Orwell visited Wigan in 1936, producing a classic piece of journalism
London - Tom Rollins
The George Orwell Prize, Britain’s most prestigious award for political writing, is returning to the writer’s former patch to educate local schoolchildren about journalism.George Orwell first visited
Wigan, a former mining town in Lancashire, in January 1936 to produce a report on industrial living conditions and poverty for the Left Book Club and then publisher Victor Gollancz.
The end result, The Road To Wigan Pier, became a classic piece of social documentarian journalism, eventually affirming Orwell’s position as one of the 20th-century’s greatest political writers.
In more recent years, Wigan has suffered from a decline in British industry and soaring levels of unemployment.
This week the Orwell Prize, which each year awards prizes to books and articles which best represent Orwell’s own desire “to make political writing into an art,” is visiting the Sunshine House, a community centre in Wigan, to run workshops with local teens.
Writers including Rosie Boycott, Stephen Armstrong and Paul Anderson will speak on topics such as Orwellian writing in 2013, the history of journalism and making a living out of writing.
Over four days the writers and organisations will work with over 100 children from at least nine schools around Wigan.
A pilot for the scheme was set up last year by Stephen Armstrong, author of The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited, and Barbara Nettleton, Director of Sunshine House.
“The pioneering work of this community centre being run just a few yards from where Orwell stayed seemed like a sign that something should be done to help,” Armstrong said. “The Orwell Prize has taken a well meaning one-off and is building it into a real legacy.”
English PEN, a group which defends and promotes freedom of expression through writing, is supporting the scheme by sending young adult writer John Hegley and Avaes Mohammad to Wigan.
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN and an Orwell Prize judge, said: “Orwell did for Wigan what PEN hopes all writers can do for their subjects he wrote freely and used his words to change the world.”