It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
And it will be the first time for most to listen to the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens in Oamaru next week.
Lucinda Hawksley, an established author, will give a talk about Mr Dickens’ work, his family and those surrounding him, as part of the Victorian literature-themed Victorian Heritage Celebrations.
The talk, via Zoom at the Grainstore Gallery, will include a question-and-answer segment to delve deeper into the life of the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
Oamaru author Fiona Farrell will give another talk about Victorian literature at the Oamaru Public Library, where she worked as a teenager in the Athenaeum.
Victorian Heritage Celebrations co-ordinator Anisha Lee said both talks were “wonderful community organised events” and exactly why the theme was chosen.
“We had literature for Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll in the past, and we found the local community really enjoyed that type of celebrations and got heavily involved,” Miss Lee said.
“The idea of literature has really stimulated community-associated people to pull out some pretty amazing events.”
The celebrations will also involve a costume competition, where people were encouraged to dress up as their favourite Victorian literature character.
Children are encouraged to enter by sending in a photograph, as they will be at school when the judging takes place.
“We felt it would be really cool to reach out to schools, and children, to get them to enter and give them the opportunity to participate.”
The traditional photo opportunity would relocate to lower Wansbeck St, to “allow people to social distance”, at the end of the SouthRoads Grand Street Parade.
A variety concert at St Pauls Presbyterian Church was a wonderful opportunity to “listen to the passion of our community about producing events”.
There was also a show Pieces of the Past, about the lost plays of the Victorian era.
“Lots of it touched on Greek history and it’s really seeing some stuff that people may have never seen before.”
Other events well worth diarying are the Crombie & Price Victorian Garden Party, from 2.30pm to 3.30pm, and the Victorian Ball, from 8pm until late, both on Friday.
One of the best spectacles during the celebrations is the Heritage Bicycle Championship in the Victorian precinct – and the 26th edition of the cycle racing will be full of entertainment.
Two of its quirkiest contests are the slow race, where the last one over the line wins, and the Tyne Street Grunter, in which penny-farthing riders try to get as far as possible up that steep street before the laws of physics intervene.
Miss Lee was excited to see the community thriving in its heritage celebrations once again.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing all these people coming out, both local and from afar, to come and enjoy all the hard work and really look into our colonial history and enjoy the experience that has taken a lot of people a lot of hours to produce for them.”
Victorian Heritage Celebrations run from next Wednesday to Sunday.