Bringing Dickens to Ireland: the 2012 Festival

Impact: Economic Impact, Quality of Life Impact, Societial Impact, Cultural Impact, Other Impact

Description of impact

This year-long festival was based on original Dickens scholarship, and has impacted upon culture and leisure services; schools, colleges and lifelong learning; charities; community organisations; and the media. The delivery mechanism was a year-long festival, known as Dickens 2012 NI (Registered charity no. XT33252), which attracted thirty thousand of people of all ages. It organised events covering literature, theatre, music, the visual arts, museums, and education. The project achieved the following impacts:

- an increased level of understanding among all participants of Dickens's multiple literary and personal connections with Ireland
- the provision of professional expertise on Dickens and Ireland, drawn upon frequently by the arts sector and the media, which allowed them to provide informed, authoritative pronouncements on this subject, particularly during the Dickens bicentenary year
- the conception and delivery of public exhibitions with demonstrable benefit for culture and leisure services, through enhanced access to events which had a positive effect on well-being
- the provision of work-placement opportunities in arts management for Queen's postgraduate students, thus enhancing their employment prospects
- a set of formal links with the young people's charity Barnardo's, particularly for delivering outreach work on literacy, which excited young people in disadvantaged areas about reading, and enhanced their engagement with the arts in a suitable accessible form


Dickens 2012 NI
‘Celebrating Dickens’s unique relationship with Ulster’ was the strap-line for Dickens 2012 NI, a year-long festival that honoured Dickens with several exhibitions, numerous film screenings and theatrical productions, lectures, dramatised readings, and a read-a-thon. Festival director Dr Leon Litvack felt that Northern Ireland needed a programme with a distinct regional flavour, celebrating Dickens’s personal and professional connections with the area. Accordingly, the festival included an exhibition about ‘Dickens: Irish Friends and Family Ties’ at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and ten sell-out performances of ‘Dickens at Ulster Hall’, a one-man play starring Sam McCready. Another highlight was an exhibition at Ulster Museum curated by Litvack, and based on his own original research, which told the story of Dickens’s three visits to Ireland through rare print materials, artefacts borrowed from the Charles Dickens Museum, and extracts from the author’s work. Entitled ‘Charles Dickens on Tour: the Belfast Public Readings’ this two-week exhibition captivated 22,189 visitors. Litvack hoped that the festival would encourage a sense of identification with a writer who had a keen interest in Ireland and so planned a programme that was accessible to all, dominated by free or low-cost events, and including everything from family-friendly craft activities, to a traditional reading group and an innovative production by the Wireless Mystery Theatre, which presented Dickens’s novels in the style of a 1950s radio broadcast.

Dickens 2012 NI attracted more than 30,000 visitors, helping to change perceptions of Dickens in Ireland and having a positive impact on the local community. Indeed, Litvack’s ongoing work with six schools as part of Barnardo’s ‘Ready to Learn’ literacy programme may have a lifelong legacy in creatively engaging underprivileged children with the Arts. The festival’s eclectic mix of events aimed to entertain and inspire while fundamentally capturing the ‘spirit of fun’ that Dickens treasured.
Impact statusCompleted
Impact date01 Jan 201231 Dec 2012
Category of impactEconomic Impact, Quality of Life Impact, Societial Impact, Cultural Impact, Other Impact
Impact levelEngagement


  • Dickens, Charles
  • Bicentenary
  • Ireland
  • Dickens 2012 NI