The British Council plans to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens with events across the country

The British Council had a significant presence at this year's Jaipur Literature Festival (it has been supporting the fest since 2006). This year it had writers, playwrights and journalists, some of the notable ones being Tom Stoppard, David Hare, Ben Okri, Philip Marsden, and Tim Butcher.

Speaking at the festival, Charlie Walker, Counsellor(Cultural Affairs), said it was an opportunity to showcase British writing in India and create connections and build bridges with the country.

The British Council was committed to fostering a reading culture across the world. There are almost 60,000 members of the British Council in India. He said there were big plans for showcasing British literature through widespread programmes and collaborations. “This year is special as it marks 200 years of Charles Dickens. There are going to be film shows, writing competitions, readings and a host of other activities related to Dickens,” said Walker. The Dickens special is in collaboration with Penguin.

Dickens highlighted social injustice in his novels. Writing can do that, it can work as a catalyst to evoke change in society, said Walker. The British Council has planned events across India, wherever it has its presence, to commemorate one of the greatest 19th Century novelists. As part of the programme, author Craig Taylor will tour major centres and speak of a writer's relationship with a city. Special reading rooms will be set up (like it was at the Jaipur Lit Fest) at book fairs and at the British Council libraries, giving people access to the Best of Dickens. Contemporary Indian authors will write on Dickens and his relevance today. And there will be a national writing competition for 16- 21 year olds.

A travelling film festival in collaboration with Film London will also do the rounds. It will be the largest retrospective of 20 films and TV works based on or inspired by Charles Dickens. Called Dickens 2012, the celebrations are coordinated by the Charles Dickens Museum and Film London in association with the Dickens Fellowship. For details log on to www.britishcouncil.org. in