New Orwell bursary goes to a Wigan school

A Wigan school has become the first in the North West to receive funding so children can learn about the pioneering works of George Orwell.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 1:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 1:10 pm
L-R (back) - St Mark's headteacher Kayleigh Ferguson, Richard Blair, Danielle Hayward, James Winterbottom (director of children's services at Wigan Council)

The Teacher in School Bursary led by the Orwell Society is a new pot of money given to schools so the life and works of George Orwell can be explored by future generations.

And, fittingly a school from Wigan is one of the first two schools the country to benefit as the author spent time in the town researching his famous book The Road to Wigan Pier.

All schools across the borough were invited to submit bids but it was St Mark's CE Primary School in Newtown who were successful in.

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The money will allow Year 6 pupils to explore the social-economic issues faced in 1937 compared with present day and create artist impressions of Wigan based on Orwell’s view.

Once the project is complete, St Mark’s will hold a showcase evening so other schools and local people can learn out about the work.

Danielle Hayward is a Y6 teacher at St. Mark’s, she said: "We feel incredibly privileged to be a part of the first year of this bursary. It is a fantastic opportunity to teach the pupils in our school not only about an extraordinary writer, but also about the area they live in.

“As the nearest located school to Wigan Pier, we hope to give the pupils a real connection to their own local history."

Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, came to the school on Thursday, to congratulate the children on the successful bid.

He said: “My father’s book was one which highlighted the social issues across Great Britain in the 1930s. He was very fond of the people from Wigan and seeing how much support the council and local community have given to the legacy of my father is touching.

“I look forward to hearing much more about the work St Mark’s will be doing thoroughly hope the children enjoy earning about my father and his findings.”

The funding comes almost two years after Wigan Council acknowledged The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell’s journalistic masterpiece on the plight of the working class in 1930s England, with a blue plaque.

The plaque, along with more than 200 books from the Peter Davison Collection of Orwell’s works, sits in the reference library at the Museum of Wigan Life where Orwell researched his book.

Wigan Archives and Local Studies also holds a visitor’s book from the period in which Orwell visited the town. The book holds a signature reading ‘Eric Blair’ - Orwell’s given name.

The project is also in line with the council’s recently published cultural manifesto, which outlines the local authority’s plan to make arts and culture accessible to all over the next five years.

Coined ‘The Fire Within’ the first year of the manifesto focuses on ‘Wigan’s Future Artists’ and it is hoped that this project will inspire the borough’s future generations.

Coun Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities and culture at Wigan Council, said: “George Orwell has played a large part in how we live and view our lives today. If you have been to The Galleries and have seen The Fire Within exhibition, you’ll have noticed that Orwell’s work has also inspired some of the displays from a first edition book of The Road to Wigan Pier, to the coal slagheaps on the floor.

“It’s fantastic that a local school has been chosen as one of the only schools in the country to pilot this scheme. It feels especially poignant that Wigan is leading the way with the bursary.

“It’s more important now than ever to ensure our young people understand their local past. Learning from history can create new, fresh perspectives and we hope that the children really enjoy this project.”