Fantastic new features are sure to wow the crowds at this year’s Bicentenary Rochester Dickens Festival.

The annual celebration of all things Charles Dickens is on from Friday, 8 to Sunday 10 June when Rochester’s streets and green spaces will be awash with colourful characters and Victorian entertainment.

This year the festival will have three distinct theme days – Children’s Day, Grand Pageant Day and Commemorative Day.

Children’s Day is on Friday, 8 June with costume competitions taking place throughout the afternoon, The Costume Train dressing-up experience at The Corn Exchange and Punch and Judy shows, and circus skills workshops.

Throughout the day readings from some of Dickens’ novels will help to bring the writer to life, while High Street performance Omnibuses, Boz and Beyond! By the Brook Youth Theatre will delight families with tales from the sillier side of Victorian life.

Evening entertainment takes the form of a traditional Victorian variety show – Dizzy O’Dare Presents… Mr Sleary’s Grand Circus Show – audiences will see wire walkers and flying beauties, enjoy comedy and merriment, as amazing physical feats are played out on the stage.

Grand Pageant Day is on Saturday, 9 June with the Grand Pageant itself starting at 1.30pm at Rochester Railway Station. The Mayor of Medway will lead the parade, which will pass along Rochester High Street, The Esplanade and finally into Rochester Castle Gardens.

An Evening with Gerald Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens will take place on Saturday evening at The Corn Exchange. The evening will give a detailed insight into the lives of the Dickens family.

Commemorative Day is on Sunday, 10 June with The Grand Parade kicking off the festivities at 1.30pm from Rochester Railway Station when The Mayor of Medway and members of the Dickens family lead revellers towards Rochester Castle Gardens.

Costume competitions will take place throughout both Saturday and Sunday afternoons in Rochester Castle Gardens.

As part of this year’s Bicentenary Rochester Dickens Festival, the tranquil Vines will be transformed into a craft fair and performance area.

Always a favourite place for families to relax and have a picnic, this year visitors can browse the hand-crafted goods for sale at traditional craft stalls and be amazed by the magic of The Amazing Travelling Camera Obscura.

Other attractions throughout the three-day festival include a traditional fun fair in Rochester Castle Gardens, various street performances, brass bands, river trips on the Edith May sailing barge, and talks and readings in Rochester Community Hub.

The Guildhall Museum will also be open with a Dickens Discovery Room displaying artefacts and short film about the great man.

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