A charity founded by Charles Dickens has launched a competition to find the colourful characters of today who could have inspired one of the beloved author’s larger-than-life creations.
Dickens – a former political reporter – was among the founders of the Journalists’ Charity in 1864, to help others of his trade who had fallen on hard times.
To mark 150 years since the death of the Great Expectations author, the charity has tasked writers with penning a portrait of a modern-day Dickens character.
In only 300 words and using Dickens’s typically colourful style, entrants are asked bring to life a contemporary figure to stand alongside the likes of miser Ebenezer Scrooge, spinster Miss Havisham and the unscrupulous thief Fagin.
The subject of the portrait can be anyone, including a politician, celebrity or everyday hero stepping up in the fight against coronavirus.
The competition, launched by the Journalists’ Charity with the support of the Dickens Fellowship, is open to all and free to enter, although organisers have encouraged entrants and supporters to donate to the charity.
Funds will go towards helping journalists in need at a time when many in the industry are facing hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The winning entry will be brought to life in a unique illustration by Fleet Street veteran cartoonist Stanley McMurtry, also known as Mac.
Ian Dickens, president of the Dickens Fellowship and the author’s great-great-grandson, will be on the judging panel alongside members of the charity’s board.
Mr Dickens said: “This is such a wonderful competition, full of rich potential and modern-day relevance. The joy of Dickens is the range of characters that inhabit every page.
“Drawn from acute observation of those he knew and those he chanced upon, they connect with the reader because we all recognise elements within them. And such rich pickings continue to place themselves firmly in front of us every day, if we bother to stop, listen and imagine. I can’t wait to meet them. “
Ramsay Smith, chairman of the Journalists’ Charity, said: “Journalists the world over are doing a brilliant job reporting the coronavirus pandemic but the reality is that many, particularly freelance journalists, are facing an extremely challenging time.
“This competition provides a great opportunity for people – journalists and non-journalists alike – to put their creative skills to work in these strange times. We hope everyone who holds the works of Dickens dear will take part.”
Also on the judging panel are Professor Malcolm Andrews, editor of The Dickensian and Professor Jenny Hartley, editor of The Selected Letters Of Charles Dickens.
Entries must be received by 5pm on June 9 2020, the 150th anniversary of the author’s death.
Entries can be submitted online before the deadline to Dickens@journalistscharity.org.uk or by mail to Dickens House, 35 Wathen Road, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 1JY.
Full rules and examples can be found at journalistscharity.org.uk