We are really excited to announce the launch of our Dickens Champions project - reading groups and book clubs across the country are spending a year celebrating Dickens. From Manchester to Porstmouth, Belper to Glasgow - readers will be immersing themselves in Dickens' work - reading, reviewing and blogging about how they are spreading the word about their love for Dickens in their local communities. Here are our 11 Dickens Champions:
Dickens Reading Group, Manchester
Jane Mathieson is currently setting up a special Dickens Reading Group. The core membership has already volunteered and comes from an existing reading group which reads a lot of "classic" literature - the group is already reading David Copperfield.
Dickens is particularly important to Manchester, having visited several times and significantly for us was present at the opening of the first public library in the city in 1852. In 1857 he appeared in a play The Frozen Deep, written by his friend Wilkie Collins, alongside young actress Ellen Ternan. It was here they began their long affair.
The group is advertising for more people to join in if they want to. The aim is to have a group of around 20 established over the next month, meeting together for the first time on March 1st. If you would like to join the group, do get in touch with Jane.
We will be reading: David Copperfield, The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, Hard Times and Great Expectations.
Belper Book Chat, Derbyshire
Belper Book Chat first began as a result of a Millennium initiative by Derbyshire Libraries, so this is the group's 12th year. We get together once a month to talk about our latest book. Between 10 and 20 members attend and we have probably up to a third male members which seems to be unusual for some book groups we know and all ages from twenty-somethings upwards.
The Queens Head on Chesterfield Road in Belper kindly provides us with space in one of their rooms for our meetings, which take place on the third Tuesday evening of every month. We are very good at not spilling our Guinness on the books!
Book chat extra is an additional meeting held 4-6 times a year, for those interested in 19th century literature - the last two books read for this being Death's Jest-Book by Thomas Lovell Beddoes and Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Our group has its own web-site.
What the Dickens!
This is the title we have given for our participation in the Dickens Champions project; we have a variety of Dickens experience in the group (some members have read all or many of Dickens works - others nothing at all) and have previously discussed Christmas Carol and Great Expectations. (Also please note, not everyone wanted to take part in the project so we will be continuing with all our other books as well!)
It was thought to be an interesting challenge in this bicentenary year and in particular to look at how current many of Dickens themes are today in the economic depression we are facing, in addition to enjoying his masterly story-writing. The Alliance of Literary societies AGM and conference is hosted this year in Nottingham by the Dickens Fellowship and Claire Tomalin will be speaking locally too so they are already diary dates for us.
We will be reading: Barnaby Rudge, David Copperfiled, Little Dorritt, The Old Curiosity Shop and A Tale of Two Cities.
Health and Wellbeing Reading Group, Walsall
The Health and Wellbeing Reading Group at Brownhills Library, which meets every Tuesday, 11am-1pm, reads classics and Dickens is one of the favourites with the group and we welcome reviewing his great works. The group started toward the end of September 2011 and is a specialist reading group.The aim is to improve wellbeing, boost confidence self-esteem and combat isolation for healthy minds through reading.
We will be reading: David Copperfield, Little Dorritt, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.
Hollingbourne Reading Group, Kent
Our Reading Group is Hollingbourne Reading Group and we have been a part of a Dickens Project at Rochester Guildhall Museum where we read Great Expectations - set in part in Rochester, over the past year in serial form. We have attended lectures every month, had visits and have had Claire Tomalin to speak on her new biography of Dickens. As group leader I have visited The Victoria and Albert Museum and arranged for the group to see the original manuscripts held there. We are also planning to visit Dickens House in London when the renovations are complete. We are Dickens fans and have enjoyed everything to do with Dickens over the past year in Kent We are very keen to be Dickens Champions, although disappointed that Pickwick Papers is not in the list of book!
We will be reading: Bleak House, David Copperfield, Little Dorritt, Martin Chuzzlewit and A Tale of Two Cities
Sheffield Libraries is hoping to make 2012 a real celebration of Dickens. There will be quizzes, a Victorian themed dinner, a writing competition, asking readers to reimagine a scene from a Dickens novel set in contemporary Sheffield and a Sheffield City Read around Dickens 2012. Our Dickens Champions will be helping to spread the message of the celebrations. Get in touch with Alex Holyoake to find out more.
We will be reading: Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Great Expectations.
