This morning I led the assembly at Shottery Church of England Primary School. Many of the pupils were sittings their SATS tests, so only the very young ones were present (4 to 7 years olds). I was determined to tell them a little about Charles Dickens and read to them a slightly abridged version of chapter one of Great Expectations. I told them the hero was called Phillip Pirrip and asked them to guess his nickname. They thought ‘Pip’ incredibly funny. A few moments later a little hand went up and a girl confided, ‘I have a dog called Pip.’ I explained to them what ‘vittals’ are and encouraged them all to make the word ‘ravenous’ their own; I hope some of them will try it out at home this evening.
The beginning of Great Expectations is wonderfully atmospheric and I could see Dickens’s words working their magic on the young minds.
And then our informal gathering at The Shakespeare Centre: a packed room with ten readings expressive of Dickens’s full range as a writer.
Herewith is my own contribution: a satirical sketch from The Uncommercial Traveller about celebrating Shakespeare’s Birthday in a town other than Stratford-upon-Avon….
Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens: we at The Shakespeare Centre salute thee!