Dickens statue to be put up to mark 200th anniversary

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Chairman of the university branch of the Dickens Fellowship Tony Pointon, Portsmouth poet laureate KeliAnne B, and actor Al Muir.    Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (110436-3)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Chairman of the university branch of the Dickens Fellowship Tony Pointon, Portsmouth poet laureate KeliAnne B, and actor Al Muir. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (110436-3)
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A STATUE of Charles Dickens will be put up in Portsmouth to mark the 200th anniversary of the great author’s birth.

At a ceremony to mark what would have been the writer’s 199th birthday yesterday, it was revealed that a monument will be built in time for next year’s major anniversary celebrations.

The announcement was made outside Charles Dickens’s Birthplace Museum, after the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Paula Riches, and children from Charles Dickens Infant School, in Buckland, hung a laurel wreath on the door.

The project will be funded by the Dickens Fellowship and Portsmouth City Council.

Fellowship member Professor Tony Pointon said there had already been a huge increase in enthusiasm for Dickens ahead of next year’s major bicentenary.

He said: ‘Hopefully this statue and next year’s events will give Portsmouth the same importance for fans of Dickens that Stratford has for Shakespeare’s admirers.

‘All over the world more people are reading his books and becoming interested in where he came from. A statue has even just gone up in Australia, and it’s about time we had one here as well.’

Stephen Baily, the council’s head of culture, said there would be a competition to see who will create the statue.

‘We want it to be a proper monument,’ he said. ‘Like the statues of John Betjeman in St Pancras station in London, and poet Philip Larkin in Hull, that is the sort of thing we want to see in Portsmouth.

‘The fellowship will be looking for artists to submit examples of their work and then we will choose what the best one would be.’

He added that a location for the monument had not been decided, with possible locations including outside the central library, near Dickens’s birthplace, or on the steps of Portsmouth Guildhall.

Also at the ceremony was the city’s first poet laureate, 21-year-old Keli Anne B, who said she was honoured to be involved with the event.

‘I’m a huge Dickens fan,’ she said. ‘I read all his books at school and it’s amazing to be asked to come here to help promote poetry and reading.’

Next year’s 200th birthday will be marked by exhibitions, conferences and events throughout the city.

For more information about what is happening visit dickens2012.org.