A NEW festival celebrating Charles Dickens was launched in Malton at the weekend.

The Dickensian Festival featured Dickens-inspired events, including carol singing, themed walks, horse-and-carriage rides, street theatre and an expanded monthly food market.

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

Clair said: “The festival went very well and we had the ‘Simply Spiffing’ theatre team Malton to perform. We are now looking forward to the second part of the festival with visits by Miriam Margoyles,

The festival continues this weekend with events will take place at the Counting House, the Milton Rooms, the Talbot Hotel and the Malton Cookery School.

There will be also be a free choir performance from 5pm to 6pm on Friday, at The Milton Rooms, courtesy of the Malton District Male Voice Choirs and Harmonia. The choirs will sing traditional carols and will also perform the specially commissioned Song for Malton.

Brian Oxberry, from the Charles Dickens (Malton) Society, who will be performing A Christmas Carol at The Counting House Museum on Saturday at 11am, said the festival was creating a lot of interest.

"It was a pity Saturday was such a washout for everyone, but the rain couldn't dampen the enthusiasm and spirit of those taking part. We hope for dryer weather next weekend," he said.

"We had a visit to our museum of the cast of 'A Christmas Carol' at York Guildhall. They were excited to be appearing in, according to Dickens, Scrooge's actual office. It was a delightful little visit though enjoyed by us all."