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A Dickens of a time at St. John's Anglican

Charles Dickens: for many he was an author who we ‘had to read’ in high school. However, once past the forced feeding of ‘classic’ literature, it turned out many that his books were not such a bad read after all. Even those who dislike reading will admit that they had seen movies of some of his books, like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Pickwick Papers, and of course at this time of year, A Christmas Carol.

As with most prosperous writers, Charles used events from his own life in his stories and considering the time period of his life, from 1812 to 1870, in the industrial revolution, there were many social conditions to weave around these characters.

In A Christmas Carol, when invited to donate money to the poor Ebenezer Scrooge asked: “Are there no prisons?” In real life Charles knew that answer only too well as his father and family were put into a debtor’s prison, while he as a boy, went to work to pay their way out.

The majority of the British people during this time were illiterate, but they would pool their money together, when the next episode of the latest story, by Charles Dickens was published. These serial publications allowed him time to refine his characters. Eventually his stories were published as books. To publicize them, Charles began doing readings of his stories. Most were too long for an evening so he would give them an abridged version. (Like Reader’s Digest condensed books).

It turns out the Charles was a closet thespian as well, for he spent hours refining his characters so that while reading he could take the part of each character, act them out, and make them distinct and believable to his audience. He became a superstar, performing about 100 times a year, for two to four hours to large audiences. This was especially appealing to both those who could and could not read.

Today, about this time of year, there are often performances by modern thespians doing as Dickens did, giving entertaining readings of his works.

Tillsonburg is privileged to have the opportunity to spend and evening with Charles Dickens as he gives a live performance reading of A Christmas Carol. Yes, you are correct, it is not the real Dickens, but it will most likely be the closest you will ever be to Dickens. Stephen Bourne, a known re-enactor, will be Charles Dickens at St. John’s Anglican Church on Ridout St., this Sunday Dec 15th. Doors will open at 7 p.m. for the performance and afterward there will be refreshments and some yummy treats! Tickets are only $10 which you can get by calling 519-842-5573 in the mornings.

Our present day Dickens, Bourne, has been doing re-enacting for many years. He began in broadcasting and would do commercials which required character voices. That provided the base to slide into first-person performances. In fact last year, Stephen portrayed my hero, Sir Isaac Brock at our own Legion Remembrance Day Service.

Stephen also became involved in major historical re-enactments and has participated in the French and Indian Wars; Civil War events in Otterville, and of course has been very busy the last few years with War of 1812 re-enactments. It was delightful to know he was busy fighting on the fields of battle which Peter and I attended.

What is especially wonderful about Stephen and wife Maureen, it that they have decided to make Tillsonburg their home! Like many others, they tooted about the countryside, looking for the best place to enjoy their retirement and where did they pick? Why Tillsonburg, of course!

Prior to moving here last week, they came to check out, St. John’s Anglican, on Ridout St. West; meeting their minister and future church family. They discovered the church was planning some major renovations to better meet its ministry and Stephen decided to offer his services, as Charles Dickens to help with the fundraising.

Most people take the time to move to a new community, unpack, check out the various amenities, and then decide how they will contribute to the community. I can’t say I have heard of someone leaping into fray, before they are even unpacked!

Stephen and Maureen are liable to find a lineup at their door of groups in town that want to welcome them through their own doors. Historical groups like Tillsonburg’s Military Club and Annandale National Historic Site. Such talent should also be getting a big welcome from Theatre Tillsonburg! I think there is even a niche for his military re-enactment at our Pioneer Cemetery when the veterans of the War of 1812 are honoured in 1814!

So come, meet our new neighbours on Sunday evening, and enjoy Stephen as he becomes Charles Dickens and transports you through time to Victorian England in A Christmas Carol.



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