The Evening Read-In: A Christmas Carol Part 1

It’s here – the first part of the very first TRO Evening Read-In! If you’re quite settled, and have enough tea or hot chocolate and biscuits to last you through just under an hour, then we’ll begin the story of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol… (click the link below to start listening)

A Christmas Carol – Part One audio

Go here if you’d like to read along with the text as you listen…

And if you’d rather just listen, a brief synopsis of the first part:

Ebenezer Scrooge is a cold man. It is not just his surroundings that replicate the iciest chill of the fiercest Arctic winter, but his very person too. He is miserly, miserable, self-contained and almost completely cut-off from family, friends and society – his only ‘friend’ and ‘kindred spirit’ in the world, Jacob Marley (of Scrooge & Marley) having died on Christmas Eve seven years earlier. Even before Marley’s death, Scrooge never particularly liked Christmas. He certainly doesn’t see it as an occasion to celebrate or reason to holiday from work.

As Christmas Day fast approaches, Scrooge is distinctly without Christmas cheer and has little time or consideration to give to anyone wanting to celebrate the season – not his very cheery nephew Fred, not passing carollers, certainly not the poor and destitute who could profit from his assistance at this special time of year. He is just about able to begrudgingly allow his overwrought clerk, Bob Cratchit, to have Christmas Day off to spend with his family – but not without wondering why anyone would rather celebrate when they could be productive and working, even if the occasion only falls once a year.

As Scrooge returns to his house that Christmas Eve – which is just as dark and dismal as his place of work, if not more so – he expects to face an entirely normal night with definitely no out-of-the-ordinary occurrences. But soon after he enters, some very strange things happen which puts Scrooge in rather a superstitious mood. In his home, Scrooge receives another visitor – and not one he can so easily dismiss – who has a stark warning for Scrooge about his life and his ways, with a promise of more unwelcome visitors to come…

It’s an interactive shared reading experience – so join in the conversation by tweeting: attach the hashtag #eveningreadin to your tweets (or tweet us @thereaderorg) so you can share your thoughts on Scrooge and the story over the next hour.

The Evening Read-In: All About…A Christmas Carol #3

The true-to-life aspects of the story – and how it shows the true spirit of Christmas…

A number of aspects of Dickens’ life can be traced in the tales he tells, with David Copperfield being the most obviously autobiographical as well as portions of Bleak House and Little Dorrit being inspired by episodes from Dickens’ career and personal family experiences. Parallels can be drawn too from A Christmas Carol with Dickens’ own life.

The famous Tiny Tim was originally to be called Fred, after Dickens’ younger brother. Of course, another Fred does make an appearance in the story, being the name of Scrooge’s merry nephew. His sister Frances – otherwise known as Fanny – also has a fictional namesake in the story in the form of Scrooge’s sister. Frances’s son Henry was most likely the model for Tiny Tim – Henry was a sickly child who died when he was just ten years old.

The Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge

It was not just people that Dickens immortalised in A Christmas Carol, but places too. The geography of Ebenezer’s childhood matches Dickens’ exactly – both grew up in the town of Strood in Rochester, Kent and the school young Scrooge attended was based on the Wellington House Academy in London, one of the schools Dickens went to in his youth. When he was ten, the young Charles moved with his family to Camden in London – to 16 Bayham Street, to be precise. It was not the most lavish of areas; indeed once he left, Dickens described it as “as shabby, dingy, damp and mean a neighbourhood as one would desire to see.” Then perhaps it’s no surprise that the very same house was the perfect setting in his mind’s eye for the Cratchits’ cramped and rundown family home.

Despite all of these similarities, it’s hard to determine just how autobiographical A Christmas Carol is. Though he was unimpressed by displays of wealth, it is hard to align Dickens with Scrooge, especially given that he was never short on sharing humility and making the best of the human spirit, at any time of the year but most especially at Christmas. He hailed the festive season as:

a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

In fact, Dickens would go on to call this viewpoint, which surely encapsulates the true spirit of Christmas, his ‘Carol Philosophy’ – after his prevailing tale that has much to say to us all.

