Thousands attend Dickensian Christmas festival in Kent

Dickensian Christmas festival in Rochester
Image caption The Christmas festival has been held in the town since 1988

Up to 30,000 people have braved the icy weather to take part in Rochester's annual Dickensian Christmas festival.

The two-day event has been held in the town, which has strong connections with Charles Dickens, since 1988.

It features bell ringers and people dressed as characters from the author's novels and culminates with a candle-lit procession and carol concert.

Festival organisers said visitors had come from Germany, Belgium, France and Spain.

Verne Sanderson, of Medway Council, said: "It's going very well.

"Out of the 147 coaches booked to come only 24 cancelled. Some of the advertised schedule hasn't gone ahead [because of the weather].

"It's bustling, a nice family event."

The town's Dickens Christmas Market also opened on Saturday.

Although Dickens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, he lived in Medway from 1817 to 1822 and returned to the area for the last 13 years of his life, dying at Gads Hill in 1870.

Restoration House in Rochester was the setting for Satis House in Great Expectations, where Miss Havisham lived.

In May a £100,000 appeal was launched to save a wooden chalet in Rochester where Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations and other works, which has fallen into disrepair.

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