Since 1991, the weekend before Christmas sees the beautiful, historic city of Deventer revert back to the 19th Century to host the two-day Dickens Festival.
This is something I’ve had on my calendar since I knew I was moving to the Netherlands and it did not disappoint.
Deventer is a lovely little city; I actually stayed there in the summer before I moved to the Netherlands and whilst I liked it a lot, it was just too small for me to consider living in and it isn’t as well-connected as Zwolle is to where I work and to the airport.
I loved wandering the cobbled streets of the stunning Bergkwartier though, which already looks like something out of a Dickens novel, so it was no surprise to see it so easily converted into the perfect backdrop for the festival.
Around 950 volunteers dress up to bring the characters from Charles Dickens’s books to life and approximately 120.000 visitors attend the free festival over the weekend. The website does warn you that queuing times can reach 60-90 minutes but I got to Deventer 15 minutes before the festival opened and queued for about 25 minutes (so only 10 minutes after the official opening time). It is a queue like no other though, with characters coming and going, live music and more.
Some of my highlights included seeing the kids from Oliver Twist sing for their supper in the streets, Ebenezer being haunted by the Ghosts of Christmas and Queen Victoria present medals to returned soldiers.
The narrow streets were packed full of street vendors (with all staff in character too) selling chestnuts, mulled wine and more; all the perfect smells of Christmas. And every now and then the crowds had to jump out of the way to allow men on penny farthings to pass, or the shepherd to herd his sheep, or a shipping company to move their load.
I sang carols, watched a circus act, saw a heated interaction between some peasants and their wealthy landowners and so much more. It really was wonderful. Take a look for yourself…
I spent nearly two hours at the festival but it could easily have been more (it was such a freezing cold day that I just didn’t want to be outside for much longer). The attention to detail was brilliant and the commitment to character from the volunteers was incredible. A really excellent event and I will definitely go again.
Let me know if you’ve ever been to the Dickens Festival or what you’d love to see from the novels if you did go.