The external links on this page worked when we archived them, but we can't guarantee that they won't have moved since then
Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival December 2017
The Rochester Dickensian Christmas celebrations took place on the weekend of December 2nd and 3rd 2017. The weather on the first day was sunny, and milder then the preceding few days. This led to what felt like a record turnout, which at times was quite uncomfortably crowded. Sunday was overcast but milder still, with large but more comfortable numbers of visitors.
One feature of Rochester High Street that has attracted comments from Dickens supporters around the world is the absence of the eighteenth century High Street clock. After a major refurbishment it made a hurried return to its proper place on the day before the festival. It was still surrounded by scaffolding, but it was telling the right time and should soon be visible in all its splendour.
The candle-lit parade and carol service outside the Cathedral was as always the high spot of the day; this year Canon The Rev'd Rachel Phillips led the proceedings with an endless supply of corny Christmas jokes. We ended with two verses of 'Jingle Bells'. The second verse ends up with the sledge running into a ditch and the occupants getting 'upsot', which can be read as either 'upset' or 'drunk' as the listener prefers! (more on Wikipedia)
Our album of the festival is in our picture gallery.
Angela Clark has published a huge album of excellent pictures on Facebook.
We have been sent an album of 81 pictures by Ian. You can download the images - you will be asked to register your email address, but nothing bad seems to follow! Ian has told us that some of his pictures were lost in transfer to the server. He has since added them, so he suggests that you might like to revisit his site.
You can see a video of the candle-lit parade on our new Facebook group page - anyone can see the page and if you join the group you can post your news and pictures there as well.
Scroll down the page or click here to see our 2018 festival news.
This 2017 Dickens Festival Mistletoe Ball took place in the magnificent Corn Exchange in the High Street on Saturday December 2nd.
The evening kicked off with a tremendous Christmas themed three course meal, followed by dancing with Tony Ellingham and his band 'Unit Five' in a wide range of styles.
The Summer Ball will take place on Friday June 1st - for more information scroll down or click here
We understand that the 2018 Rochester Dickens Festival will be a two day event on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd June 2018 (local half term week) and the Dickensian Christmas will be Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd December 2018.
Can we help the City of Rochester Society? Yes we can! On August 13th we asked if anybody had a copy of the programme for the first Dickens Festival in 1979 for a history of the City of Rochester Society Rob Flood is writing. Within eight hours Mark Dennis had seen the request on our Facebook page, unearthed his copy and scanned it for us! Such is the power of the social network.
We are also trying to set up a picture archive for the festivals for this website. If you have anything from the early years please contact us.
Dickens Festival 9-11 June 2017
James Hefferson was taking photographs the Victorian way, and developing them in front of the subject. Queen Victoria had her picture taken, but we don't think she was amused! With his permission we have included a small reproduction of his picture alongside our picture of her majesty in our festival album. James has made his pictures available to view or buy on his website - www.theluminary.co.uk
If you have any pictures you would like to share with us this is how to do it.
This year the Dickens Festival moved back a week from its usual weekend to be part of Medway's celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Battle of the Medway. This seems to have led to slightly reduced attandance, but apart from the Friday the weather was hot and dry.
We would like to give a special mention to Samantha and Janan from Hong Kong, who made it to the festival - they even managed to book for the Dickens Ball! Their efforts were rewarded when they found themselves on the 'top table' with deputy mayoress Cllr Gloria Opara.
A great loss this year was the absence of Ashley and Shirley, and their 'wing man' Brian. They reluctantly had to give up running the Festival competitions, which has been their unpaid job for virtually all of the 39 years the festival has been running, and the events team at Medway Council was unable to find volunteers in time to set up the necessary arrangements. This years theme was 'Pickwick Papers', or more strictly 'The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club', Charles Dickens' first novel. Unfortunately without a competition we can't bring you the 'best dressed adult character'.
On the day it was good to see Ashley and Shirley looking relaxed as part of the crowd!
Another loss to the festival was that Ashley has had to give up running the Festival Ball after many years of making it his own. Sue Haydock stepped up to the plate to run the event, assisted by regulars John and Sheila, Ray and Linda, Eddie and Barbara, and Chris and Chrissie. Following a consultation and some lobbying the format was changed to use different caterers and make the event more 'Victorian'. The number attending was about the same as at the summer Ball in recent years. Everybody was invited to complete a survey, and the organisers have taken note for the Mistletoe Ball.
