A new festival celebrating Charles Dickens launches in Malton this Christmas.

The inaugural Dickensian Festival has been announced for the North Yorkshire market town featuring Dickens-inspired events, including carol singing, Dickensian-themed walks, horse and carriage rides, food stalls, street theatre, and lectures.

Headlining the festival is BAFTA winning Miriam Margolyes, whose one-woman show Dickens’ Women was nominated for an Olivier award. The veteran of stage and screen featured in Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, Ladies in Lavender, and played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter movies.

Miriam Margolyes said: “I am delighted to support this new Yorkshire Festival. I fell in love with Dickens at school and would like to appeal to children, young people and adults alike to come and enjoy the spirit of ‘A Christmas Carol’. Dickens is the best. Once you’re hooked by his words, his books will enrich you over a lifetime. It’s going to be enormous fun.”

The festival is being organised by Clair Challenor-Chadwick, managing director of Cause UK, who established the Dickens Gift to Yorkshire charity with broadcaster Selina Scott, and others.

Clair said: “The festival is part of our overall work to reclaim Yorkshire’s literary heritage and celebrate the remarkable connection Dickens had to Malton.”

Dickens most famous book A Christmas Carol has had a long association with the town.

Selina Scott spearheaded the campaign in 2012 to return a rare 1844 signed edition of A Christmas Carol to Malton. The specially bound edition of a Christmas Carol was commissioned by Charles Dickens for the widow of his great friend, lawyer Charles Smithson. It is said that Dickens was inspired to base Scrooge’s famous Counting House on Smithson’s Counting House in Malton, now a Dickensian museum and visitor attraction.

Clair said: “The message of the book around caring for those less fortunate at Christmas is a beautiful one to spread during the festive season. We hope this Festival is the first of many to help attract tourists from far and wide to help bolster the Ryedale economy during the winter. Malton is a truly magical setting for the old fashioned romance of Christmas.”

The book will be on view in the town throughout the festival.

The Festival will take place during the weekends of 12-13 December and 18-19 December. Events will take place at The Counting House, The Milton Rooms, The Talbot Hotel and the Cookery School.

Professor Michael Slater, one of the world’s leading experts on Charles Dickens, will give a special Christmas lecture on ‘A Christmas Carol’ on 18 December from 5pm at The Milton Rooms. Professor Slater published an acclaimed biography of Dickens in 2009. Broadcaster Selina Scott will then introduce Miriam Margolyes to the stage to deliver a special monologue performance.

Dickens' great, great, great granddaughter, Lucinda Hawksley will also feature, talking about her ancestor at The Talbot Hotel on 19 December from 2pm. An author in her own right, Lucinda's books include biographies of the artists Lizzie Siddal, Princess Louise and Katey Dickens Perugini; she also lectures regularly at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Sarah Oswald, Projects Director at PLB Ltd, one of the festival sponsors, said:"One of our most memorable projects over recent years has been the interpretive work we carried out at the Charles Dickens Museum in London, bringing his former home of 48 Doughty Street back to life and into the lives of the general public. He was such an inspirational writer and we are very proud to be connected to him both through our work, and our location in Malton. It is with great pleasure that we are able to support the Charles Dickens festival in Malton, and hope it is the first of many."

Organisers are appealing to shop keepers and business owners to get into the Christmas Carol spirit and dress their windows and put on their own Dickensian events during the festival.

For more information and announcements go to www.maltondickensianfestival.com