On Thursday 24 March, Richard Blair, the son of George Orwell, presented a special edition of his father’s writing to Eton College’s 12 Orwell Award holders in Year 13. At the presentation ceremony, attendees took the opportunity to celebrate these pupils’ experiences and achievements across their two years at Eton before they complete their A Level exams this summer and move on to pursue goals in Higher Education and beyond.
The Orwell Award is a scholarship that offers recipients a transformative educational experience. It is named after the Old Etonian and famous author George Orwell, who himself was the recipient of financial aid at Eton. To receive an Orwell Award, Year 11 applicants from UK state schools are assessed on both their academic potential and against specific background criteria that may have disadvantaged them, such as refugee status, being a Looked After Child, being the first generation in your family to attend university, receiving Pupil Premium and attending a school Ofsted has identified as ‘requiring improvement’ or in ‘special measures’.
Richard Blair, who described the presentation ceremony as a joyful day, said: “Through Eton, they can now open up and show the world what they can really do…. [they] will be a credit to their parents and to the school.” He was joined in congratulating the pupils by the Provost, Lord Waldegrave of North Hill; the Head Master, Simon Henderson; Deputy Head (Partnerships), Tom Arbuthnott; Head of Access, Julia Gosnell and Director of Welfare, Will Evans.
The special edition books were presented to the boys as a lifelong memento. Curated at Eton specifically for the recipients by Kayleigh Betterton, Eton’s Researcher in Residence, they feature extracts from Animal Farm alongside autobiographical work and other examples of Orwell’s journalism and opinion pieces, plus original artwork inspired by Orwell’s writing. The presentation ceremony took place in Election Hall, and was followed by a lunch in Election Chamber.
Richard Blair is the founder of The Orwell Society, and a trustee of The Orwell Foundation. It was a pleasure to welcome him to Eton College.