A statue of George Orwell, author of the dystopian ‘1984’, will soon be erected outside the BBC’s London headquarters, despite his resignation from the broadcaster in 1943 when he grew tired of “pushing propaganda”
With a cigarette in hand Mr Orwell will soon take up position among the fellow smokers lurking outside the new main entrance of the BBC HQ.
Orwell, real name Eric Blair, will be accompanied by a plaque that reads: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”
The Guardian reports:
Four years after the BBC rejected the proposal to provide a site to commemorate one of its most contrarian former employees, it is welcoming him back and applying for planning permission from Westminster council.
Orwell died in 1950, but there is no public statue of one of the 20th century’s most famous British writers, whose works include Animal Farm, Homage to Catalonia, The Road to Wigan Pier, 1984 and journalism such as his famous essay on how to make the perfect cup of tea. Soon there will be two, as his old school, Eton, has not only put up a sizeable chunk of the five-figure cost of Jennings’s statue – seen above in an artist’s impression of the completed work – but is commissioning a copy of the head for the school.
The BBC and the writer parted acrimoniously in 1943, when Orwell resigned after two wartime years as a talks producer in the Eastern Service, making propaganda broadcasts for India. In his resignation letter, under his real name, Eric Blair, he wrote: “For some time past I have been conscious that I was wasting my own time and the public money on doing work that produces no result … I feel that by going back to my normal work of writing and journalism I could be more useful than I am at present.”
He went on to name Room 101, the torture chamber in his dystopian 1984, after a particularly airless conference room at the BBC where he had evidently suffered.
The proposal to place him keeping close watch on the corporation from the doorstep was initially turned down by the BBC, reputedly because he was seen as too provocatively leftwing a figure. However the project was revived when Tony Hall took over as director general: the donors include several well-known BBC names including former BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, and broadcasters John Humphrys, James Naughtie and Melvyn Bragg. The playwrights Tom Stoppard, David Hare and Michael Frayn, comedian Rowan Atkinson, and Orwell’s son Richard Blair have also backed the project.
Jennings said he believes the statue will find its perfect home. “I was delighted when I visited the site to find it littered with cigarette butts – that is absolutely the place for Orwell, who was rarely seen without a cigarette in hand, to the grave detriment of his health. He would undoubtedly have been out there in the cold with the smokers for most of his time.”
Commissioning the statue was the dream of the late Labour MP Ben Whitaker, who died in 2014. “Orwell was a schoolboy hero of his,” Jennings said, “as indeed he was of mine”.