Simon Carey at Wikicommons

By Olivia Lerche

With 2012 marking the bi-centenary of the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens, it seems only fitting that Brighton celebrates its links with the famous author.

It’s no surprise then, that this year’s Charleston Festival will also provide a fresh insight in to the life and work of Charles Dickens.

Claire Tomalin, author of  the much talked about ‘Charles Dickens: A Life’ will present her work in ‘The Inimitable’, an event hosted by the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University, Michael Farthing. Tomalin’s accurate and succinct account sheds a remarkable light on the rather secretive life of the famous (and wealthy) Victorian novelist.

A unique and exclusive dramatisation of Simon Gray’s play Little Nell will also feature at the Festival. Based on Claire Tomalin’s The Invisible Woman, Little Nell is the story of the clandestine love affair between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan.

The play perfectly illustrates a darker side of Dickens’ private life and focuses on the significant consequences for the pair’s respective families. He was after all, a married man.

Brighton’s links with Dickens are considerable, and his enjoyment of the city prompted him to mention the city in many of his works. Dickens even wrote Dombey and Son whilst staying in the famous Bedford Hotel on Brighton’s seafront, which attracted the Royalty and celebrities of the day.

Unfortunately, you won’t spot this Georgian beauty if you take a casual jaunt down the promenade. A rather grim multi-storey Holiday Inn landed on this historical site soon after the Bedford was destroyed by fire.

Nevertheless, the not so glamorous concrete entranceway of the Bedford Towers now boasts a blue plaque, commemorating Dickens’ links with the Bedford and celebrating the bi-centenary.

The unveiling attracted large crowds to the chilly seafront in early February, due in part to the appearance of Dickens’ great-great grandson, Ian Dickens. Another blue plaque in Hove remembers Hablot Knight Browne, known as  ‘Phiz’, who illustrated Dickens’ work for twenty-three years before retiring to Hove.

A University of Brighton lecturer in 18th century literature, Dr Peter Blake, will consider the influence of Brighton and the Regency period on the life and works of Charles Dickens at the Brighton Pavilion in March.

Charleston, the famous home of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant will open its doors for the Festival from the 25th May to the 3rd June. Tickets for all these events are now available online at


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