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Learning English - Words in the News
25 May, 2007 - Published 13:33 GMT
Dickens World
The Great Expectations boat ride at Dickens World

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:

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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

Listen to the words

associated with
connected with (in people's minds)

a literary brand
a well known writer whose unique work can be used for commercial purposes

giving a flavour of life
letting people experience, but not for a long time, what it was like to live

main attraction

to conjure up
to cause to appear as if by magic

ignited a familiar debate
renewed a discussion that has already taken place before

making seem not very important

something done by a predecessor that continues to exist

sincerely and enthusiastically

the pulling power
the appeal

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