The new caterers received a 'thumbs up' but for the Mistletoe Ball they will be providing full waitress service. In keeping with the Christmas spirit music will be provided by Tony Ellingham and his band, and there will be a wide range of dance styles from 'old time' through to ballroom and some more modern. Click here for more information
Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival December 2016
The Dickensian Christmas celebrations took place on 3rd and 4th December 2016. We have put together our album and you can find it here.
This seems to be the year of social networking - our Facebook page has received shares of many excellent pictures - click here. On the other hand, you can do it the old-fashioned way by visiting our photo gallery.
Youtube videos of the festival on our videos page
In the news with Kent Messenger
If you have any pictures you would like to share with us this is how to do it.
Rochester Dickens Festival June 2016
Aitch Photography has sent us a link to her nice Facebook photo album from the Dickens Festival in June
This year's theme for the festival was 'The Old Curiosity Shop'. Attendance was generally reported as slightly down on last year, but the crowds enjoyed the event, especially on the last day when the Sun graced us with its presence. The Festival Ball attendance was also slightly down, but the general feeling was that this was one of the best in recent years.
Pictures of the Ball are now in our album
Thanks to all those who have shared pictures to our Facebook page, and special thanks to Sanjay Keswani with an album of 211 pictures featuring especially the the Sunday parade. So far we haven't seen much in the way of newspaper features or albums on photo sharing sites; if you come across any such please share them with us. Any pictures you want to share with us will be gratefully received.
Our album of the festival is in our picture gallery - click here to visit it
There are already several Youtube videos of the festival, including a nice VR 360 deg video of the Saturday parade - our favourites so far are on our Videos page
This year’s Rochester Dickensian Christmas was helped by the mild weather, and when we were there on Saturday the number of visitors was more than we have seen for years. Occasionally the numbers made it difficult to get around, but everybody stayed calm and all was well. Everybody seemed to be entering into the Christmas spirit and had a good time at the festival, but we heard of some problems getting to the event. We had been warned that the train station would be out of action for the day, which wouldn’t have helped, so we asked Verne Sanderson, the event operations manager, for his comments -
‘The advance coach numbers are always a good guide as to how busy the festival is likely to be so 202 [coach bookings] prepared us to some degree but a staggering 290 turned up which set the pattern for the event.
‘It was a good event and a lot of people had a tremendous experience but there were undoubtedly issues around traffic and crowd management. With regards to the crowd management, we have never seen crowds like it at any Medway festival for many years and, at times, we could have done with more Stewards to help with managing the crowds in the High St.
‘With regards to traffic management, as it was busier than usual we had more problems with car parking space. This, along with the huge coach numbers, contributed to the congestion around Corporation St. And then, as if to create the Perfect Storm, SE Rail contributed by running a Rail Replacement Bus Service. This all impacted onto the Park & Ride service which could not run to schedule. This ultimately led to a situation where, due to the necessity for driver’s breaks, the queues for the buses, in both directions, sometimes built up to an unacceptable level.
‘Looking ahead to next year, hopefully the new station will ease things, as long as we don’t get engineering works again, with more people choosing to use rail as a form of travel. We will also be reviewing the traffic management arrangements to see if anything can be improved upon. We will also be discussing the Park & Ride operation with the provider to see if any other action will help to improve the service.’
Thanks to Rebecca O'Connor for sending us the link to the album of her day at the festival
Report and pictures from Kent Online
Click here to go to our videos page with internet video footage of the grand parade, The Fabulous Fezheads, and the candle lit parade
Rochester Dickens Summer Festival June 2015
The Rochester edition of the Medway Messenger carried several features . On the June 5th edition there was a feature on page 6 and a picture spread on pages 46 and 51, and on June 9th the reader's photo of the week showed contestants for the Mr. and Mrs. Rochester competition enjoying an impromptu Charleston while waiting for their turn to entertain the crowd.
Here are some of our favourite links -
An album from Fieldstaff Antiques
Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival December 2014
The Festival took place over the weekend of 6-7 December. Despite the cold weather there were huge crowds both days. At the opening speeches Carl Madjitey estimated this could be the largest attendance ever - it certainly felt that way if you wanted to get to the other end of the High Street!
Wendy Le Ber, who blogs under her Buddhist name Padmayogini, has sent us a nice blog with quite a few photographs. Wendy is an artist /photographer who used to live in Rochester many years ago, and this year shevisited the Dickensian Christmas Festival for the first time.
Antoine Briche came over on the Calais shuttle to see us - here is his Youtube video
We have made an album of our Festival pictures
Eric has sent us his pictures which include some really good ones of our Dickensian characters
Theresa Clemitson has shared her Flickr album of the Festival (It is configured so that you don't need to register with Flickr to see it)
Anthony Baines has posted some really good pictures on his 'Wonky Horizons' blog. He says there are likely to be more added over the next few weeks, and if anybody featured would like to tell him a little about themselves he would be pleased to hear.
