NSWDS President at Buckingham Palace Reception

Catherine Barker, NSW Dickens Society President Reports on the Buckingham Place Reception for the Dickens Bicentenary 14.2.12

It was a great privilege to be invited to represent the NSW Dickens Society at a reception hosted by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Place in honour of the Dickens Bicentenary. There were a total of just seven delegates from Commonwealth countries; two from Australia, one from New Zealand and four from Canada.

The Dickens Fellowship in London had kindly arranged for us to meet for tea at the prestigious Reform Club in Pall Mall before we made our way to the Palace for the evening reception.

Catherine Barker (centre) at the Reform Club taking tea with other Commonwealth country delegates

When we were presented to the Queen I showed her a photograph of the Dickens statue in Sydney, explaining that it is unique in being the only one in the British Commonwealth. I was also presented to the Duke of Edinburgh before meeting the Duke of Kent as well as the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

As the event was being held under the auspices of the Royal Theatrical Fund many of our fellow guests were actors who had been involved in Dickensian roles. Some of those I met included Helena Bonham-Carter, Matthew Macfadyen, Charles Dance, Tom Courtenay, Rowan Atkinson and Claire Foy. I also talked with Simon Callow and Gerald Dickens and asked both to consider bringing their one-man Dickens shows to Australia.

During the reception we were able to view a number of tables in the Picture Gallery and the Blue Drawing Room with displays of items from the Royal Collection. These included Charles Dickens and Theatre, Dickensian London, and Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens.

During my three day visit I was also able to take advantage of viewing some of the many Dickensian exhibitions currently on view in London. The National Portrait Gallery, the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the University of London’s Senate House Library and the Museum of London all featured various aspects of Dickens’ life and works. Every bookshop I entered had a display of Dickensian related books and I counted at least ten new titles which had been published for the Bicentenary.

The entire experience was a wonderful opportunity to meet members of the Royal Family on a personal basis, people from literary and dramatic fields as well as other Dickens Fellowship members from England and the Commonwealth and to acquaint them with the activities of the NSW Dickens Society.

Catherine Barker, NSW Dickens Society President is welcomed by the Queen.

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