Local residents in Portsmouth could be set to explore the life and times of one of the city’s most famous former sons after a new £270,000, three-year project won initial Lottery funding approval.
The Dickens Community Archive project plans to enlist 1,000 detectives to chronicle life in Portsmouth during the Charles Dickens’ pomp in the 19th century, comparing it with life today through collaborations with artists, playwrights, photographers and film-makers.
Organisers have been given two years to submit a final bid for the award, which would also create an exhibition at the city museum and a series of special events until 2012, the bicentenary of the author’s birth.
Charles Dickens spent the first three years of his life in Portsmouth, living in the house which is now the Dickens Birthplace Museum
"The project aims to get people across the city working on family and community archives and sharing what they find with others," explained Portsmouth City Council chief executive David Williams, praising the Lottery-funded plan as "great news".
"People who want to can then go on to work with the City Archives – which vividly bring to life some of the issues Dickens' explores in his novels – to see what they say about life in Portsmouth at the time he was writing."
The city's Dickens Birthplace Museum, where Dickens lived the first three years of his life, will provide an epicentre for the programme.
The writer retuned to the city on three occasions, and refers to Portsmouth in classic novel Nicholas Nickleby.