In honor of the famous statue of novelist Charles Dickens that has graced  Clark Park since 1901, the Friends of Clark Park is hosting a birthday bash to honor the author. The annual Charles Dickens Birthday Party is one of West Philadelphia’s most unique and entertaining events. This year, we’ll celebrate the novelist’s 202nd birthday with dramatic readings, music, and tasty treats. The party will commence at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 2, in Griffith Hall of the University of the Sciences, 43rd and Kingsessing, across the street from Clark Park. Admission is free.

Curio Theatre’s Josh Hitchens will perform scenes from Hard Times. Actors Ceil Mann and Larry Beck will read selections from David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby, and local writer and Dickens ambassador Edward G. Pettit will treat the audience to a Dickens ghost story. They’ll be joined on stage by guest readers from the community with selections from Great Expectations and other novels. The program will conclude with a performance by the Kingsessing Morris Men, prize winners at the 2014 Mummers Parade, who will offer a sampling of English morris dancing. The festivities will end with the traditional walk to the Dickens statue where we will all sing “Happy Birthday!”

Dickens was a literary superstar when the neighborhoods of West Philadelphia were developed with new housing, schools, and parks. The bronze Dickens was installed in ClarkPark in 1901 and for over a century it was the only Dickens statue in the world, due to the novelist’s request that no memorials or statues were to be erected in his honor. West Philadelphians meet annually on or near his birthday to commemorate the statue’s special role in their neighborhood’s history and in literary history.

Everyone is invited to attend—but please come early. The program begins at 2 p.m. sharp and concludes about an hour and a half later.

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