Plans to mark 80th anniversary since author came to the town

George Orwell
George Orwell

PLANS are being made to mark a milestone anniversary of author George Orwell’s visit to Wigan to research one of his most famous books.

The Orwell Society is teaming up with community hub Sunshine House in Scholes to help mark 80 years since the writer came to the borough while preparing to pen The Road to Wigan Pier.

Memories of author George Orwell who wrote "The Road to Wigan Pier" after visiting the town in 1936 come flooding back with this picture taken at the junction of Warrington Lane and Sovereign Road in 1972. Orwell lodged near-by

Memories of author George Orwell who wrote "The Road to Wigan Pier" after visiting the town in 1936 come flooding back with this picture taken at the junction of Warrington Lane and Sovereign Road in 1972. Orwell lodged near-by

The groups hoping to mark the anniversary will meet to discuss events being planned for the town on Saturday, which coincidentally is also the same date Orwell reached Manchester on his journey north.

The commemorations are likely to focus on next year to mark the 80th anniversary of the book’s publication rather than his stay in Wigan itself and organisers hope the anniversary will restore Orwell’s somewhat mixed local reputation and also raise money for community groups and charities in the borough.

Quentin Kopp, events organiser at The Orwell Society, said: “The process has now started to create something for next March. Our main hope is to support organisations like Sunshine House and people like Barbara.

“Not only is she doing terrific ongoing work and we know any money raised would be put to superb use but Sunshine House is also based in Scholes where Orwell lodged when he stayed in Wigan.

“I know a lot of people in Wigan feel Orwell gave their town a bad rap but he came to try to understand the conditions people in mining and other industrial activities were facing in terms of their diet and housing. He also obvious went down the local mines.

“It’s still early days but we are hoping to do a major event in 2017 in Wigan. We want to promote interest in his life and work because we feel, unlike many of his peers, he is still very relevant.

“We want more people to gain fresh insight into their own lives through reading Orwell’s work, and if more people pick up his books and essays that would be wonderful.”

The Orwell Society has been in discussion with the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA) about how its students might be able to bring The Road to Wigan Pier to the stage.

On arrival in Wigan in 1936 Orwell initially introduced himself to the Kennan family, who lived on the Beech Estate, but by February 11 he was lodging at an address on Warrington Lane.

The day before that he visited the Co-op Hall and wrote favourably about the centre of Wigan, saying he thought it was better than Manchester. On February 15 he moved to lodgings above a tripe shop as his landlady on Warrington Lane had been taken ill.

The Orwell Society is reproducing extracts from Orwell’s diary from his trip to the north on a daily basis on the charity’s Facebook pages.

As well as his time in Wigan Orwell also visited working-class industrial communities in South Yorkshire for the book.

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