George Orwell book collection finds a permanent home in Wigan

George Orwell's son Richard Blair, seated right, with, from left, mayoral consort Oliver Waite, Lesley O'Halloran, assistant director of customer services at Wigan Council, Neil Smith, treasurer of the Orwell Society, and Coun Steve Dawber, Mayor of Wigan
George Orwell's son Richard Blair, seated right, with, from left, mayoral consort Oliver Waite, Lesley O'Halloran, assistant director of customer services at Wigan Council, Neil Smith, treasurer of the Orwell Society, and Coun Steve Dawber, Mayor of Wigan

A unique collection of books giving a rare insight into the work of George Orwell will be housed at the Museum of Wigan Life indefinitely.

Originally a temporary agreement between Wigan Council, the museum and the Orwell Society, the Peter Davison Collection of Orwell’s Works was unveiled at the borough’s museum last year.

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Today, Richard Blair, who is Orwell’s son and patron of the Orwell Society, signed a contract giving the museum and Wigan Council responsibility for the collection for the foreseeable future.

Comprising of more than 200 books, the collection is available for visitors and researchers to view on the first floor of the museum.

The aim of the collection is to widen public access to Orwell’s work and Davison’s research into his writing. There are also books about Davison, which would be of importance to those who follow the respected scholar’s work.

Mr Blair said: “My father’s iconic book The Road to Wigan Pier 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’m more than happy to support the collection being kept here for the people of Wigan and beyond to view. It seems only right.”

The collection agreement comes just over a year after a blue plaque dedicated to Orwell was unveiled at the museum.

Coun Chris Ready, the council's cabinet member for communities, said: “It is fantastic news that the Peter Davison collection now has a permanent home in Wigan.

“George Orwell played a big part in how we view the borough’s heritage and we’re privileged to be able to say that such an influential figure has connections to our town.

“It is well known that Orwell did conduct some research in the museum’s library and there is even a visitor book available for viewing there where Orwell signed his name.

“Recognising those who have contributed significantly to the cultural history of Wigan borough is extremely important, so we can pass on our knowledge to future generations and ensure their achievements are permanently remembered.

“The book collection continues the legacy of Orwell and provides more opportunities for local people and visitors to research into his life and works.”

As well as the book collection, there will be video clips of the Beyond Wigan Pier musical, which was directed and composed by Alan Gregory.

The performance was showcased at The Edge conference centre in 2018 and is based on The Road to Wigan Pier.

Coun Ready said: “The Beyond Wigan Pier musical was very exciting and was written, produced and performed by Wiganers.

“Having clips available at the museum is another chance for those unfortunately unable to attend the musical last year to gain an insight into this fantastic piece of work.”

Orwell is one of five icons within the local authority’s new five-year cultural manifesto The Fire Within, which aims to celebrate the borough’s heritage, inspire new artists and encourage cultural investment.

A first edition of Orwell’s A Road to Wigan Pier book can be seen for free at The Fire Within exhibition, which is open to the public from 11am to 3pm, Monday to Saturday, in The Galleries shopping centre.