A DESCENDANT of the great Victorian novelist Charles Dickens visited a North-East theatre to celebrate a touring production of Great Expectations.

Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, the great, great, great-granddaughter of the esteemed writer, gave a unique insight into Dickens’ life with her speech delivered at Darlington Civic Theatre.

Pupils from Hartlepool’s Manor College were among the dozens in the audience who enjoyed the event before today’s (October 18) matinee performance of Great Expectations which runs at the theatre until Saturday.

Ms Hawskley, a writer herself who specialises in Pre-Raphaelite art, is visiting most of the theatres included in the show’s six-theatre tour and she said: “I am passionate about education so when I was asked to do this I thought it was a wonderful idea.

“I think it is brilliant that people are paying so much attention to Dickens this year.

“I think his work is so enduring because of the fact that he wrote from the heart, he wrote about real human conditions and it was relevant in Victorian times when he wrote it and it is still relevant today.

“He was just such a brilliant observer of the human mind.”

Lyndsey Middleton, of Darlington Theatre, said Ms Hawksley’s appearance and a planned open morning on Saturday are part of a drive to encourage more people into the theatre.

She said: “It is a great thing to have a relative of the great Dickens in the theatre.

“She (Ms Hawksley) related his work to modern day reading and really allowed the children to understand the characters, how they related to his life and where he got his inspiration from.

“It was fantastic.”

February 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth and a host of special events have been taking place across the country throughout the year to celebrate his life and works.