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The Orwell Festival: A New Space for Political Writing

By Megan Whitlock

The Orwell Foundation has launched its brand-new festival for political writing, The Orwell Festival, taking place from Wednesday 22 June to Thursday 14 July. The Orwell Foundation is a registered charity, founded in 2015, that aims to tackle the concerns of the famed political novelist, covering everything from inequality to political extremism. The Foundation uses a combination of events, workshops, resources and prizes – amongst them the prestigious Orwell Prize for political writing – to “offer a platform for debate and discussion designed to appeal to the widest possible public audience” (statement from the Orwell Foundation website). Naturally, the Festival, which will run as a combination of in-person events at Bloomsbury and online, is dedicated to upholding many of the same principles.

So far, guest speakers and panellists include the shortlisted writers for the 2022 Orwell Prizes, as well as political household names such as Dominic Cummings and Jess Phillips. Panels range in topic from political fiction and writing to national identity and pressing topics such as women’s safety, war and immigration. Whilst Rebecca Solnit opened the Festival with a lecture on Orwell and Nature, the events will round off later this month with the announcement of the 2022 Orwell Prizes winners.

The official Orwell Festival, where you can go to find out more, includes the following statement: “In the spirit of George Orwell’s fiction, non-fiction and journalism, The Orwell Foundation aims to celebrate honest and creative writing and reporting, uncover hidden lives and confront uncomfortable truths. We take seriously Orwell’s injunction that if “Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” As such, the Orwell Festival will be a space for difficult debate and diversity of opinion and viewpoints, encourage creativity and clarity of expression, provide a platform for unheard voices and defend the right to individual conscience, whilst remaining politically impartial.”



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