Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens!

A street party is happening on the road in Portsmouth where the writer was born 200 years ago today (Tuesday 7th Feb).

Events taking place to mark the anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth on Tuesday 7th February include a street party in the road where he was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and a wreath-laying ceremony at his grave in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London.

In Portsmouth, crowds gathered outside the house where the famous writer was born in Old Commercial Road back in 1812.

Charles Dickens House - Portsmouth

Ian Dickens (pictured) is the great, great grandson of Charles Dickens. He still lives in Portsmouth and told us he wants people to remember where the novelist was born: "If you say Shakespeare to an American, they say Stratford-upon-Avon. If you say Dickens, they should say Portsmouth." 

30 members of The Pickwick Bicycle Club rode penny farthings from Cosham to the birthplace:

Charles Dickens celebrations - Portsmouth

Claire Tomalin, acclaimed biographer of Dickens, said that his novels and their depiction of an unfair society were ''amazingly relevant'' to the current day.

But she also decried the state of modern teaching for ill-equipping children nowadays with the attention span required to read his classic, but lengthy, books.

She said: ''Very simply, he is, after Shakespeare, the greatest creator of characters in English.

''He has gone on entertaining people since the 1830s and his characters' names are known all over the world.

''And because of the way he wrote, he adapts very well for theatre and even people who do not read him know about him from films, the TV and musicals.''

Four Weddings and a Funeral actor Simon Callow has been acting out Dickens' work for the past 15 years. He was in Portsmouth today to visit the novelists birthplace for the first time. He addressed the crowds outside the house and then spoke with the writers great, great grandson, Ian Dickens:

Charles Dickens party - Portsmouth

But not everyone agree's that children have a "lack ability for Dickens".

Maxine Sharkey, subject leader for English at Springfield School Portsmouth said:

"The study of Dickens and his works is still a thriving part of our English curriculum. Many students were enormously enthused to further their study of Dickens after watching the television adaptations of both 'Great Expectations' and 'Edwin Drood' (Dickens's final and unfinished novel,) which were screened over the Christmas period.

"One student in a Year nine class has just delivered an oral book review to her class and specifically mentioned that she read 'Great Expectations' after seeing the television adaptation.

"Furthermore, the English Department is about to judge a Dickens writing competition (entries open to all year groups including our local junior schools).
"Dickens is very much alive, well and speaking to the current younger generation."

Dr Christopher Pittard, senior lecturer in English literature at the University of Portsmouth, said that Dickens became hugely popular by his ability to combine stinging political and social commentary within believable and enjoyable storylines.

He said:''He was probably one of the first international celebrities of literature and culture.

''He embarked on a massive reading tour around the UK and America and you could call him the Beatles of his time as he very successfully broke the American market.''

Dr Pittard dismissed the comparison of Dickens' serialised novels as soap operas of their time.

Portsmouth City Council, in association with Vintage Classics, is launching Portsmouth Reads Dickens. A campaign aimed at engaging people with the works of Dickens, this has included every secondary school in the city receiving a full set of Charles Dickens works.