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Dickens in London: A Cross-Platform Celebration of Dickens’s Life

As part of Dickens 2012, Film London, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Drama have come together to commission five films and five radio plays – Dickens In London – to be broadcast simultaneously during the week of 6-10 February.

Press Release by BBC

As part of Dickens 2012, Film London, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Drama have come together to commission five films and five radio plays – Dickens In London – to be broadcast simultaneously during the week of 6-10 February in the Woman’s Hour Drama strand on Radio 4 (10.45am), online and via Red Button. The films, commissioned by Film London Artists' Moving Image Network (FLAMIN) and produced by Dan Films with funding from Arts Council England, will also premiere at BFI Southbank on Tuesday 7 February at a special event celebrating the actual anniversary of Dickens’s birth.

Dickens In London is an interactive, cross-platform project which brings together artist film-maker Chris Newby and writer Michael Eaton to form a biographical portrait of Dickens’s life via film and the spoken word. Based on Dickens’s journalistic essays – ‘A Not Over-Particularly-Taken-Care-Of-Boy’; ‘Boz’: ‘the Sparkler of Albion’; ‘The Uncommercial Traveller’; and ‘The Inimitable’ - Dickens In London comprises five new films by Chris Newby which use animation, puppetry and contemporary footage to visualise five original radio plays written by Michael Eaton. Each radio play forms the soundtrack for the five films and feature the voices of Samuel Barnett, Alex Jennings and Antony Sher, who each take their turn to play Dickens, and original music is composed by Neil Brand.

This collaboration constituted a first time experience for both Eaton and Newby: “I had no idea how Chris Newby would deal with the apparently insurmountable problem of visualising and complementing already recorded dramas” says Michael Eaton. “The result is astonishing.  Not only are his five films visually exceptional, original and imaginative, but the style, the montage and the imagery are, to me, inherently Dickensian. This has been a unique experiment in broadcasting to which I have been proud to contribute”.

Chris Newby continues, “My aim was not simply to recreate what someone might imagine. It was to recreate an alternative theatrical presentation. Also, a film sound-track is a submerged thing rather than up-front like the conventions of a radio play. I decided to have as much fun with the radio conventions as possible. At the back of my mind was a scrap book that Hans Christian Anderson made, where he constructed collages from found illustrations. The films would represent a paper world, the puppets heads would be constructed from Dickens books. Animated characters would be torn from the very fabric of London. Not forgetting the odd dash of pepper...or two.”

Says Jeremy Mortimer, Executive Producer, BBC Radio Drama, “writer Michael Eaton was approached to write a series of short radio plays which – taken as a whole – provides a biographical portrait of Dickens and his London life. Chris Newby, a film-maker who knows and loves Dickens’s work, was given the task of building a 70 minute film around the radio plays, which we recorded early in 2011.

We haven’t yet decided where to go next with this approach to visualising radio drama, but if Chris Newby’s films are anything to go by I think that there are many opportunities for creating original and innovative film work that celebrates both the sound and the visual mediums.”

Maggie Ellis, Head of Production and Talent Development, Film London comments “Dickens in London is a striking and wonderful collaboration between film and radio which can be enjoyed across a range of platforms. It successfully achieves the core aim of the Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN), which is to support London artist film-makers by commissioning interesting new artworks and using inventive ways to bring this important work to new and wider audiences.”

Dickens in London will be broadcast on Monday 6–10 February at 10.45am on BBC Radio 4 – and watch the film online at or push the Red Button. Catch the omnibus on Saturday 11th February at 12noon on BBC Radio 4 Extra.