Celebrating 75 years of 1984

Saturday 08 June 2024

This Saturday, 8th June, George Orwell’s seminal novel turns seventy-five. Here’s our guide to what’s on this month – and how you can get involved in the celebrations.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, writing is the ultimate act of subversion. The Orwell Foundation is a registered charity which exists to nurture and support the writers and reporters who share Orwell’s values, both those working now and in the next generation. All this month, we’re asking supporters to help us introduce more young people to the power of creative and critical writing by making a donation of 2 + 2 (that is, £5), £19.84, £198.40 – or any amount of your choosing.

For an annual donation just £60 (or £5 a month) Friends of the Foundation can also receive exclusive benefits, including discounted and/or free tickets to Festival events and a copy of our anthology of prize-winning writing.

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

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell posed the most terrifying of all questions: could people be brought to really believe (rather than merely pretend to believe) the lies they are told? Seventy-Five years later we are at the start of a roller-coaster experiment with our minds as we battle, rather feebly, to manage the information technologies that already do much to control us and our societies, alongside the resurgence of authoritarianism. The book’s imaginative response to the threat of sincere but dumb belief is as topical as it has ever been. Orwell’s dedication to the moral power of language and the urgency of his attempt to understand reality remains luminous and indeed a call to thought and action.

Celebrating Orwell’s ‘call to thought and action’

Throughout June, we’ll be celebrating and reflecting on the enduring relevance of Nineteen Eighty-Four for today’s uncertain world, from the return of The Orwell Festival (London, 12th – 27th June) to showcasing the finalists for the 2024 Orwell Prizes. Subscribe to our Substack for exclusive interviews with the authors, or follow us on X and Instagram to take part in our Orwell Prize book giveaways. Winners in four categories will be announced on 27th June.

Richard Blair at our 2017 live reading


In 2017, we marked our arrival at University College London, home of the Orwell Archive, by staging the UK’s first live reading of the entire novel at Senate House, the building which inspired the ‘The Ministry of Truth’. The performance – directed by Hannah Price and produced by Libbie Brodie Productions – is available to watch back now on our website.

This year we are keen to hear from third parties who are conducting their own celebrations. Several major projects exploring the novel’s enduring relevance are taking place alongside the Foundation’s celebrations, including:

  • A weekend takeover on BBC Radio 4 (8th – 9th June) focusing on Orwell and Kafka, including a new abridged reading of 1984 starring Martin Freeman, and a documentary and podcast led by Ian Hislop and Orwell Prize judge Helen Lewis with contributions from D. J Taylor, Dr Nathan Waddell, Dorian Lynskey and Masha Karp.
  • This April saw the launch of a new “audio thriller” from Audible starring Cynthia Erivo, Andrew Garfield, Tom Hardy and Andrew Scott directed by Destiny Ekaragha with a soundtrack by Muse’s Matt Bellamy.
  • Artist Hans K Clausen will be opening his ‘Winston Smith Library of Wisdom and Truth’ on Jura, the Scottish island where Orwell wrote his novel, on 8th June, before taking the installation on tour across the UK.

Mohit Bakaya, BBC Director of Speech and Controller of Radio 4, said:

We’ve given the Radio 4 weekend schedule over to these titans of literature to take a deep dive into two of their most important works, with an impressive array of acting talent taking some of the most important words Kafka and Orwell committed to paper… This should be a weekend to inform, entertain, disturb and delight.

The Orwell Festival, Bloomsbury, 12th – 27th June

Now in its third year, The Orwell Festival hosts some of the most exciting contemporary writers and reporters, as well as offering attendees the opportunity to learn more about Orwell’s life and works. Highlights this year include:

  • An agenda-setting panel event in partnership with The Political Quarterly on the future of the British economy with Bloomberg’s Stephanie Flanders and former Labour advisers Professor Michael Jacobs.
  • Shortlist readings at Foyles Charing Cross and Waterstones Gower St with finalists from the Orwell Prizes for Political Writing and Political Fiction – from the definitive account of Ukraine’s war effort to a new history of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
  • A special event and drinks reception on 25th June, George Orwell’s birthday, with biographers D. J. Taylor and Ariane Bankes, both authors of new books shedding light on Orwell’s life and influential friends.
  • Guided tours of George Orwell’s London, including many of the locations which inspired the novel, such as the ‘Ministry of Truth’.

The Orwell Festival will conclude with the announcement of the winners of the 2024 Orwell Prizes on 27th June 2024, at Conway Hall in Holborn. The Orwell Prizes are the UK’s most prestigious awards for political writing, with prizes awarded across four categories including Political Writing, Political Fiction, Journalism and Reporting Homelessness.

The winners of The Orwell Youth Prize 2024 will also be revealed at the Celebration Day at University College London on 6th July 2024. Shortlists for all this year’s prizes were announced on 25th June at the Charleston Festival.

About The Orwell Foundation 

Through its prizes, public events and innovative youth programme, The Orwell Foundation nurtures and supports the brave writers and reporters who share Orwell’s values of bravery, integrity and fidelity to truth, both those working now and in the next generation, while our busy events programme provides a platform discussion of issues close to Orwell’s heart, from poverty and inequality, to freedom of expression and the rise of new technologies, designed to appeal to the widest possible public audience.

The Foundation’s youth programme, The Orwell Youth Prize, aims to inspire critical thinking and foster creative writing among young people across the UK, with a focus on reaching areas of disadvantage. Uniquely, the Prize offers free feedback to every entrant. In 2024, the Orwell Youth Prize received a record number of entries and distributed personalized feedback to 593 young writers across the UK, alongside hosting full-day writing and reporting workshops in Coventry, Sunderland and Portsmouth.

Go free as a Friend

Through our prestigious prizes, public events and work with young people, The Orwell Foundation supports and nurtures the writers and reporters who share Orwell’s values of bravery, integrity, and fidelity to truth – both those working today and in the next generation.

As a registered charity, the Foundation relies on individual supporters and volunteers to sustain our work. By becoming a Friend or Patron today, you can help us introduce more young people to the power of creative and critical writing – and access exclusive benefits, including two complimentary tickets to Orwell Festival events.

Join from £60 p.a. ($60 overseas). Monthly membership and concessions available.