Part 1 of A Christmas Carol will be here to listen to tonight at 9pm – it’ll be 50 minutes long so get yourself settled with a pot of tea and biscuits and listen in! Tweet your thoughts on the story as it happens using the hashtag #eveningreadin and join our  Evening Read-In Tweet Party (Hashtag: #eveningreadin; Party Host: @thereaderorg )

The Evening Read-In: All About…A Christmas Carol #2

A tale for reading out loud

It seems A Christmas Carol is a story that is particularly designed to be read aloud. Of course, it’s packed full of drama, compelling characters and is hilarious and heartwrenching in equal measure, so that might have something to do with it – as well as the fact that everyone loves Christmas (unless you model yourself on Ebenezer in his post-revelation, ‘bah humbug!’ days). Listening to, or indeed performing a reading of A Christmas Carol warms the heart and soul as much as any roaring fire will do on a cold winter’s night.

Dickens during his own Reading Revolution

Dickens began to perform public readings of his work in 1853, on his return to England after a tour of Italy. These readings would prove immensely popular and over many years, right up until his death, he would perform many, touring across England, Ireland and Scotland and even going as far afield as France and America. The most popular story in all of his readings was A Christmas Carol and due to its read-aloud success rate, Dickens composed a condensed version that could be read in full in the space of an hour and a half. It was reported that one particular reading of A Christmas Carol taking place in Boston, America in 1867 made for an especially emotional affair – one observer noted that the reading of a passage about the physically weak but strong spirited Tiny Tim “brought out so many pocket handkerchiefs that it looked as if a snow-storm had somehow gotten into the hall without tickets.” (a lovely and very seasonal image.)

The innate read-aloud quality of A Christmas Carol is also apparent in its narrative layout and very title. There can be little coincidence in the musical relations in the story of ‘carols’ and ‘staves’ – the name Dickens gave to the separate sections of the story, also an archaic term used to refer to the verses of a song – and the fact that it works especially well when read aloud.

Not only are we carrying on Dickens’ tradition of reading A Christmas Carol out loud through the Evening Read-In, but we honour his famous public readings (as well as his pioneering idea that everyone should be able to enjoy and participate in public readings) every year at The Penny Readings, by reading a passage from A Christmas Carol at the event. If you come along this year, then it’ll be one of many treats but if you don’t manage to get a ticket, or even if you do and want to hear the whole story being read aloud, make sure you’re here for The Evening Read-In over the next five weeks.

The Evening Read-In: Meet the Project Worker #1

It’s not long to go now until The Evening Read-In and before each Read-In starts in earnest, we’ll be profiling the TRO project worker that will be reading the selected story aloud so all you readers and listeners can get to know the person behind the voice…

The very first Read-In tale, A Christmas Carol, will be read over the next five weeks by Lynn Elsdon, a Get Into Reading Wirral project worker.

Lynn hails from Newcastle and has been at TRO for just getting on six months. She runs four adult groups in Wirral – two open groups in community libraries (Wallasey Central Library on Tuesdays, 1.30-2.30pm and St James’ Library in Birkenhead on Thursdays, 10am-12pm), a group with recovering addicts at ARCH Initiatives Birkenhead and a group with homeless people at The Ark Project.  She also reads one-on-one with six looked after children in their homes.

Her favourite thing about being a TRO project worker and running Get Into Reading groups is being a part of the shared world that is created by the stories and poems that are read; seeing how people support each other, share their own personal stories from their lives and the sense of companionship that unfolds from the Get Into Reading sessions.

Favourite book: The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Favourite poem:  Hard to choose, but loves High Windows by Philip Larkin

Favourite part from A Christmas Carol: “I love the strength and integrity of Scrooge’s ex-fiancee in the conversation they have when she breaks off their engagement. I love seeing how her family grows when they look into her future; how terribly sad it is for Scrooge to see what he missed out on, but it is heartening to know that he is learning at that point.”

