THE spirit of Charles Dickens was in full flow at Fratton Community Centre as members celebrated his bicentenary.
Staff, members of the public, and councillors congregated at the venue in Trafalgar Place, Kingston, for a day dedicated to Portsmouth’s famous author and his well-loved characters.
The day marked the official opening of its new community cafe, which was opened by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Cllr Frank Jonas, and is run in partnership with Southsea-based firm Yellow Kite.
Archivists from Portsmouth Museum set up an exhibition featuring a map of Fratton in 1785, which was then called Frodynctone, and excerpts from the Hampshire Telegraph published between 1812 and 1870.
Youngsters from the Bunny Warren pre-school, which is based in the centre, sang nursery rhymes while dressed in traditional Victorian costumes.
Val Thorne, chairwoman of the community centre, said: ‘We wanted to celebrate Charles Dickens and the theme was Tale of Two Cities.
‘For me it’s about celebrating Charles Dickens because he’s one of our most famous people.
‘We are working with the community and this seemed like a good place to hold a celebration.
‘I love the building and I’m very proud of the team we have here. They work very hard to help and make everyone feel welcome.
‘This has been planned since the beginning of the year and it would be nice if we could have a special day every year.
‘I have been chairwoman for three years and during that time we have been trying to get the cafe off the ground with volunteers. It became apparent we wouldn’t get it open five days a week without help, but we have a two-year partnership with Yellow Kite in place and they will be running it with us.’
Chef John Brooks said: ‘We listen to what the community centre wants. We look to be flexible with what we offer.
‘We have hot lunches on Wednesdays and we are already taking bookings for Christmas dinner.’
Volunteers Terry Moody and Steve Tobin dressed as Dickensian characters for the day and used to run the kitchen.
Mr Moody said: ‘We started the cafe off some time ago and this shows great progress.’