Grayson Perry delivers first Orwell Lecture in the North for almost 20 years

Grayson Perry

Artist Grayson Perry delivered the first Orwell Lecture in the North in almost 20 years at the University of Sheffield in November.

A new partnership between The Orwell Foundation and the Sir Bernard Crick Centre at the University of Sheffield saw the re-establishment of the prestigious event in the North of England.

In his lecture, titled I’ve read all the academic texts on empathy, Grayson Perry gave an artist’s view on our emotions around politics and identity.

He said:

“I am an artist and I am a great believer in the power of culture to communicate in ways that are particular to the arts, a more holistic style of relaying information that talks not only to the intellect but the heart, body and soul as well.”

The Orwell Foundation’s flagship lecture – which has attracted notable speakers including Ian Hislop (2016), Dr Rowan Williams (2015) and University of Sheffield alumna Dame Hilary Mantel – has been given annually since 1989, originally in Birkbeck and Sheffield, but has recently been held solely in London.

From November 2017 there will be two Orwell lectures – the established Orwell Lecture given in London and a new Orwell Lecture in the North, which will take place in Sheffield.

The lecture was preceded by an Orwell Youth Prize Workshop designed for young people interested in writing and current affairs, giving them the unique opportunity to hear from professional writers and develop their own writing technique.

Renowned author Marina Lewycka, whose first novel A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian has sold more than a million copies in the UK alone and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, worked closely with aspiring authors who are passionate about political writing.

This new venture and the re-commencement of The Orwell Lecture in the North will be the first step in a positive and long-term relationship between the Crick Centre and the Orwell Foundation.

Professor Lord Blunkett, Chair of the University of Sheffield’s Sir Bernard Crick Centre, said:

“It is wonderful to have the Orwell Foundation and the Crick Centre working together to re-establish a major public lecture in the North of England.

“There can never have been a time when the values and aims of both George Orwell and Bernard Crick with regard to provoking, informing and educating the public about politics was more important. I’m very much looking forward to the first Orwell Lecture in the North later this year.”

Professor Jean Seaton, Director of The Orwell Foundation, added:

“The Orwell Foundation is delighted to be working with the Crick Centre in an invigorating response to the politics of the times. We want to make political ideas and engagement more responsive and exciting. But it is particularly appropriate as the Orwell Prize was founded by Bernard Crick, one of the flotilla of institutions he set going, Orwell was formed by the wider understanding of Britain and the world – so it feels exciting, and right, to be returning to Sheffield.”

The Orwell Foundation is a charity that uses the work of George Orwell to celebrate honest writing and reporting, to uncover hidden lives, to confront uncomfortable truths and, in doing so, to promote Orwell’s values of integrity, decency and fidelity to truth.

The Orwell Foundation runs a major programme of free public events, debates, workshops and lectures that stimulate argument and engagement. It awards the UK’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Previous recipients of the Orwell Prize include Michael Ignatieff, Tony Judt, Miranda Carter, Peter Hitchens, Delia Jarrett-Macauley, Lord Bingham, Raja Shehadeh, Peter Hennessy and Clive James.

In 2014 the Orwell Youth Prize was launched with huge success, taking workshops for young people all over the country.

Sir Bernard Crick was the Inaugural Professor of Politics at the University of Sheffield where he founded the Department of Politics in 1965. To mark the department’s 50th anniversary in 2015 the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics was established to engage with multiple audiences in multiple ways about why both politics and the study of politics matters. In 1973 Sir Bernard Crick left the University of Sheffield to found the Department of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he established the George Orwell Memorial Trust with the royalties from the hardback version of his Orwell: A Life.

In 1993, Sir Bernard launched the Orwell Prize, serving as chair of the judges until 2006, and it is therefore fitting that this new partnership brings the University of Sheffield and Birkbeck College together to promote the values that inspired Orwell and Crick.

The Orwell Foundation

George Orwell believed in the moral power of language and understood the dangers that accompany its corruption. The Orwell Foundation (registered charity number 1161563), uses his work to celebrate honest writing and reporting, to uncover hidden lives, to confront uncomfortable truths- and, in doing so, to promote Orwell’s values of integrity, decency and fidelity to truth. We do this through the Orwell Prize, Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing, the Unreported Britain project and our annual programme of lectures, debates and events for the public benefit.

The Sir Bernard Crick Centre

The aim of the Crick Centre is to study and promote the public understanding of politics (broadly defined) in a manner that cultivates debate and encourages engaged citizenship around the world.

It therefore seeks to close the gap that has arguably emerged not just between politicians and the public but also between academe and society more broadly.

The Crick Centre is based in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Politics, the top-rated department in the UK for researching Politics.

The department provides a vibrant intellectual environment of scholars engaged in research across all areas of the discipline of Politics and beyond. A number of department staff are also Fellows of the Crick Centre and contribute towards our research agenda.

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