Open Call for Dickens 150




Next year to commemorate 150 years since his death in 1870, Rochester Art Gallery will be hosting our first Print Open Call as part of ‘Dickens 150’. Printmakers are invited to create works on the theme of ‘Dickens, Death & Drood’ for a special exhibition ‘The Last Dream of my Soul’ at the Gallery running from April-June 2020.

Prints will be exhibited alongside beautiful Victorian funerary treasures, mourning dress and Dickens items loaned from the Rochester Guildhall Museum collection and their Dickens expert will also supporting the curation of the exhibition. Taking part is FREE and subject to space we plan to exhibit at least one work by each entrant.


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We are seeking entries in a range of categories as follows;

  • Design and print a new cover for ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood his dark unfinished novel set in a fictional Rochester, the first instalment of which will be reprinted for Dickens 150 as a limited edition using the winning cover image.
  • Death in Dickens life & novels (he killed off 58 people in his many novels)
  • Dickens and the Victorian way of death – prints inspired the many Victorian traditions and superstitions associated with death and mourning
  • Dickens and Medway – Dickens lived in and was inspired by many Medway people and locations. Information on details of places, links and contacts are provided to help inspire you
  • The Open Call also includes a special section for young printmakers under 21 to enter using the same themes and a people’s choice award.
  • Prizes will be awarded for category winners.

As well as Dickens 150, the exhibition will also be a highlight of Medway Print Festival MPF20 & the Summer Dickens Festival 2020.

  • You can email the Gallery Curator Allison Young c/o 
  • Keep up to date on the Rochester Art Gallery facebook page
  • Instagram @rochesterartgallery #deathdickensdrood

This exhibition and Rochester Art Gallery are funded by Medway Council

“I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul”   Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

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Important Dates

  • Open for online entries Friday 1 November 2019
  • Deadline for online submissions Friday 31 Jan 2020
  • Early February shortlisting of works for exhibition and all applicants notified by end Feb 2020
  • New edition of book goes to print with new cover end Feb 20
  • March – time for successful applicants to print & frame works
  • Shortlisted printmakers will be invited to deliver selected work to the gallery w/c 28 March-4 April 2020
  • Install by gallery team on 6 & 7 April
  • Exhibition preview evening and awards 9 April 2020 (6.30pm – 8.30pm)
  • Opens to the public 10 April 2020
  • Closes Sunday 28 June
  • Collection of unsold work from RAG Tue 30 June – Sat 4 July

Who can take part?

  • Applications are open to all
  • Both established and well known or budding new printmakers are welcome to submit works
  • Artists may be from anywhere and do not need to be from Medway
  • Artists under 21 are invited to submit work on the same themes to be considered for our young category prizes, there is no lower age limit

How to take part

  • Printmakers are invited to complete a simple submission form for up to four prints, and (subject to available space) each entrant will be guaranteed to exhibit at least one of the submitted works provided all other guidelines are adhered to.
  • Please click ‘apply now’ and use the online form to submit details of each piece of work (each piece submitted requires its own form) then simply email your image/s to by 23:59 on Friday 31 January 2020
  • Subject to space we plan to exhibit at least one work by each entrant.
  • Each digital image submitted must be saved using the artists name & title of the piece (files no larger than 3MB please) and accompanied by an entry form
  • If successful, you will be notified by email and asked to deliver your artwork to: Rochester Art Gallery, Medway Visitor Centre, 95 High Street, Rochester Kent ME1 1LX on w/c 28 March-4 April 2020.
  • You are welcome to submit work by post if you are based anywhere in the UK. However, please note that any additional return postage costs incurred will need to be covered by the artist.

What kind of printmaking is eligible?

  • The themes can be interpreted broadly, we are keen to display work in a range of print mediums and styles exploring Dickens work, life and death.
  • If you plan to design and print a new cover for ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ his dark unfinished novel set in a fictional Rochester, for entries to be considered for the cover they must be in an A4 or A3 portrait format
  • All forms of original printmaking are eligible.
  • All 2D and 3D artwork submissions must explore at least one or more printmaking technique, and all work accepted must be ready to hang/display on submission.
  • We welcome printed textiles, ceramics and other 3D work as well as 2D printed pieces of all sizes.
  • There are no size restriction on works, if you have ideas for a particularly large or unusual piece please contact us to discuss this.


  • We prefer all 2D work submitted to be framed if possible and other non-framed/3-D works must be well presented and display ready
  • In keeping with the theme please can any framed work be presented in BLACK frames of any style (affordable shop bought standard frames are acceptable).
  • For security the gallery will mirror plate all framed works so frames MUST be wide enough to screw a mirror plate into, ideally at least 1cm wide, we request you do not supply frames pre-mirror-plated.

Money and sales

  • It is FREE to take part, there is no fee to submit work.
  • All gallery displayed work can be made available for sale, the gallery take 30% commission on sales. (Proceeds from sales at this exhibition will be donated to the Dickens Chalet Restoration Fund at Eastgate House)
  • Work does not have to be for sale
  • If an artwork is selected for gallery display, you will then be able to submit additional prints or cards for display in the gallery browsers/or to be available on request from the main desk, which will also be subject to commission.
  • All works on display will be insured by the gallery. However the gallery is an uninvigilated space, so artists submit work at their own risk.