Beeston Library, Nottinghamshire
Library staff at Beeston Library are gearing up to launch a new Dickens Champions reading group to celebrate Dickens 2012. The group is open to all - for people who have already read Dickens to people who would like to give him ago - and will be involved in events and opportunities such as listening to local experts on Dickens and his life. If you would like to get involved, contact Sheelagh Gallagher for more information.
We will be reading: Barnaby Rudge, Hard Times, Our Mutual Friend, Martin Chuzzlewit and Nicholas Nickelby.
Portsmouth Reading Group
Portsmouth is Dickens' birthplace and for 2012 Portsmouth Libraries have lots of plans to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. This includes a one city one read of Oliver Twist, events and local history projects relating to Dickens themes. Five reading groups in Portsmouth are being Dickens Champions. For more information and to get involved, contact Clare Forsyth.
We will be reading: David Copperfield, Little Dorritt, Martin Chuzzlewit, Nicholas Nickleby and Great Expectations.
Immaculate Conception Book Group, Southampton
There is something 'indefiningly keen' about our reading group 'with regard to' Dickens. Two members indeed are 'exceedingly jolly' and sometimes may 'dwell on grievances' that collectively we do not show more than the 'faintest shadow of responsibility' with regard to reading more of his works. We are a large and lively bookgroup. Two members are keen Dickens readers and as a group we have already read A Tale of Two Cities. We are really looking forward to being Dickens Champions and to the challenge of reading and promoting Dickens throughout 2012.
We will be reading: Dombey and Son, Little Dorritt, Our Mutual Friend, The Old Curiosity Shop and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Book Group, Ealing
Having been put off Dickens by compulsory reading at school, we have rediscovered him as part of our book group and really enjoyed reading and discussing two of his novels. They are beautifully written, funny and offer an amazing portrayal of human behavior, social issues and show great empathy for the poor. Dickens' themes seem as important today as in Dickens' time. With the economic recession and the government making every effort to cut the welfare bill, and politicians regularly complaining about the poor being idol scroungers who don't open their curtains in the morning, it's possible to feel we are back in Victorian times. With Hard Times people are drifting back to selfish values and what Dickens was saying 200 years ago seems as relevant now as it did then. It is really important that we draw on his wisdom, insights and humour to encourage an active debate about how we are responding to the economic crisis and increasing poverty.
We are a well-established book club and have met monthly for over 7 years. We are firmly rooted in the local community, and will be championing Dickens for through schools, churches, charity groups and the drama groups that we belong to.
We will be reading: Bleak House, David Copperfield, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations.
Mitchell Classics Book Group, Glasgow
Tolstoy considered Dickens 'the greatest novelist of the nineteenth century'. Our reading group, the Mitchell Classics Book Group, from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, reads almost exclusively the Classics, we are very keen to champion one of the greatest writers of Classical literature, or, in our opinion, of any period or genre, Charles Dickens. He is unmatched in his well-observed studies of people, their society and social classes, particularly the struggles within and between them, be they personal, for example, in Great Expectations, and Little Dorritt, or of an epic scale, as in A Tale of Two Cities, all with great insight, compassion and a sense of humour.
Dickens would recognise many of the struggles of today's world, particularly that of coping with personal adversity in the face of hard times, as we currently cope with the effects of an economic recession, and its ramifications on individuals, families, employers and their collective communities. We believe that reading, and re-reading Dickens in this current climate, and re-examining his characters and their struggles could offer insight into our own tales, in our own cities, and perhaps offer up hope and offer us again great expectations.
We will be reading: Barnaby Rudge, David Copperfield, Hard Times, Oliver Twist and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
MK Borrowers, Milton Keynes
We call ourselves the MK Borrowers. The MK Borrowers reading group started in September 2005 and meets every month in Milton Keynes Central Library. The books we generally read are chosen from sets of books organised by the library. We try to read a wide range of books. Over the years we have read books by Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, Joanne Harris, Harper Lee, Audrey Niffenegger, Annie Proulx, Alice Sebold, Lionel Shriver, Rose Tremain, Alice Weir, John Wyndham. There are currently 11 members in our reading group. Several members studied Dickens books at school and are very keen to read his books again for pleasure rather than to pass examinations.
We will be reading: David Copperfield, Domby and Son, Nicholas Nickleby, A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist.
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