Author hopes to inspire more interest in Dickens

Young people are being encouraged to enjoy the work of one of England's greatest authors through a new challenge for school children.

It is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens in 2012 and Peter Mieville, a writer himself, from near Diss, came up with the idea for the Dickens International Drama Challenge while reading one of his books.

Actor Simon Callow and author Philip Pullman have already given their support to the scheme.

Mr Mieville said: 'The idea came to me while reading David Copperfield. As an author, I'd been thinking of adapting one of Dickens's great novels myself and was mulling over some small scenes. The more closely I looked, the richer the possibilities became, even in the smallest passages.

'How wonderful his visual imagination, story-telling, dramatic power, characters, dialogue. Full of light and dark. Play, intensity, obscurity, wit, intelligence.

'I started to wonder how other people might see the same passages. Even Dickens himself. Young people, older people, old people. In Dickens' time. Now. In the future.'

The idea behind the challenge is that school groups choose a scene from any of Dickens's literature and then create their own version for the stage.

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Each of the groups will then be able to enter their performance in the competition which will have local, regional, national and hopefully international stages.

'It will be a opportunity for school children to look at Dickens's work and interpret it in their own ways,' Mr Mieville said.

The Dickens International Drama Challenge was officially inaugurated at Dickens's grave at Westminster Abbey on what would have been his 199th birthday – February 7 – and at the ceremony Simon Callow read a passage from A Christmas Carol.

One of the first schools nationally to take up the challenge is Hartismere School, Eye, where three groups of Year 10 pupils have now taken scenes from three Dickens novels – The Old Curiosity Shop, Great Expectations and Hard Times – which they will perform at the school next month as part of the pilot project.

The main launch for the challenge will be in the spring.

Mr Mieville, who is currently seeking sponsorship for the project, hopes the project will also raise funds for charity, in particular charities that help disadvantaged children.

Mr Mieville writes under the name Dominic Mieville and his books include The Mysterious Burnchester Hall, The Burnchester Dome and the Sacred Cell, and Tyro's Journey.

To contact Mr Mieville about the Dickens International Drama Challenge email

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