The Competition

As well as the opportunity to exhibit and sell your work there will also be prizes awarded for winners in each of five categories:

  • A new cover for ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  • Death in Dickens life & novels
  • Dickens and the Victorian way of death
  • Dickens and Medway
  • Young printmakers under 21 category (using any of the above themes).

We are delighted to be working with Wordsworth Press who will be reprinting 1000 copies of the first instalment of ‘Drood’ featuring the winning cover artwork in a replica format edition.

Watch this space for details of the prizes and the confirmed judging panel coming soon.

In addition to the awards listed above, there will also be a People’s Choice award which will be voted for by visitors to the exhibition. The recipient of this award will be announced at the end of the exhibition.

The exhibition will be a highlight of three special Medway celebrations in 2020:

  • Dickens 150 – A special commemoration throughout 2020 of Dicken’s death 150 years ago in June 1870
  • Medway Print Festival MPF20 – 6 > 21 June 2020 now in its 5th year, last year’s festival included over 50 events in 16 venues
  • Rochester Dickens Festival – this year the festival runs a week later to coincide with the anniversary of Dicken’s death. It will run for 5 days from 10 June with the main high street festivities taking place as usual on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June 2020. Medway’s popular annual celebration of all things Dickensian has been running for over 40 years.

Useful links and contacts

Our partnership with The Guildhall Museum

  • The Gallery are delighted to again be joining forces with the Guildhall Museum who will be launching their new Dickens Room in Spring 2020.
  • The Museum Education Officer Dr Jeremy Clarke is a specialist in Dickens and will be supporting the curation of this exhibition.
  • The Museum have recently acquired a first edition of ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ original part works and are kindly loaning objects from their Victorian collections and notably historic funerary objects for this exhibition.
  • The Museum welcomes printmakers to contact them if they are interested to view any items from the collection to inspire their work.

Medway enjoys a long association with Charles Dickens and you can still experience many of the places that inspired locations and characters in his novels including;

  • Eastgate House and Dickens Swiss Chalet
  • Rochester Cathedral
  • The Guildhall Museum
  • Rochester Castle
  • Restoration House
  • The Six Poor Travellers House
  • Minor Canon Row
  • The Corn Exchange
  • Topes House
  • College or Jaspers Gate
  • The Bull Inn
  • The Vines
  • Chatham Dockyard
  • 2 Ordnance Terrace, Chatham
  • Chatham Station
  • Cooling Church
  • Gads Hill Place near Rochester

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download open call A4 poster


Rochester Art Gallery is situated on the ground floor of Medway Visitor information Centre, 95 High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1LX. Opening times: Mon – Sat 10.00am – 5pm, Sun 10.30-5pm, except during special events. The Gallery is fully wheelchair accessible.

  1. Medway Council charges sales commission at 30% on any sales resulting from the exhibition. VAT will be added to the commission at the government rate. This also includes postcards, books and merchandise sold through the Gallery and Visitor Information Centre. Any sales will be handled through the venue.
  2. The Artist is to provide the final Retail Price for each item along with details of the work including title, media, dimensions, year and any other credits by end of March 20.  This form will be used for labelling information and is also used to inform insurance valuations.
  3. Medway Council (Rochester Art Gallery) will arrange Risk Insurance cover for the exhibits whilst on display in the Gallery
  4. In the case of wall-mounted works the use of mirror-plates or equivalent secure methods of installation is essential otherwise the works will not be insured, the gallery will supply and fit these.
  5. The Artist must undertake to present artwork for display to a high standard in black frames. In the case of 3D work, the Artist must provide other means or instruction by which the work can be displayed securely, otherwise it cannot be insured. Should there be any problems please contact the Curator who will be happy to discuss this.
  6. For ease of re-packing all artwork should be appropriately wrapped in re-useable labelled jiffy bags or cardboard sleeves featuring the artists name and the title of the work.  The work is unwrapped by the Gallery and any marks noted on its condition.
  7. Each piece submitted must be clearly labelled on the reverse with the artists name and the tile of the work
  8. No item shall be removed from the exhibition, by the exhibitor, except by prior written agreement.
  9. Exhibitions are expected to remain open for the full gallery opening hours between and inclusive of the dates outlined.  Medway Council is responsible for the control of the Gallery and retains the right to refuse any application for its use, or to close an exhibition to the public where necessary.
  10. No appeal for funds for any charity may be made and material of a party political or religious nature is excluded. All artwork must be suitable for a family audience.
  11. The Artist agrees to work being professionally photographed or filmed and credited images shared in print and online in advance of and during the exhibition period to promote the Artist, the exhibition and Rochester Art Gallery.
  12. The Council is under no obligation to reimburse any expenses incurred by the Artist in connection with the services provided by such Artist in any term, unless the same shall have been agreed in writing between the Artist and the Council, prior to the term in question.
  13. The Artist agrees to support promotion of the exhibition and circulate information and publicity material to their contacts and via social media using the recommended hashtags.
  14. The Artist and their guests are invited to attend the exhibition opening reception at Rochester Art Gallery on Thursday 9 April 2020 – this evening is open to all, no RSVPs or names are needed. Free refreshments will be served.

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