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A TALE OF TWO DICKENS; Blue Coat pupils perform Hard Times in front of novelist's great great grandson.

Byline: Martin Bagot

THERE were 'great expectations' of Coventry pupils who got to perform a Charles Dickens play in front of the Victorian novelist's great great grandson this week.

Children at Blue Coat School had their final rehearsal of an adaptation of Charles Dickens' Hard Times - with Bishop Michael Dickens Whinney sitting in the audience.

The school also hosted youngsters from nearby All Saints School and Gosford Park Primary School for the show, which was being performed to members of the public yesterday and today.

After the dress rehearsal, youngsters crowded around to hear anecdotes from Bishop Dickens Whinney and get their novels signed as keepsakes.

"I thought it was wonderful," he said.

"They were so good and their enthusiasm for it took my breath away. I wish them all well over the following nights."

Published in 1854, Hard Times is Dickens' tenth and shortest novel about a time of struggle for much of the population.

The Bishop said: "Charles Dickens was someone who many of us think was a prophet of his day.

"He was called a champion of the poor, and both Russia and China still see him as that.

"He cared passionately about social reform and decided he could do more with his pen than in parliament."

The Bishop brought along an old sherry CHAMPION POOR: schooner and a favourite mug which had once belonged to his illustrious relative.

He told how the males of the Dickens family still meet up in his favourite London pub, the George and Vulture, to catch up every year.

Guest director Claudette Bryanston was brought in and a couple of professional actors joined around 120 pupils for the performances.

"This novel is highly relevant to today," she said.

OF Dickens "It's about a time of austerity and people struggling for justice.

"It teaches about education, and how creativity can take a back seat."

English teacher Val Davis has been co-ordinating Blue Coat School's effort. The school, in Terry Road, Stoke, planned on using the event to bring the local community together.

Val said most rehearsals and preparation were done during half-term when pupils gave up their free time.

"We can't believe we've got the Bishop here today," she said.

"It's incredible for the children to see someone descended from Charles Dickens, who can speak anecdotally about him.

"It's unbelievable hearing stories and recollections that have been passed down by word of mouth."

CAPTION(S):

CHAMPION OF POOR: Dickens SPECIAL GUEST: Bishop Michael Dickens Whinney with (left-right) Alice Cook (11), Chloe Shepard (18), Ajay Choli (14) and Rachel Owen (16) COSTUME DRAMA: Charles Dickens' great great-grandson Bishop Michael Dickens Whinney, with Blue Coat pupils Steve West (16), Mollie Cooper (17) Ashleigh Dickinson (18) and Rob Barrett (16)
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 23, 2012
Words:455
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