When Brunswick Arts Council president Jeanette Serens shared her idea to hold a local Charles Dickens festival with member Sue MacCallum last year, MacCallum felt a sudden charge of energy.
That is because, MacCallum said, Dickens is in her DNA.“It was like a light bulb went off inside me,” she recalled. “This is in me.”
MacCallum, who has become co-chairman of the council’s Charles Dickens Christmas Festival, has a connection to the beloved author, and to his homeland of England, that spans generations.
The premier event, organized in cooperation with the City of Southport, Brunswick County Schools and area venues, churches and organizations, celebrates the 200th birthday of the beloved English author on Friday, November 30, and Saturday, December 1.
The two-day celebration in downtown Southport will feature a variety of family-friendly activities in a number of local venues, including a kick-off parade, a Christmas tree lighting, band and choir concerts, costume contests, literary readings and theater performances.
Southport itself will be turned into a Victorian-era village complete with actors and volunteers in period costume, carolers and street performers.
The momentum for the festivities began about a year ago when Serens began brainstorming about ways to raise funds to support the Brunswick Arts Council’s mission.
Founded in 1981, the non-profit organization relies on public funding and private donations to help support visual and performing arts countywide, including the schools. The council annually gives scholarships and grants in an effort to fulfill its mission to advocate for the arts and provide residents and visitors with high-quality education, programs and performances.
In her research, Serens read about a Dickens festival in another state. She mentioned it to MacCallum, and the idea quickly began taking shape.
“I couldn’t sleep that night; I was so excited,” MacCallum said. “All this inspiration sort of downloaded into me. … I was able to draw on my training and experience.”
Soon the council had partnered with the City of Southport and the county school district to begin organizing the event.
And for a traditional holiday festival, MacCallum and festival publicity director Bonnie Laserna believe Charles Dickens is the ideal figure.
“A Christmas Carol,” they added, sends the perfect message.
“It exemplifies every stereotype of the time period; it’s even applicable today,” Laserna said of the novella.
Written in 1843, “A Christmas Carol,” seen by many critics as an indictment of industrial capitalists, also served to restore a sense of holiday spirit.
“A lot of the (secular) traditions celebrated today were made popular by Dickens,” MacCallum noted.
Dickens’ compassion for the poor and charitable nature—integral themes in “A Christmas Carol”—have not been lost on the Brunswick Arts Council.
“This is our gift to the community,” MacCallum said. “It’s a gift in honor of a famous philanthropist.”
The Brunswick Arts Council has its own history of charity. The Charles Dickens Christmas Festival, MacCallum said, is just another way the council can give back.
“Proceeds from this go back to the community, towards arts in education and arts organization,” she said. “That’s why we’re doing this.”
But the council is using the Dickens festival to help out the community in other ways as well. Throughout the two-day event, the arts council will set up collection sites for canned-food items to benefit Brunswick Family Assistance, which provides emergency food, clothing and transportation to low-income families. The arts council will also be asking for donations of clothing and toiletries for the Coalition for the Homeless and used books for the Brunswick County Literacy Council.
The first Charles Dickens Christmas Festival is set for 1 to 9 p.m. on Friday, November 30, and Saturday, December 1, in downtown Southport.
Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children seven through 12; admission covers both days of the festival. Children six years of age and younger are admitted free of charge.
Tickets are on sale now through the Brunswick Arts Council or may be purchased at the event. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.brunswickartscouncil.org.
Article from State Port Pilot
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