Orwell anniversary weekend a huge success

The Orwell celebrations at Sunshine House
The Orwell celebrations at Sunshine House

Wigan staged a huge celebration weekend to mark eight decades since George Orwell’s iconic study of the town first appeared in print.

The Orwell Society teamed up with Wigan Council and Scholes community hub Sunshine House to celebrate the 80th anniversary of The Road to Wigan Pier being published.

Les Hunt from the Orwell Society gives a slideshow talk

Les Hunt from the Orwell Society gives a slideshow talk

The borough’s creative community pulled out all the stops with poets, musicians, drama students and photographers all paying tribute to Orwell’s work and its continuing influence.

Expert historians and academics also put the writing of the famous book into its time period and the author’s son Richard Blair also travelled to Wigan for the event.

Despite some lingering controversy over Orwell’s intentions in writing about the town the weekend has been judged a massive success and all parties involved are keen to continue working together.

The Orwell Society’s events organiser Quentin Kopp said: “Our members had an absolutely cracking weekend and their impressions of Wigan were very strong.

The weekend showcased everything that is great about our borough with briliant artistic talent and strong communities working together

Donna Hall

“Every event was packed and many were standing room only. I thought the drama students brought the tripe shop Orwell wrote about to life in a really great way.

“We will be keeping in touch with the groups and doing our best to help them in any way we can. The council said it welcomes what we’ve done and asked us to keep coming back, and we will be honouring that commitment.”

Donna Hall, chief executive of Wigan Council, said: “The weekend of celebrations was a great success and showcased everything that is great about our borough with brilliant artistic talent on show and strong communities working together as part of The Deal.

“We are so pleased the Orwell Society enjoyed the occasion and we hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the society and the borough.”

Louise Fazackerly from The Poet Adult writers

Louise Fazackerly from The Poet Adult writers

Sunshine House staged an opening social night and then a day of poetry, music and drama sketches by school pupils and community groups.

Alra North students then performed work inspired by Orwell, which the society will continue to support as it is developed further into a final course project.

Wigan Diggers Festival supported the opening night as Orwell was inspired by local 17th century radical Gerrard Winstanley and The Old Courts showed film footage from the 1930s.

The Museum of Wigan Life also held talks and a photography slideshow by Tim Foster showing how the borough has changed since Orwell visited.

The weekend also raised £400 for Sunshine House and The Orwell Society donated £100 to the Museum of Wigan Life for the loan of the venue.