'A City Scrooge' with Simon Callow

Monday 17th December 2018

The final event of my Livery Company programme for 2018 was 'A City Scrooge' at Mansion House, an event organised in aid of The Lord Mayor's Appeal. The Dickensian theme was evident from the moment that we arrived with Scrooge's refreshments, water and dry cheese biscuits. As the Lord Mayor's guests mingled, there were stands around the Salon selling an array of Dickensian merchandise as well as the Lord Mayor's Christmas chocolates and his special edition whisky! There were raffle tickets too for some pretty impressive prizes; my eye was on the Sleepy Scrooge hat.

Whilst the distractions of the Salon were fun, the centrepiece of the evening was Simon Callow, the actor, author and director. To a packed out Egyptian Hall, Simon provided a fascinating tour of the life of young Charles Dickens. The poverty that he and his family suffered first hand before he rose to prominence informed much of his work and none more so than 'A Christmas Carol'. This masterpiece was first published in 1843 when Dickens was just 31 and already successful having published the Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Barnaby Rudge to name but a few. Interestingly, the public never learnt of the Dickens' family penury until long after Charles's death.

Excerpts from 'A Christmas Carol' were recited and read in the most wonderful way by Simon Callow interspersed with sharp observation and commentary. The characters, particularly that of Scrooge himself, were brought to life as we were swept through the story's path. Simon Callow's mastery of his subject and delivery was so great that his performance was one of the quickest hours of my life. The audience would have encouraged him to go on and on were it not for the intervention of the Lord Mayor who brought proceedings to an end before his invitation to the reception that followed, one much more in keeping with the generous soul that Scrooge became.

Returning to the Salon the assembled crowd enjoyed a welcome drink and some food before the raffle was called by Mark Dickens, a great-great-grandson of Charles himself. We learned from Mark that he was not the only descendant in the room that evening and that, in fact, there were ten in total. The game then was to discover who they all were.

It was a truly memorable evening, a great way to raise money for The Lord Mayor's Appeal and a fun event to precede Christmas! 'And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!'