Thanks to Bill Shuter for sending us his pictures
Rochester Dickens Summer Festival June 2014
The Rochester Dickens Summer Festival 2014 album is available along with an album from Jonathan Brind and pictures from Bill Shuter on our gallery page.
Thanks to Jenny and Angela who have posted photos on our Facebook page
We welcome links to your pictures - send us the details. Alternatively you can send us your favourites - if there are just a few they can be attached to an email, but if you have a lot the best way is to send them to us by a file transfer site - there are lots around but Microsoft's 'Onedrive' does the job, it's free, and the recipient doesn't have to register (use the 'get a link' sharing option). A message for Stephen who sent us photos and hasn't had any reply - please send us another email without the attachment because your last one was blocked.
See the News report in 'Kent Online',
Nice pictures from an unexpected source - a blog from Fieldstaff Antiques. (seen on June 13th, still there in July - may disappear when they do an update)
The Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival took place from 18-24 August, with quite a few familiar faces from Rochester. The programme was slightly shorter than previous years, but there was plenty to do including some new events. Notable amongst these was the sensational one man show 'Mr. Dickens is coming' performed by Gerald Dickens, the great great grandson of the great man, together with 'Doctor Marigold', which was Charles Dickens favourite work to perform. Another popular innovation was the Saturday 'Mardi Gras'.
Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival 7-8 December 2013
The Rochester Dickensian Festival took place over the weekend of 7-8 December 2013. The weather was much milder than forecast, and crowds were substantial all through both days.
Jan has sent us the link to her Flickr set for the Festival
We have found a good Flickr set by Jim Moore. Some of the pictures are from other venues, including the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Victorian Festival the previous week, with several of the same faces!
If you have good pictures share them with us. You can use a photo sharing site (as long as it lets you make your pictures public without having to download an app) and send us the link, share them on our Facebook page, or if you have just a few you can send them to us.
If you post a video on Youtube or Vimeo let us know, and we will link to it.
Our report on the Summer 2013 Festival has joined previous Festivals on our News Archive page
Dickensian Summer Festival 31 May-2 June 2013
The Rochester Dickens Summer Festival took place from 31 May To 2 Jun 2013. You can see the pictures on our album, or you can click on the links in this report to see some of the highlights.
To mark the 35th Anniversary of the Festival the organisers invited past winners of the 'Mr. and Mrs. Rochester' competitions to attend. 'The Duel' returned by popular demand, with a new twist. The 'Edith May', sailing barge was back for a second year taking visitors on trips along the Medway.
'Dicken: About', presented by Dizzy O'Dare, was a brilliantly devised comedy based on the works of Dickens - highly recommended for those who don't take the great man TOO seriously.
The Best Dressed Ladies competition was judged by Sheila, who has is an experienced and enthusiastic dressmaker and has herself won most of the costume competitions in recent years. This year we had three Steampunk entrants from 'Great Kentspectations'. Their outfits impressed the judge, although they didn't meet the strict conditions of entry, so they were jointly awarded an 'Ashley' Award which was warmly welcomed by their supporters in the audience.
There was a good range of outfits in the Best Dressed Gentleman competition with the military gentlemen looking particularly good. The first prize winner was Steve, magnificently channeling The Prince of Wales. Click here to see the second and third prize winners.
The last presentation of the Festival was an important new Award - 'The Spirit of Dickens' which is to be awarded by public vote to people or institutions who have contributed over the years to making the Dickens Festivals the premier Dickens event in the country. The award went to Shirley and Brian Goodhew, for their tireless work over thirty five years, organising the activities which are at the heart of the Festival.
As usual, there are plenty more pictures in our photo album.
See the first Youtube video of the parade, by Chris Irvine, on our Videos page
A photo set from the 'Going on in Medway' website
Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival December 1st and 2nd 2012
This year's Festival was marked by cold weather, but the Sunday was sunny. By our totally unscientific analysis both days saw good crowds and the usual large contingent of Dickensian characters.
The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with the Mistletoe Ball, and this time the 'added value' was a competition for the best dressed table. The winners would like to apologise profusely to the caterers for the candle wax dripped from our caldelabra over the tablecloth!
As usual there was plenty of free entertainment on the streets on both days, starting with the Seven poor Travellers Parade, which seems to be drawing bigger crowds every year.
This Christmas we were pleased to welcome the Great Kentspections steampunk group around the Festival and joining in the Grand Parades. Click on the thumbnail to see two pictures of the group.
