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Orwell statue unveiled at BBC HQ

7 November 2017

A statue of Eric Blair, pen name George Orwell, whose archive is kept at UCL, will be unveiled at BBC HQ today.

George Orwell 1945

Orwell worked at BBC between 1941 and 1943 as an Assistant Talks Producer and was scornful of institutions in general.

His time at the BBC, however, became inextricably linked to his writing practice: the office he occupied for most of his time there inspired the desk space of Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Minitrue (the novel’s ministry of propaganda). While working there he also formed a relationship with William Empson the literary critic and penned Animal Farm on the side.

UCL is home to the George Orwell Archive, the most comprehensive body of research material relating to George Orwell anywhere. The collection encompasses manuscripts, notebooks and personalia which were presented to the university in 1960 on permanent loan by his widow, ten years after the author’s death. Sonia Orwell presented it on behalf of the George Orwell Archive Trust.

The aim of the Trustees of the Archive at the time of the bequest was to make a research centre for Orwell studies comprising both printed material written by Orwell and other printed matter useful for helping to understand the issues he was involved in during his lifetime. The collection also encompasses tape recordings and written statements from those who knew him, personal papers and correspondence, and original background materials.

Last year it was also announced that the political writing award The Orwell Prize had moved to the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies. The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. It is also a registered charity providing free cultural events and resources for the public benefit.

Fittingly for someone so dismissive of institutions, Orwell’s statue will be positioned on the edge of BBC’s grounds. The statute, made by Martin Jennings, will be stooping to the viewer, as if engaging an audience. 

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  •  George Orwell in 1945 (Credit: UCL Special Collections)