Dickens described London as a “Magic Lantern spectacle”, and Dickens in London is a unique collaboration drawing on his experience. The project brings together BBC Radio 4 and the Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN) in an innovative way.
Five of Dickens’ journalistic essays were adapted by Michael Eaton to produce five radio plays depicting Dickens’ impressions of London. They tell the story of the novelist’s life through his writings on walking the streets of London. So we start with Dickens as a boy, getting lost on his very first visit to the city, and we finish with Dickens walking away from his final public reading at St James’s Hall, Piccadilly.
The plays were put to music by Neil Brand and then delivered to film artist Chris Newby. He responded, working in counterpoint to the audio, to create a series of films that incorporate animation, puppetry and contemporary footage. He did some location filming – visiting the spectacular Crossness pumping station in Abbey Wood and Stoke Newington’s Abney Park cemetery – but also used archive film footage, and an wide range of animated material – including some flotsam and jetsam from the Thames.
The films will be screened in their entirety at a special Dickens birthday event tonight at the BFI on Southbank. You can use iplayer to listen to the Dickens in London audio plays or hear them on Radio 4 each morning this week at 10.45am. The films will be available on the Radio 4 website or by pressing the Red Button on your digital TV from BBC1 or BBC2 this week.