MAY 3 2018 – Today Eton College is commemorating the 101st anniversary of George Orwell’s arrival in the school. The event will begin with an ‘injustice commission’, hosted in partnership with the Orwell Youth Prize, involving 130 students from Eton and its eight closest partner schools in the state sector, followed by a keynote address by former Orwell Prize winner, The Rt Hon Alan Johnson. To round off the evening, a new bust of Orwell by the sculptor Martin Jennings will be unveiled by the author’s son, Richard Blair, to stand in perpetuity in School Library.
Orwell himself was a provocative campaigner against all forms of injustice. This evening four separate areas of injustice will be explored by the pupils, aged between 14 and 17, each being led by a separate ‘provocateur’. Lord Adonis will challenge pupils to explore inequalities in education. Baroness Kennedy QC, a patron of the Orwell Youth Prize, will provoke them to think about gender inequality. Poet Anthony Anaxagorou will stimulate them on the topic of inequality of wealth and Farrah Storr, editor of Cosmopolitan and a judge of this year’s Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social evils will consider inequality in identity and ethnicity.
Eric Blair, who adopted George Orwell as his pen name, arrived in the school on May 3, 1917 into College, the oldest boarding house in the school which accommodates the King’s Scholars, the successors to those seventy on the original foundation in 1440.
The conference follows a series of writing and journalism workshops between partner schools hosted by the Orwell Youth Prize. The event is also the culmination of a series of events which have constituted the Orwell 101 season at Eton involving a multitude of thought-provoking speakers at the school’s Orwell Society including Stephen Armstrong, Neal Ascherson, Lord Peter Hennessy, Professor Jean Seaton, and Eton’s Provost Lord Waldegrave.
“George Orwell still stands for many of Eton’s educational values,” commented William Waldegrave, Eton’s Provost. “He suspected cant and avoided language which deviated from the truth. He foresaw the dangers of totalitarianism, and stood both within his time and beside it. Current generations of Etonians, as well as their peers from our valued network of state schools, must hold fast to those values in the years to come.”
“It has been a pleasure to participate in the Orwell 101 project,” said Scott Baker, Headmaster of the London Academy of Excellence. “The most productive aspects of our partnership come when our pupils draw together with boys from Eton to debate issues of mutual concern. The pupils bounce ideas off each other and depart hugely enriched by the contact that they have had.”
"How exciting!” added Professor Jean Seaton, Chair of the Orwell Youth Prize. “130 young people arguing about how we, as a society, must tackle injustice. We hope they turn into radical, clear-eyed writers, thinkers and critics like Orwell."
FOOTNOTE: Eton’s state school partners include the London Academy of Excellence, Holyport College and the six schools in the Windsor, Slough and Heston ISSP (Independent State School Partnership), Beechwood School, Heston Community School, Langley Academy, St Joseph’s RC High School, Slough and Eton CE Business and Enterprise College and Windsor Boys’ School.