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The Discover Gravesham Festival 2012 launched at Gad’s Hill on Monday to mark this year’s celebration of the Dickens Bicentenary.

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Novelist Charles Dickens lived at Gad’s Hill in Higham from 1858 until he died in 1870 and this year, 200 hundred years after his birth, the festival will be dedicated to him.

Special Dickensian-themed events will be held throughout May to commemorate his life including a walk through the countryside that inspired the famous author, an art exhibition, guided tours through villages that formed part of Dickens’ life and visits to his former house, Gad’s Hill Place. Another popular event that has already had a number of bookings is the tour of Gravesend Cemetery in Old Road West which will highlight some of the people who have literary connections in the cemetery.

There will also be a guided stroll in the footsteps of Dickens from the Ship and Lobster in Mark Lane, which the novelist immortalised as The Ship in Great Expectations.

Gravesham deputy mayor Cllr Lyn Milner made a speech at the launch to thank those who had organised the festival events.

She said: “Each year we welcome thousands of visitors to the festival events and this is a very special year. We have a great deal to offer with the Dickens bicentenary which provides the cornerstone of many of the festival events.”

Gad’s Hill Place will be opened as part of the festival on Sundays May 20 and 27 for guided tours by experts from The Dickens Fellowship, and then will close again until July 25 when it will reopen as a museum. Tickets cost £12 and will go on sale soon. To book, please email events@dickensmuseum.com in advance.

Discover Gravesham kicks off on Tuesday May 1 and will continue until Thursday May 31. For the full festival programme visit www.gogravesham.co.uk/events.

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