794 2287. The price of the tickets is one penny, payable on the door.

Charles Dickens and Liverpool

* Dickens’ first visit to Liverpool was in 1842 when he stayed at the Adelphi Hotel.
* In 1844 he chaired the annual Christmas Soiree at Liverpool’s Mechanics Institute. During this visit he researched the characteristics of people living in Whitechapel.
* On his final visit to Liverpool in 1860 he was made an honorary member of the Literary and Philosophical Society. A public banquet was held in his honour at the Town Hall.
* Dickens’ inspiration for his novel The Uncommercial Traveller was based on his research at Liverpool Docks and his visits to the workhouse on Brownlow Hill.
* Dickens’ final words on stage were: “From these garish lights I vanish now for evermore.” Three months later, in 1870, he died.