Learning English - Words in the News
25 May, 2007 - Published 13:33 GMT
A $120m theme park that celebrates the life and writings of Charles Dickens has opened in Britain. It's built on derelict docks just east of London where Dickens lived for a time as a child. This report from Lawrence Pollard:
One of Britain's greatest ever writers, Charles Dickens is most associated with Victorian London and in particular the misery and poverty we call Dickensian, so he hasn't - up until now - been much used as a literary brand. Now on an industrial estate in the rather run down town of Chatham in Kent where the writer grew up, Dickens World is opening, a theme park dedicated, so it says, to giving a flavour of life in Dicken's England.
The centrepiece is a boat ride through an elaborate interactive stage set of picturesque slums and their associated smells, to conjure up an illusion of real Victorian life - and misery. It's ignited a familiar debate of entertainment versus education. While critics have attacked the trivialisation of Dickens's legacy, the organisers reply that the writer was a great popular entertainer who would have heartily approved of such a theme park.
The critics say the real Dickens experience is in the books - and trips down fake Victorian sewers won't get people reading. But it is of course ultimately a business proposition, investing 120 million dollars, and predicting 300,000 visitors a year. That shows a lot of confidence in both the pulling power of Dickens and of theme park versions of misery and poverty.
Lawrence Pollard, BBC
a literary brand
giving a flavour of life
to conjure up
ignited a familiar debate
the pulling power