Sunday saw the draw for the winning ticket in the 'Inimitable' raffle for a Dickens picture and strand of hair which has been running all year. More below.
The Candlelit parade and the carols outside the Cathedral each day were as always the perfect mix of fun and magic, the perfect way to get into the mood for Christmas.
The Inimitable Raffle
Through the Summer the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship has been holding a raffle for a valuable picture of Dickens donated by Frasers Autographs, a branch of Stanley Gibbons. This contains a cartouche with a strand of Dickens' hair, authenticated as coming from a lock of hair from the estate of Dickens' sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth.
The draw for the winning ticket took place outside of Eastgate House in Rochester High Street at 2 pm on Sunday during the Festival, and the ticket was drawn by The Worshipful the Mayor of Medway, Councillor Vaughan Hewett. The lucky winner was a regular at the famous Leather bottle pub in Cobham, and has donated it to be part of their display of Dickens memorabilia. More information on the Dickens Fellowship website and our raffle page
Dickensian Summer Festival 8-10 June 2012
The Weather Gods were smiling down on us, and we had good weather throughout, except for a little light rain on the Sunday afternoon. The pageant celebrating Dickens' Bicentenary was judged a great success, and the format may be incorporated into future parades. There were also quite a few other innovations, so we would welcome your opinion on the event.
This year we have received loads of pictures, and they are now to be found in our picture gallery.
there are several Festival videos on youtube - our Videos page carries links.
DICKENSIAN CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL 2011
The opening event of the Festival was the Mistletoe Ball in the grand ballroom of the Corn Exchange, attended this year by of the 200 or so guests in grand Dickensian costumes. This year the event was a masked ball, with competitions for best ladies' and gentlemen's masks. Although the wearing of masks had been billed as optional, most guests turned up 'incognito'.
This year the festival was blessed with mild, even sunny, weather (except for one short shower Sunday afternoon).The highlight, as always, was the Candlelit parade,and the open air carol service. This is always a trifle more unpredictable than the organisers would like, and this year we had great fun with 'Jingle Bells', which had gained a strange extra verse (so strange that we have scanned in the words we all saw on the screens at the event!) Research on 'Wikipedia' shows that this verse is not only from the original words written in 1857, but there are another two verses! Students may like to note that 'upsot' is the past participle of upset, but in this context it can be read in its slang meaning as 'drunk'.
17 - 18 September 2011
Salute to the 40's at Chatham Historic Dockyard - Saturday was pretty wet at times, but Sunday was warm and dry all day. There were large crowds, and plenty of characters in forties finery instead of Dickensian.
20-28 August 2011
Our friends at Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival celebrated its 30th birthday in style, with a full programme and sunny weather.
There were many faces familiar from the Rochester Festivals. Photos click here
Plans for 2012 will be announced as soon as the situation becomes clearer.
3 August 2011
The Festival Summer Ball on Thursday was as spectacular as ever, as well as a chance to show off new costumes and catch up on gossip. An extra feature was a lighthearted celebration of our 'sister' Festival at Llandrindod Wells. We sent our best wishes for them at a difficult stage in their history.
Friday was as always aimed particularly at chidren. The weather was warm and sunny, setting the scene for Saturday.
Saturday was hot and sunny - verging on too hot for some of the Dickensian costumes. In a departure from previous years all the competitions were held on this day; there was a good number of contestants and a good audience, so the change worked well - competition photos are now in our picture gallery.
The compere for the afternoon was Ashley, and the first competition was 'Mr and Mrs Rochester', judged by an elite panel of previous winners. Under the rules, entrants have to dress for the (Dickensian) beach, and perform a party piece. 'Mr. Rochester' was won by Rob in a most unlikely costume and a wierdly predictable party piece,, and 'Mrs. Rochester' was won by Francesca,with a more traditional outfit, and a party piece which stunned the crowd (picture in our gallery).
The Best Dressed Ladies competitions were judged by Sheila, who has a long history of entering previous competitions and a deep interest in the techniques of the time.
Jan won first prize for her outfit, which was judged to be the most authentic in presentation and needlecraft.
Francesca won in the 'newcomers' category. Her dress was meticulously crafted by her grandmother, and the overall effect was stunning
Don Barcott was guest judge for the 'Best Dressed Gentleman' competition.
