Children’s writers to head line-up as Portsmouth Festivities will celebrates the arts

PERFORMING The Military Wives Choir will perform at the launch.
PERFORMING The Military Wives Choir will perform at the launch.

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TWO top children’s authors will head the line-up as this year’s Portsmouth Festivities celebrate the literary genius of Charles Dickens.

Anthony Horowitz, author of the hit books in the Alex Rider series, and Portsmouth-born Michelle Magorian, who wrote Goodnight Mister Tom, will give readings during the arts bonanza.

The theme of this year’s festivities, to take place between June 22 and July 21, is Great Expectations in honour of Dickens, whose 200th birthday was celebrated in February.

Organisers aim to pay homage to the great author by exploring the social issues which captivated him.

During the festival there will be talks from former Daily Telegraph editor Sir Max Hastings, journalist Penny Junor and Big Issue founder John Bird.

He will give a lecture in memory of writer and essayist Christopher Hitchens, who was born in Portsmouth and who died in December.

The centrepiece of the festivities will be a visit by a 30ft yacht created by The Boat Project.

The vessel, built in Emsworth, has been made from pieces of wood donated by people from around the country.

The yacht will be welcomed into the city by a huge choir made up of hundreds of people from the area, including members of local choirs, school pupils to individuals with a love for singing.

After the festivities, champion sailor Dee Caffari will sail the boat out of Portsmouth harbour to a background of live dancing and drumming before it sets sail on a worldwide tour.

Helen Reeve, general manager of Portsmouth Festivities, said: ‘We want this to be a huge celebration of Dickens and of Portsmouth itself, and we want to show people what the city has to offer.

‘There is a lot of history in Portsmouth and this is a great way to give young people access to that and to the arts.

‘I would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the festival – it’s going to be very exciting.’

James Priory, chairman of Portsmouth Festivities, said: ‘We will be revelling in birthday celebrations for Charles Dickens, born 200 years ago in Portsmouth, and turning up the volume for the 2012 London Olympics.

‘We have a programme offering something of interest for everybody and, thanks to so many friends and supporters on board, the chance to make this a summer of great expectations indeed.’

For more information on how to join the choir to welcome the boat into the city call (023) 9282 4355 or visit