CoolTan Arts, a charity based in Elephant and Castle, which believes mental well-being is enhanced by the power of creativity, has been working on a Dickens project throughout the year (celebrating his bicentenary!), including a Dickens-inspired fashion show, poetry, walks, and the creation of a Dickens Newspaper . Please see below an invitation to one of their events, and a short piece of writing on the character of Barnaby Rudge, by Zoe, one of their participants.
Picture: HULTON-DEUTSCH COLLECTION
We are delighted to invite you to the third exhibition in our Dickens News series – ‘The Ragshow Edition’, which celebrates the life and work of Charles Dickens, with a contemporary creative twist and social comment to boot!
The exhibition runs from the 1st Feb 2013 to the 13th Feb 2013 at Morley Gallery, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7HT. You are invited to join CoolTan and Maggi Hambling at the private view on February 7th from 6-8pm, and celebrate Dickens 201st birthday!
The Ragshow exhibition showcases both the textile and visual art work of CoolTan Arts Artists. Textile and batik pieces explore and contemporise Dickens characters, from Miss Havisham & Nancy, and will look at all levels of Victorian dress. Also showing are a plethora of prints, drawings, paintings and written work examinng Dickens’ life and work and his connection to Southwark. A special private view on February 7th 6-8pm will be opened by artist Maggi Hambling. Guests will get the chance to view the artworks, see Dickens characters perfom and hear readings and poems. Dickens News souvenirs will be on sale, with etchings, prints, hand printed Greetings cards, tea-towels and bags available.
A fantastic half-crazed youth
Dickens is interested in society in its totality; he does not shirk away from considering the plight of those who suffer mental distress.
If the Victorians were to speak of a ‘village idiot’, then we might conjure up the image of one beset by stupidity and incompetencies. Yet Dickens’ character Barnaby Rudge is usually portrayed as carefree, roaming the countryside with his pet raven, Grip, by his side and has the competency to be a go-between and deliver messages. An almost romantic figure who articulates his delights in wandering.
‘We have been afield, mother – leaping ditches, scrambling through hedges, running down steep banks, up and away, and hurrying on. The wind has been lowing, and the rushes and young plants bowing and bending to it, lest it should do them harm, the cowards – and Grip – ha ha ha! – brave Grip, has quarrelled with every little bowing twig – thinking, he told me, that it mocked him – and has worried it like a bull – dog. Ha ha ha!’
Barnaby’s madness may be depict as challenging behaviour, sometimes excitable or distressed, anxious that he has displeased his widowed mother, his protector, and unaware of impending dangers.
Barnaby is presented as optimistic and hopeful, if a little unknowing in nature. He is not someone to ridicule, but be respected and maybe pitied. Dickens writes in the novel that, ‘It is something to look upon enjoyment, so that it be free and wild and in the face of nature, though it is but the enjoyment of an idiot.’
Dickens furthers this argument by challenging those who seek the right to punish harshly, and who may perversely enjoy the sufferings of others. ’Who would not rather see a poor idiot happy in the sunlight, that a wise man pining in a darkened room.’