On Sunday, The Reader Organisation, in partnership with the British Library and Vintage Classics, brought Liverpool’s famous Penny Readings to London for the very first time. What an afternoon it was!
We celebrated both Dickens’ bicentenary, and the expansion of our Get Into Reading groups across the capital, with a truly magical line-up of readers, comedy, and music which had the audiences in stitches one minute, and tearful the next. The British Library provided a suitably literary venue and Vintage gave everyone a free Dickens novel to take home with them. No wonder the public tickets sold out in a day!
Whilst a portrait of the great man himself looked down on us, his actual DNA appeared on stage in the form of Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, his great-great-great granddaughter, who apologised for reading A Tale of Two Cities from a well-loved paperback rather than a precious family heirloom. This made no difference to the quality of her performance, however; all of our readers left the audience in spellbound silence.
The wonderful AS Byatt read the opening to Great Expectations, reminiscing about the effect it had on her as a child and delivering Magwitch’s threats with relish. It might be January, but our own Phil Davis’ portrayal of the loving Cratchitt family in A Christmas Carol still kindled a warm and fuzzy feeling, whilst Angela Macmillan movingly recreated Peggotty’s loyalty and devotion to the young David Copperfield, leaving one audience member ‘weeping like a burst water pipe’.
Judging by the enthusiastic response from the audience and the reaction on Twitter, the event was an enormous success:
“I didn’t know I could be entertained like that”
“Clowns, cowbells, magicians and AS Byatt should be mixed more often!”
Dickens himself was a consummate entertainer and would surely have approved of the eclectic line-up, a perfect mix of comedy and pathos, just like the novels we were there to celebrate.
A big thank you to everyone who was involved and made it such a special event. If you came along, we’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.
Don’t worry if you didn’t make it this time around – we will be back in Liverpool as usual in December and fingers crossed our London escapades will be the first of many!