Ian McEwan to deliver The Orwell Lecture 2021

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Ian McEwan will deliver this year’s Orwell Lecture on the topic ‘Politics and the Imagination: Reflections on Orwell’s Inside the Whale’.

The lecture, which is generously sponsored by George Orwell’s son, Richard Blair, will be held in-person at Conway Hall, London, on the evening of Friday 26th November 2021. Registration for in-person tickets is now available via Eventbrite (a donation is encouraged).

In 1957, Albert Camus wrote, ‘it is always possible to record the social conversation that takes place on the benches of the amphitheatre while the lion is crunching the victim.’ George Orwell’s 1940 essay Inside the Whale raises important questions about a writer’s sense of obligation towards issues of the day, social justice and political commitment. Do such duties compromise that absolute freedom necessary to all good art? Or is such freedom a form of privileged and selective blindness? Perhaps this circle can never be squared. Camus and Orwell demonstrated that it can.”

About the lecturer

Ian McEwan’s works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix Fémina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany’s Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), the National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award (2003), the Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003) and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). In 2006, Ian McEwan won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Saturday and his novel On Chesil Beach was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards where McEwan was also named Reader’s Digest Author of the Year. Solar won The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction in 2010 and Sweet Tooth won the Paddy Power Political Fiction Book of the Year award in 2012. In 2014 he was awarded the Bodley Medal.

The Orwell Memorial Lecture

The Orwell Memorial Lecture, given in memory of the author, essayist and journalist George Orwell, has been given annually since 1989 and has attracted notable speakers including Dr Tristram Hunt, Daniel Finkelstein, Kamila Shamsie, Dr Rowan Williams, Dame Hilary Mantel, Robin Cook and Ruth Davidson MSP. Speakers are tasked with discussing any topic ‘Orwell might have been interested in’. Originally held at the University of London, Birkbeck and the the University of Sheffield, the Orwell Memorial Lecture usually takes place each year at University College London, home of the UNESCO-registered Orwell Archive, the most comprehensive body of research material relating to the author’s life anywhere. The Orwell Foundation is based at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies. This year, however, the Orwell Memorial Lecture is being held at Conway Hall for the first time.

COVID-19 Measures

While we are delighted to be able to host the Orwell Lecture in person this year, the safety of our staff, volunteers, guests and audience members is of the utmost important to us. COVID-19 has not gone away, and for that reason, we are asking every attendee to read our venue’s COVID-19 guidance for themselves. In particular, under no circumstances, if you are showing any COVID-19 symptoms should you attend the lecture. Similarly, if you believe you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, please do not attend the lecture.

We encourage you to do everything you can to minimise the risk of you being infectious, including taking a lateral flow test on the day of the event and getting vaccinated. Our staff and volunteers will be wearing face coverings, and we encourage guests and audience members to wear a face covering if you are able to do so. However, neither the Foundation nor the venue will be enforcing this or making it a term of entry. Face coverings work to help stop transmission, but at the same time we (and Conway Hall) believe it is your choice to do so.

Your ticket and donation

The Orwell Foundation is an independent charity which exists to continue the legacy of George Orwell, our goal is to make that legacy accessible to everyone. The lecture is free to attend, but if you can please donate to help our work in celebrating honest writing and reporting, uncovering hidden lives and confronting uncomfortable truths – and, in doing so, to promote Orwell’s values of integrity, decency and fidelity to truth. Your donation will help cover the cost of running the Orwell Lecture and it will support the Orwell Youth Prize. Donations will help support the Orwell Youth Prize through workshops, recourses, and direct feedback, a unique writing and gaming prize that helps young people from across the UK to engage with Orwell’s work and think critically and creatively about the society they are a part of. You will hear some of our Youth Fellows responding to the Lecture.

Competitions like the Orwell Youth Prize are so important for giving us a space to fight our corner and express our creativity” – Rosaleen Tite Ahern, 2020 OYP Winner

Joining instructions

Eventbrite tickets are strictly for the in-person event at Conway Hall. There are only a limited set of tickets available and you will not be able to attend the event without a ticket. Door open at 18:00 and the lecture will start at 18:30. Click here to register to attend in-person.

If you plan to attend the event online, we will be streaming it live through our YouTube channel. We will also share this link on our social media channels and through our newsletter at least ten minutes before the event starts. If you have any trouble, please contact Jordan Dilworth at info@orwellfoundation.com.