City pride gets huge boost from day of Dickens celebrations

From left: PO Adam Hilton,  Father Christmas, Captain Peter Towell, CPO Chris 'Paddy' Gilkes and Malcolm Dent

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CITY leaders were today bursting with pride as spectacular celebrations to mark the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens boosted Portsmouth’s profile.

All eyes were on the city yesterday as the world marked two centuries since the great author’s life began in a humble townhouse in what is now Old Commercial Road.

APPLAUSE  A celebration at the New Theatre Royal was just part of the Dickens celebrations.  Picture: Sarah Standing (120456-5245)

APPLAUSE A celebration at the New Theatre Royal was just part of the Dickens celebrations. Picture: Sarah Standing (120456-5245)

Important figures from politics, education, business, art and culture declared the day to be an overwhelming success which had increased the city’s profile.

The day saw events in Guildhall Square and at the Dickens Birthplace Museum before huge afternoon and evening celebrations at the New Theatre Royal featuring actor and Dickens expert Simon Callow, and the unveiling of the design for Portsmouth’s Dickens statue.

The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the benefits to the local economy couldn’t be measured.

‘The day has brought us national and international attention,’ he said.

‘It has been incredibly important because it shows off the city’s history and cultural heritage.

‘But it also gives a real feeling of pride to local people.

‘Hopefully it will encourage our children to become interested in the great stories Dickens wrote and the history of Portsmouth.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘It has been fantastic, a great advert for the city.

‘It has just been so well supported and really sends an amazing message to anyone interested in history or Dickens that Portsmouth is the place to be. Hopefully it will also provide a big boost for the city’s schools and tourism that will go on and on.’

Professor Tony Pointon, of the Dickens Fellowship, said: ‘Today has reminded everybody all over the world that Dickens was born in Portsmouth, which many people probably didn’t realise.

‘From America to Australia all eyes were on us as they celebrated this great anniversary.’