Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Occupy London
On Friday 30 December, over 150 people gathered together at the west entrance ofSt Paul’s Cathedral for a special public reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, especially adapted for Occupy London by playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker.
Full video coming shortly – in the meantime do also check out the video below by John Leland Whiting:
A truly collaborative creative effort of Occupy London, the performance was directed by Josh Appignanesi, and included readings by Allan Corduner, Alan Cox, Sara Kestleman, Pam Miles, Tim Pigott-Smith, Ian Redford and Rachael Stirling.
Tim Pigott-Smith said: “Reading Dickens’ Christmas Carol under the awning ofSt Paul’s Cathedral was both bizarre and uplifting. Despite the cold, the audience listened, spellbound by the wonder of this one hundred and fifty year old story. The relevance of its message – that wealth can so easily destroy the human spirit – remains as strong today as when it was written; perhaps – under the circumstances in which we performed – stronger!”
Director Josh Appignanesi added: “Could there be a more timely parable of social justice for London today? Putting on a reading of A Christmas Carol at the feet of the occupiedSt Paul’s was kind of like “Occupy Dickens”: reclaiming him from disneyworld and bringing him back to commune with the raw, earthy, stinking, ranting streets of London from whence he came. Suddenly everything made sense again. God bless us, every one.”
Dickens was compelled to write A Christmas Carol out of a strong desire to comment on the enormous gap between the rich and poor in Victorian Britain. It is a similar strength of conviction that has motivated the growth of the Occupy movement to work to transform the growing social, economic and political injustices of our time, and thus it was an especially fitting and moving performance.
As Giles Fraser, former canon of St Paul’s Cathedral has said: “Christmas is the most political of the Church’s festivals … all politics is about people, and without a fundamental sympathy for the plight of other human beings, and in particular for the dispossessed, no political movement for social change is ever going to capture the heart. For Dickens, Christmas was the emotional centre of the big society. Peace on earth and goodwill to all.”
Alan Corduner commented: “Just to say what a special evening that was. It was a privilege to be part of – it was quite moving to feel such a strong sense of a shared experience, Dickens, and his extraordinary perception, reminds us of our common humanity in this fractured world. We all share the need for community and, of course, love. Through your movement, you remind us perhaps of what is true and important. Thank you and here’s wishing us all a peaceful 2012 – a year in which leaps of faith to match the leap year may be made.”
Alan Cox said: “What a privilege to hear Charles Dickens’ fantastic prose in such an extraordinary context and how moving to experience the wonderful unanimity of Occupy London in the enrapt faces of all those listening on the steps ofSt Paul’s Cathedral. Dickens’ tale about the possibility of new beginnings and the reminder to be wary of Want and Ignorance is a challenge to humanity to keep the New Year well. May we all do so and God bless us, everyone.”