Orwell and Garrett on the Road to Wigan Pier
Toxteth Library, Liverpool
Richard Blair Ros Wynne Jones, Sean Garret
Part Of Writing On The Wall Festival (WOW)
By John Owen
The meeting of both George Garret and George Orwell in 1936 in Liverpool – Orwell on commission from Victor Gollanz to cover austerity and poverty up north. Garret as his contact, showing him the ropes, researching poverty first-hand.
A suggestion from Garret of him going up north to Wigan, highlighted the link and perhaps the contrast of the two writers. One a proletarian grass roots writer with feelings for workers conditions of struggle the other a great social writer and journalist.
The meeting was a relaxed affair, informal and a good attentive audience. Both speakers from Sean’s reminiscences of grandad to Richards charming tales of life with dad a dying soon to be world famous writer.
A tough set of questions grilled both speakers who mined and plumbed their collective memories to dish out interesting nuggets for the hungry audience to swallow.
Ros Wynne Jones writing a follow book as such on the legacy of road to Wigan Pier is a talented Daily Mirror correspondent covering the live issues affecting people today, from homelessness to benefit sanctions. Sean Garret worked as a welfare adviser too.
The intersection of lives their chosen or forced trajectory, one to Spain, and success as perhaps the greatest writer on social issues, the other equally insightful but completely obscured, but for Garret project and Garreteers rescuing, bringing his works to light of modern day. Rightly so.
One commentator noted Orwell’s pen exploded with words pouring out in all directions while, Sean’s fell silent. Utter poignancy. It wasn’t a competition, or compare and contrast who’s the most authentic. Both are dead and long gone now.
They should be accepted for their contributions as and when they lived.
Sean read a section by Orwell from road to Wigan Pier and Richard something from Garret. Both spoke affectionately of the pieces remarking on the superb quality.
But perhaps the criticism of an embittered Garret describing Wigan Pier as “one long sneer at the working class”, was perhaps more to do with the line of the C P (Communist Party).
Who made him hate figure number 1 after his critique of Stalinism. Volunteering for the POUM battalion and being wounded. Shot through the throat he carried on criticising Russia’s NKVD (secret police) and torture and repression of the left. This still doesn’t sit well with the lying hacks of the CP. Paul Preston, a scurrilous academic, has attempted the hatchet job.
Through the auspices of Labour party and trade union bureaucratic PR rag Morning Star, but he was heckled whilst lecturing surviving veterans, relatives in the Unite building, as they rededicated the plaque to volunteers. Who died in Spain. Enough said.
Ros Wynne gave a good account of where the project for Wigan Pier revisited stands. She daily attacks the Tory government through the pages of the Daily Mirror. thus continues the work of both Garret and Orwell.
The meeting was thrown open to the floor after Q+A people retired to Peter Kavanagh’s for serious discussion and were all friends again.