The Best Dressed Dickens Adult character was judged by Thelma Grove from the Dickens Fellowship. Thelma is one of the foremost experts in this field, and always seems to understand Dickens' characters in depth, no matter how obscure. The winner was Miss Ninetta Crummles from Nicholas Nickleby, 'The Infant Phenomenon', enacted by Francesca completing her hat trick having already won 'Mrs. Rochester' and 'best Dressed Ladies' competitions. Francesca is seen in our picture with the runner up.
Many of the characters seen on Saturday were at 'Dickens World' later at the 'Hoi Polloi Ball' - the scenario was that the ball was a treat for the lower servants at the grand house, who had already been on a day trip to the seaside. Apparently some of the ladies were still in their bathing costumes, and one or two had smuggled in a sailor they had met on their travels. The event was organised by David Hawes.
Sunday started with the costumed river trip on the Kingswear Castle, leading to the morning grand parade. The weather started out cloudy, but the rain held off until mid afternoon, when it turned to light drizzle. The characters didn't give in, but our audience wasn't quite so tough!
Nobody in the UK can have failed to notice that the week leading up to the Festival was marked by heavy snowfall and extremely low temperatures. To their great credit Medway Council decided to go ahead, and put huge efforts into making the event work. Regrettably a few events had to be cancelled because entertainers just couldn't get to the town, but by the weekend the weather was was relatively kind (except for a couple of sharp showers), the public turned up to support us, and the weekend was a success.
The Saturday morning parade was led as usual by the Mayor. Some familiar faces were unavoidably missing, but the crowds were still there, and cheered everyone on. Instead of the usual marching band we sang carols, led by the Lamplighter playing his pipe. After a short but nasty shower mid-afternoon the weather was remarkably warm for the Carol Service led by the Dean of Rochester. The singing and cheering didn't sound in any way dampened by the weather, and on both nights the biggest cheer was in support of our forces in armed fighting on our behalf over the Christmas period.
By Sunday more characters and entertainers had managed to fight their way through the snow. The weather was colder, but the only shower of the day was short. The carol service was led by Councillor Carl Madjitey, supported by Councillor Howard Doe.
More pictures can be found in our picture gallery - now three albums.
The Dickens Christmas Market at Rochester Castle ran from December 3rd to 19th 2010
The Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, in London, has received a £2m grant from the Lottery fund for restoration in preparation for the bicentenary of Dickens' birth, in 2012.
Sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed that a couple of dozen Rochester Dickens Festival regulars were much in evidence in the village of Midsomer Morchard in the episode of Midsomer Murders transmitted on October 13th 2010, titled 'The Noble Art'. They were members of the 'Victorian Strollers' group of re-enactors, and unusually for Midsomer, all survived!
Members of the group also regularly appear at Dickens World
The Summer Festival kicked off as always with a magnificent costumed ball in the Cornmarket. This year we welcomed a delegation from Foshan and Hong Kong who had flown in the same morning for the third Chinese Culture Festival. Despite their thirteen hour flight our guests enjoyed the evening to the full.
Friday saw perfect weather - a sunny day but not hot enough to be uncomfortable. Attendance was good through most of the day, but quiet later on.
Saturday was busy, and the weather was perfect for visitors, but more than a trifle warm for those in Dickensian costume; some were wilting before the end of the day.
Saturday night was close and muggy, with a fairly impressive thunderstorm in the early hours. This cleared the air for Sunday.
Sunday was cooler and more comfortable for characters and visitors alike. Because of the conditions of the tide the opening costumed sailing of the 'Kingswear Castle' was a round trip from Rochester Thunderbolt pier. Our Mayor, Cllr David Brake, was in attendance. Although all looks calm in this picture, our gallery tells a different story!
After the event there was the traditional 'sing along'' at the Bull - this year the format was changed due to organisational problems and attendance was a bit sparse, but as always it proved to be a great way to end the weekend.
Pictures of the event can be seen by clicking here.
The Festival kicked off on Friday with the Dickens Ball, organised by Ashley Davis. This event attracted 188 enthusiasts, all in Dickensian costume, the largest number in recent years.
The day started in glorious sunshine, with huge numbers attending to take advantage of the weather. The day stayed mild until late afternoon, when we saw a little light rain, but not enough to spoil the afternoon's candlelit parade and carol service outside the Cathedral
For Saturday evening David had organised a 'Hoi Polloi' ball for the lower orders, hosted by Dickens World. the evening's entertainment included 'Right Royal Revels', music by 'Skinners Rats', and a tribute to the days of the music hall from Julia Burnett. A raffle and collection was held for the 'Help For Heroes' charity.
An added excitement was a real live Victorian marriage proposal!.
After heavy rain early in the morning the skies cleared in time to give us a mild and largely sunny day, with large crowds right through to the end of the final carol service