Exhibition and seminars mark Orwell centenary

The Observer has organised a series of events to mark the centenary of the birth of arguably its most famous contributor – George Orwell.

In addition to an exhibition at The Guardian and Observer Newsroom visitor centre, the paper is hosting a series of Orwell seminars and screenings of the film of his book Animal Farm.

Although Orwell also wrote for the Evening Standard, Tribune and long-defunct titles such as Horizon and Polemic, The Observer is particularly proud of its association with the writer.

According to Andrew Anthony, author of Orwell the Observer Years: “What was different about The Observer is that Orwell’s theory of journalistic writing – succinct, provocative, transparent- was designated as the house style to which all the newspaper’s writers were expected to aspire during its ‘golden age’ of the Fifties.”

Orwell began writing for the paper at a time when he had sold few books and was yet to write his most famous works: Animal Farm and 1984.

His first piece in The Observer was in February 1942, entitled India Next, and was in favour of Indian independence.

After resigning in September 1943 from the BBC, where he had worked in the Indian section of the overseas service, he became literary editor of Tribune and a fortnightly book reviewer for The Observer.

In early 1945, Orwell was sent to Germany as The Observer’s war correspondent and after returning to Britain he continued to write periodically for the paper until shortly before his death in 1950.

He was a close friend and influence on David Astor, Observer editor from 1948 to 1975, who said Orwell “probably had the greatest political influence on me”.

Astor is understood to have circulated to new journalists joining the paper Orwell’s essay Politics and the English language on how to write effectively and succinctly.

The exhibition Orwell Observed opens on 5 November at the Newsroom visitor centre, 60 Farringdon Road, and runs until 9 January. Entrance is free and the opening times are 10am to 5pm weekdays and midday to 4pm on Saturdays.

A series of seminars have been organised on Tuesday evenings for three weeks from 11 November chaired by Robert McCrum, Peter Preston and Timothy Garton Ash.

Screenings of the 1955 film of Animal Farm will be held at 2pm on four consecutive Saturdays from November 22 onwards. To request a free ticket for one of the seminars or screenings call 020 7886 9898.

Dominic Ponsford

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