The Evening Read-In: All About…A Christmas Carol #1

To get ready for the very first Evening Read-In – coming this Thursday, 24th November at 9pm – we’ll be providing you with some information behind the featured Evening Read-In story: the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. First off, the story behind the story…

The tale of A Christmas Carol has endured for decades, captivating the attentions of many different generations: children and adults alike. It is surely Dickens’ most famed Christmas story (though he has wrote several other Christmas themed tales).

The story was ‘born’ in October 1843 and primarily came to fruition due to Dickens’ need for money to support his expanding family. The ideas for the plot began to stir after a visit to Manchester, where Dickens was called upon to make a speech to support its Athenaeum, a place which provided educational support for the then town’s adult workers – the plight of the poor and the overwrought worker being a major theme in the story.

Even as he was writing it, Dickens became engrossed in the plot of A Christmas Carol – a sure sign that it would become one of the most popular classic short stories of the modern age. Dickens was just as gripped by the emotions of the story as a reader today would be, writing that he “wept and laughed, and wept again’” at its development and that he “walked about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed” – most likely to get inspiration for Scrooge’s night-time journeys with each of his visiting spirits.

A Christmas Carol was finished by the middle of November ready perfectly in time for a Christmas publishing. But not before Dickens had some major arguments with his publishers about the book’s production – in the end, wanting to present the best book possible to the public, Dickens paid for all production costs himself, equipping the book with a lavish gold-stamped cover and hand-coloured illustrations. He also ensured that the book was affordable to people from all social classes and backgrounds by setting the price at a modest-for-the-time five shillings. Charles knew how to start a reading revolution…

The Evening Read-In – one week to go!

There are just 7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds (if you want to count them all…) to the first instalment of our very first Evening Read-In! We’re all very excited here at TRO to bring this new shared and ultra-social reading experience to everyone and hope you can join us to listen along to A Christmas Carol and have a chat about it on Twitter. Put the time and date in your diary, in your phone, circle it on your calendar, stick a post-it note on your computer screen – anything so long as you can be part of the read-in proceedings.

Come to The Reader Online at 9pm next Thursday (24th November) to listen to the audio, and log-on to Twitter at the same time to have a natter about the story, Scrooge and all of Dickens’ other wonderful characters. You can tweet your thoughts from your own account – don’t forget to include the hashtag #eveningreadin in your tweets to be part of the action and join in the conversation – or drop us a tweet directly – @thereaderorg. Also if you want to keep an eye on the chat, you can join our live ‘Tweet Party’ here – just enter #eveningreadin as the Party Hashtag, @thereaderorg as the Party Host and enter your Twitter username to see all the action as it happens!

Your Thursday evenings will never be the same again!

The Reader Organisation presents… the Evening Read-In

Following on from the spookily themed Stories Before Bedtime event at The Criterion Theatre in London tonight, there will soon be another storytelling session to be involved in courtesy of The Reader Organisation – and for this one you won’t even have to leave the comfort of your armchair.

The Evening Read-In is a new way of sharing a reading experience, using those ever-present tools of social media. On a Thursday evening over a number of weeks – and just as the nights are getting longer and the weather is getting progressively colder – we’ll be posting up parts of a short story in audio format read by one of our project workers, so you can snuggle up and be soothed from the stresses of your day by listening to some classic literature being read aloud. At the very same time, you’ll be able to chat about the story as it happens with a whole world wide web of other readers through Twitter (if you’re not already part of The Reader twitterati, you can follow us @thereaderorg) – all you’ll need to do is to attach the Evening Read-In hashtag (#eveningreadin) at the end of your tweet, and you’ll be part of an online, social media, shared reading extravaganza! Really, there’s no reason to go out on a Thursday evening any more…

The first story in the Evening Read-In series will have a distinctly cosy Christmassy feel – featuring the tale of all Christmas tales, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Part One will take place at 9pm on Thursday 24th November and the story carries on every Thursday evening at the same time right up until a couple of days before Christmas. We’ll keep you posted on how to listen and ways to get involved in the conversation in the weeks leading up to the first Evening Read-In. So reserve some space on the sofa, plug in the laptop and listen in!