Press release: Cultural debt to George Orwell celebrated at Festival

September 12, 2011 – Letchworth, Hertfordshire, UK.  The impact of author
George Orwell on popular culture will be explored for the first time in a
formal academic context at a new Brunel University symposium on Saturday
17 September at the Goldsmith Centre for Business, North Hertfordshire
College. ‘What Did George Orwell Ever Do For Us? The impact of Orwell on
popular culture’ is a ticketed event that assesses the influence Orwell’s
work has had on a wide range of popular media and forms of expression
since his death in 1950.

Brunel University scholars Dr Nick Hubble, Dr Peter Wilkin and Dr John
Roberts will lead a full day’s symposium agenda featuring distinguished
academics from eight UK and US universities. Before a live audience they
will present and discuss the latest thinking about how Orwell’s ideas have
permeated topics like media control, literary style, mass-media
communications, political identity, mankind’s relationship to nature and
the interpretation of history. ‘What did George Orwell Ever do For Us?’
takes place on the final weekend of the George Orwell Festival 2011, a
week-long, community-based, multi-streamed week of events celebrating the
life and work of the writer who as Eric Blair lived in the Hertfordshire
village of Wallington in the 1930s and 1940s.

“George Orwell has arguably had more influence over popular culture than
any other 20th century English writer, yet there is disproportionately low
public awareness of his key contributions,” says event organiser Dr John
Webb. “This year millions of TV viewers will watch programs such as
Channel 5’s ‘Big Brother’ and the BBC’s ‘Room 101’, having no idea that
the basic concepts informing those shows sprang from the same brilliant
mind – Orwell’s. His words resonate into so many different fields, at many
different levels. For instance, just last month Newcastle United
footballer Joey Barton was reportedly ostracised by the club’s management
after quoting Orwell in a Twitter posting.”

At the same time Orwell’s ideas continue to be a point of reference for
public debate around weightier issues such as personal liberty, freedom of
information, political engagement and the mechanics of language, Webb
avers; yet “Despite his fame, and general acknowledgement of his literary
status and intellectual appeal, Orwell is not taken as seriously by the UK
academic establishment as he deserves. This Symposium seeks to redress
that and to show that Orwell’s work – both his fiction and non-fiction –
richly repays closer study and debate.”

The distinguished speaker line-up includes: Professor Kristin Bluemel, Dr
Beci Dobbin, Professor Richard Keeble, Dr David Rudrum, Professor Tony
Shaw, and Dr Matthew Taunton.

‘What Did George Orwell Ever Do For Us? – The impact of Orwell on popular
culture’ is open to everyone to explore the literary and cultural
influences of this globally-respected author. Date: Saturday 17 September
2011. Time: 9.30am registration for 10.00am start; closes 4.00pm. Venue:
Goldsmith Centre for Business, North Hertfordshire College, Letchworth,
Hertfordshire SG6 3GB. Tickets for the full day’s symposium session cost
£15 via online booking on the event webpage
(, or through the Letchworth
Tourist Information Centre, 33-35 Station Road, Letchworth, Hertfordshire
SG6 3BB (Tel: +44 (0)1462 487868 / Places for this
special, one-off event are limited. Student concessions apply. NB: in the
afternoon, as sessions continue, there will be two historical trips priced
separately at £5.00 – with a guided tour of Wallington and cream teas at
the village hall. These trips take place at 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm and 2:00pm
to 4:00pm, with guided tour and cream teas in the village. This has to be
paid in cash at reception on arrival. Please indicate when booking if you
want to purchase this option. To join either trip without attending the
Symposium, contact Letchworth Tourist Information Centre. In that case
there is a charge of £3.00 for the cream tea option. Pickup will be from
outside the Plinston Hall, Broadway, SG6 3NS. All proceeds from these
trips are for the restoration of St Mary church at Wallington, where
George Orwell/Eric Blair was married in 1936.

The George Orwell Festival 2011 takes place September 9-18 in Letchworth
Garden City and the nearby village of Wallington, where Orwell lived. The
Festival is a community-based, multi-streamed week of events celebrating
the life, work and cultural heritage of this respected and influential
author. It will showcase staged adaptations of Orwell’s stories, themed
debates, an academic symposium, art exhibitions, comedy evenings, themed
talks and much more. Well-known speakers from the fields of literature,
media, and culture, are appearing.

James Hayes – Festival co-ordinator
Tel: +44 (0)777 3705894 / email:

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