On Dickens World and Historical Theme Parks (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

When I started publishing, I learned about all sorts of rights and contract terms I’d never thought about before.

Of these, the most unexpected was “theme park rights.” People negotiate those rights just in case, but most books will never become the basis for theme parks.

One author whose visions have made this rare leap is Charles Dickens. Dickens World, an attraction in Kent in England, “takes visitors back in time to the Victorian England that Charles Dickens knew and wrote about.” Apparently it is an interactive guided tour led by professional actors through a neighborhood from the Victorian Era.

Anyone who’s actually read Charles Dickens might hesitate at first to connect his world with any place that a family might want to visit voluntarily. Poisonous fogs, starving orphans, workhouses, debtor’s prison ... what’s the attraction?

But while some theme parks aim to transport you to an ideal world that’s more fabulous than your regular life, others just aim to transport you anywhere that’s different. A theme park is a three-dimensional escape: the chance to go on safari, or recreate part of history, or visit a world that never was. It's a vacation from ordinary life.

Most history-based exhibits remind us how small the lodgings were, how many years people lived without central heat or air conditioning (not to mention indoor plumbing), and how long it took to make a table or a blanket by hand. History looks gorgeous in period pieces on TV, but immersive exhibits remind us of the smells, the heat, the hard work.

The chance to experience another time with all five senses has its own appeal. Sometimes you want to know another place or time—whether perfect or not, it will at least be interesting. It’s a visit to another world—like reading, but live. And at the end, you can safely return to your own world.


  1. This is so interesting! I've never noticed the "Theme Park Rights." I'd be curious to see this Charles Dickens park. Would Miss Havisham be jumping out of a corner? Or maybe there's an Estella walking around trying to humiliate you? Fascinating.

    1. Apparently the tour guides are different Dickens characters: Tiny Tim, for example!

  2. Now, I just might go to a Dickens park. Seriously.

    1. This one has gotten pretty good visitor reviews. So, the next time you're in Kent, England ...


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