Dickens spirit for beer festival

The launch of the Portsea Island Beer Festival at the Groundlings Theatre Company in Portsmouth
The launch of the Portsea Island Beer Festival at the Groundlings Theatre Company in Portsmouth
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BEER-LOVERS will get a taste of history with their pint of ale at the Portsea Island Beer Festival this weekend.

The festival inside the Groundlings Theatre, Portsea, is back for a second year in a row – and the latest showcase of ales and ciders is inspired by the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.

Theatre staff dressed in costumes from the Victorian era will mingle with beer drinkers and chat to them about what life was like when the novelist was alive.

And visitors will be encouraged to try on period outfits from the theatre’s wardrobe during the event, which kicks off tonight at 6pm.

Two more sessions will run at Saturday lunchtime and in the evening.

A total of 50 real ales, ciders and perries from breweries around the country will be on offer during the festival, which was launched at the theatre last year by Malcolm Irving, the founder of Irving and Co Brewing, Drayton.

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Mr Irving, 40, has chosen to hold the beer festival at the theatre again because last year’s sell-out event was a huge success.

He said: ‘It’s a lovely place to have a drink because it’s got so much history.

‘If the weather is nice we’ll put on a barbecue in the courtyard.

‘It’s great seeing ale and cider drinkers come together.

‘I’m excited and I’ve spent most of the week getting beer barrels in place.’

The theatre was previously the site of Portsea’s The Old Beneficial School and was built in 1784.

In 1812, a pregnant Elizabeth Dickens was at a dance in the theatre when she went into labour. She was rushed to her home in Commercial Road, where she gave birth to her son at what is now the Charles Dickens Birthplace.

Richard Stride, creative director at the theatre, said: ‘We’ve given the beer festival a Dickensian theme because it’s the bi-centenary of Dickens’ birth and the theatre is an important part of his history.

‘Our staff will talk about Dickens and raise the profile of the theatre.’

Tonight’s session is sold out but tickets are still available for tomorrow evening’s session, which starts at 6pm. Buy them from the theatre in advance on (023) 9273 7370.