BUS passengers will travel back in time next week when they are greeted by Victorian characters reading extracts from Charles Dickens’ books to mark his 200th birthday.
Five First buses named after the author’s novels – Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, The Old Curiosity Shop and Our Mutual Friend – promise to give residents a ride to remember.
Storytellers clad in 19th outfits will give people more than their fare’s worth as they read passages from Dickens’ works on journeys throughout the city.
The Dickens buses will be used on a number of routes, although special effort will be placed to allocate them to the 41 route from Portsmouth to Clanfield, which passes Dickens’ birthplace in Old Commercial Road, Buckland.
Matthew Kitchin, First Hampshire and Dorset’s general manger, said: ‘We wanted to do what we could to celebrate this literary hero.
‘For many, Dickens is one of the greatest storytellers of his time, and when his works were first published they were serialised in weekly and monthly publications – building a real sense of drama and excitement, in the same way that many soap operas aim to do these days.
‘For this reason we feel that extracts being read on the bus could work, providing an interesting and alternative form of entertainment.
‘We hope people enjoy this, and if it encourages people to find out more about Dickens and his early life in Portsmouth – perhaps visiting the birthplace museum, which is free for Portsmouth residents – or picking up one of his novels so they can read it in full, that would be a great outcome.’
Cllr Lee Hunt, the city’s cabinet member for culture, said: ‘I’m delighted First Hampshire and Dorset are getting involved with the Dickens events.
‘We want to spread the message far and wide about our famous son. Using a fleet of buses is the perfect opportunity to do this.’
First is encouraging people to look out for the storytellers and write their comments on Facebook at facebook.com/firsthampshire to be entered into a ‘spot the storyteller’ daily prize draw.