Closure of the Charles Dickens museum

As you may be aware, the controversial decision has been made to close the Charles Dickens Museum in London for most of the Dickens bicentenary year. I have received many queries about this and I would like to clarify that I took no part at all in this ludicrous decision, nor was I told about it until very recently. I have tried to persuade the director and trustees to re-arrange the renovations work for 2013 instead, but it has fallen on deaf ears.

I have not been given a truthful reason for the closure, despite having asked for one several times. I was told that the museum was being “forced” to close by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), I was told the HLF funds would run out at the end of 2012, so there was no chance to delay the building work. Unfortunately, I have since found out that this is completely untrue. The HLF, who have generously agreed to give the museum two very large grants and a loan, ?é told me that they have never insisted on the closure this year. They also said that they suggested to the museum that 2013 would be a far preferable year in which to close. This has been ignored by the museum and I have not been given any genuine explanation for why the decision to close in 2012 was made. The HLF stated to me uncategorically: “The decision to close in the bicentenary year came from the museum itself, not from us”.

The museum will be closed from 10 April until 1 December (if the building work goes to plan of course. Let’s hope they have booked reliable builders, encounter no structural problems and that we don’t have a wet summer!). I am so very sorry for any Dickens fans who have specially planned to visit London in his bicentenary year. Unfortunately, the museum will be closed all through the Olympics and the International Dickens Fellowship Conference.

I have had several emails from people very upset about the closure as they have donated money to the museum’s renovations fund and now won’t be able to visit the museum during their trip to England in 2012. To those people, I can only apologise and say that I have tried to get the museum’s management to listen to people’s concerns and to postpone the renovations. They refuse to respond. I can do nothing about the donations, sadly, but please feel free to take up your grievance with the museum. Thank you.