UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities


The Orwell Foundation

The prestigious political writing award, The Orwell Prize, moved to the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies in 2016.

UCL is also home to the Orwell Archive, part of UCL Special Collections. The archive is the most comprehensive body of research material relating to George Orwell anywhere.

"UCL has been home to the Archive since 1960 - it was deposited at UCL on permanent loan by his widow, ten years after Orwell's death from tuberculosis at University College Hospital - and has hosted the Orwell Lecture since 2013," explains Professor Tamar Garb, Director of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

"Now, the Orwell Prize will be based at UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies. The Orwell Prize is a natural fit within our commitment to critical thinking across conventional disciplinary boundaries. We look forward to working with The Orwell Prize to develop Orwell scholarship, and to stimulate cultural and political discourse in the name of one of the world's most incisive and relevant writers."

The Orwell Foundation

George Orwell (Eric Blair, 1903-1950) believed in the moral power of language and understood the dangers of its corruption. The Orwell Foundation aims to use Orwell’s work to celebrate honest writing and reporting, uncover hidden lives and confront uncomfortable truths – and, in doing so, to promote his values of integrity, decency and fidelity to truth. A registered charity (number 1161563), the Foundation is dedicated to the advancement of public education through free public events, debates and lectures, written content, and free online resources.

Whether through the prestigious Orwell Prizes, awarded each year to the books and journalism which best meet Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’, or the growing number of activities which take place under its auspices – from events, lectures and dramatised live-readings, to the Orwell Fellowship of writers and journalists – we hope to connect with the many different constituencies to whom Orwell and his writings are a source of inspiration, from policy-makers and politicians to students and school children, and to offer a platform for debate and discussion designed to appeal to the widest possible public audience.

The Orwell Foundation is delighted to be under the same roof as the UNESCO-registered Orwell Archive, also held at UCL, in the very institution in which Orwell passed away, in January 1950, with Nineteen Eighty-Four having been published just months before.

The original Orwell Prize was founded in 1993 by Professor Sir Bernard Crick. Crick also founded the Orwell Lecture, which was first held in 1989.  Today, these activities and many more have come together under The Orwell Foundation, which is based at the Institute of Advanced Studies. The Orwell Lecture is held each autumn at UCL, while UCL English appoint a judge to the panel of the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, sponsored by Orwell’s son Richard Blair and his literary agents A. M. Heath.

1984 Live

The Orwell Prize and UCL produced a live, start-to-finish reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four in Senate House as part of the 2018 UCL Festival of Culture. For the first time in the UK, audiences across the globe could listen to Nineteen Eighty-Four read by a host of actors, writers, journalists and members of the public over the course of a single day.

Watch our start to finish reading of George's Orwell's 1984, read by students, actors, writers politicians and members of the public.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrSkAvzjhkI

Down and Out Live in London and Paris 

Following from 1984 Live, Down and Out: Live was performed in London as part of UCL's Festival of Culture programme in June 2018, and Paris in September 2018. Each performance was accompanied by discussions and workshops on the challenges of homelessness and poverty.

Orwell Prize for Political Fiction

The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction is run in collaboration with UCL's Department of English. The ceremony is held at UCL, and the inaugural prize in 2019 was awarded to Anna Burns for Milkman.

The Orwell Memorial Lectures

The Orwell Memorial Lecture has been given annually since 1989. Originally held at Birkbeck, University of London and the University of Sheffield, the Lecture is now held at UCL each autumn.

The Orwell Memorial Lecture 2018

The 2018 Lecture was delivered by Kamila Shamsie, author and winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018. In her Lecture, Unbecoming British: citizenship, migration and the transformation of rights into privileges, Shamsie considered the cost of recent attempts to move citizenship from 'a protected legal status to a privilege'. 

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-V4Y3n9MJcA

The Orwell Memorial Lecture 2017

The 2017 lecture was delivered by Alison (A L) Kennedy, is an award-winning author, stand-up comedian, journalist and Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Warwick. Her talk, Orwell with women, looked at the different threads of Orwell's relationship with women. 

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YomuWLPwfuo

The Orwell Memorial Lecture 2016

The 2016 lecture was given by writer, editor and broadcaster Ian Hislop. You can watch Ian's lecture, The Right to Dissent (and the left too) on our Youtube Channel.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBG0T06jbec