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Dickens Festival 2018 Rochester

"If we pose for your camera, will our pictures go around the world?" Hmm one day the answer to this question will be yes! But until then, I am happy with the few that see my images and I appreciate each one of you sincerely. This question was asked by the couple pictured. They wanted to be referred to as "Him" and "Her". "Him" and "Her" were one of the first people I spoke to at the Dickens festival. I knew I was in for an interesting day after meeting them.

The Dickens festival took place at he commencement of June 2018, however I attended on the Sunday 3rd June. It was an amazing 25c and as per usual I had no idea what to expect for the festival. Sometimes I just want to be surprised and be opened minded to an event. The Dickens festival takes place in Rochester annually as a celebration of the British author (Charles Dickens) who died of stroke in the town 9th of June 1870. The Dickens's era was Victorian, for this reason people are encouraged to wear traditional victorian outfits.

The festival took place in the scenic Rochester castle grounds, which is a mixture of historic sites mixed with modern lures. Rochester Castle was has been an important site since the 5th century due to the river (Medway) and proximity to London. It has been fortified for hundreds of years and rebuilt on a few occasions. The current building stands due to the Bishop of Gundulf commissioned by William the Conquerer in 1108 AD to rebuild and fortify the site. The castle has one square towers and three square towers and is close to the river Medway.


Meet Rags the magical horse, I had the pleasure of feeding him during the festival. Unfortunately people thought the entertainer was selling stuff and avoided him like the plague. However when Rags's owner engaged with me it became very apparent he was not selling a thing and people warmed to him.

"Gimmie a spin, on the grinder" Said the owner, referring to the grinder.

"Now turn the wheel and create sugar" for some reason this little horse only ate sugar. So much for the sugar tax. Following the interaction with the owner, which even I must admit was strange, a crowd began to form. A man even insisted in paying for the mini show we gave him. By the time I was done, kids and parents were lining up to engage with Rags the horse.

Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens is known for the Oliver Twist story published 1838. For some reason there seemed to be a-lot of Oliver Twist themed plays within a short distance of each other. It is unclear whether it was intentional, as the show times clashed and it would of been better to stagger the performances on the same stage. However it it was it was and people were free to choose which version they preferred to be entertained by. One version was an interactive play, the children who were seated were occasionally asked to participate as Oliver in scenes. This brought the story to life for them.

The Pauline Quirke academy did an Oliver Twist themed musical performance based on songs from the hit 1948 David Lean's Oliver Twist. The students skilfully sung their way through the sets and through in the odd choreographed moves. The youngest age group to perform were in school year 3-5. There was also ages up to year 11 who assisted the younger set as well as performed on their own. This particular academy do the Dickens festival every 2-3 years.

I had the pleasure of seeing a live performance of the Lost Revellers band. This consisted of Richard on Violin, Alex on acoustic bass, Luigi the drummer and an accordion player called Caitlin. They worked through their sets, entertaining the audience with their skill and humour. They describe themselves as a fusion of genres such as Gypsy Jazz, Folk and other styles. They really impressed the audience, who appreciated the performance to the point that they did not mind almost missing the show piece main parade to hear one more song. An audience member told me the music was refreshing as it was different and engaging. The performance focused more of providing a show than being cheesy victorian imitators, I caught both sets.

The Parade

The Parade commenced at 1pm. It was the pinnacle of the festival and involved all the performers, those who dressed up and the major of Rochester Counsellor Steve Iles. The procession went through the high road and finished near the castle grounds.

The Parade was awesome, it was a combination of local communities coming together to parade their masterpieces for all to see. Participants were encouraged to join the parade providing they were suitably attired, I feel this relax approach made it more welcoming and if dressing up was my thing, I would be happy to have joined in.

People I met

I met a young lady, who were part of Steam Punk who had a more unusual Dickens attire. They had taken the chance to dress as the Animatronix from one of the Dickens news paper. This was essentially a police officer that was part robot. I think she pulled this off pretty well.

I also met this young man who is an accessoriser. He puts outfits together by making the most of what he has and using his creativity. He often goes to charity shops to source his material. Imagine what he would do if his budget was unlimited.

Doreen is an adult with a learning disability. She was lovely, we bumped into each other a few times. Doreen was having a great time and was proud to tell me about her outfit and aswell as the event. She came fully kitted out with her meerkat collection. She did not let her physical or learning disability stop her from enjoying every moment.

Here are some clips from the day and images from the event.

To conclude, it was nice to have a day out in the sun, meeting the lovely locals and experiencing some British culture. The Dickens festival is a good thing to spectate, but also good if you are a fan of books and want to have a tangible experience with the contextual culture of the author. There is something for everyone including face painting and fairs for the children with rides. It was good to see there were people who could celebrate their history in such a unique way. The highlight for me was the costumes, my hat goes off to those who bore the heat and remained in their outfits with a smile.


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