A DICKENS treasure hunt will be one of the attractions at a new festival celebrating the author in Malton this Christmas.

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

Members of the Charles Dickens (Malton) Society are organising the treasure hunt with the aim for children, with the help of their parents, to have fun working out the rhymes and identifying the characters from Dickens.

Linda McCarthy, secretary of the society, said: “The link between Dickens and Malton is based on a close friendship between the two Charles's - Charles Smithson and Charles Dickens. Two very different people who were very fond of each other.

“They had originally met in London while Smithson was doing his articles i.e. training as a solicitor, at the family's London firm of Smithson & Dunn.

“Dickens was particularly grateful for his invitations from the Smithson family to stay at their home and he delighted in the many delights of North Yorkshire especially the open countryside, including the Moors, the Wolds and midnight picnics at Whitby Abbey.

“It would have been a luxury to breath the clean fresh air after the distinctive smells of London - particularly in the summer months.”

Organisers of the Dickens Festival are also appealing to shopkeepers and business owners to get into the Christmas spirit and dress their windows and put on their own Dickensian events during the festival.

Headlining the festival is BAFTA-winning Miriam Margolyes, whose one-woman show Dickens’ Women was nominated for an Olivier award.

Dickens’ great-great-great-granddaughter Lucinda Hawksley will also feature, talking about her ancestor at the Talbot Hotel on December 19 from 2pm.

The novel A Christmas Carol has had a long association with the town, with broadcaster Selina Scott spearheading the campaign in 2012 to return a rare 1844 signed edition of A Christmas Carol to Malton.

The specially-bound edition 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.

The book will be on view throughout the festival, which takes place over the weekends of December 12 and 13 and December 18 and 19. Events will take place at the Counting House, the Milton Rooms, the Talbot Hotel and the Malton Cookery School.

Selina, who is part of the festival team said: “We really want the town to get behind our festival, it would be great if people could dress up to get into the spirit of things, we want this to be an annual event and attract visitors to Malton from far and wide.”

For more information, go to maltondickensianfestival.com