The Future We Want – The Orwell Youth Prize 2020

What does the future you want look like? What’s standing in the way? How can we work to realise a better vision for our future together?

George Orwell wrote to alter perceptions on the kind of future society we want. It’s your turn to decide that future.

Journalism, essays, short stories, blog posts, poems, and plays are all welcome. Like the future, how you respond to this year’s theme is your choice. These resources, however, might be useful to provide that initial spark.

WHY ORWELL?

 

‘To take a rational political decision one must have a picture of the future’

(George Orwell, ‘Arthur Koestler’, 1944)

‘Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache…whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.’

George Orwell – ‘Can Socialists be Happy?‘ 1943.

‘One often has to aim at objectives which one can only very dimly see.’

George Orwell – ‘Can Socialists be Happy?‘ 1943.

‘Political purpose – using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.’

George Orwell – ‘Why I Write‘ 1946

‘All revolutions are failures, but they are not all the same failure.’

George Orwell – ‘Arthur Koestler‘ 1944.

 

It makes sense to start with the man himself. Orwell wrote in a time of momentous historical change and critically engaged with the intellectual current of his time. Grand ideologies competed for dominance, where capitalism, communism, socialism, and fascism were pitted against each other on the international stage. His contemporaries were deeply optimistic about the potential for the seemingly relentless advance of technology to reshape human society and, in consequence, human nature itself.

Orwell is best remembered today for his satirical account of totalitarian regimes and his sceptical approach to the motivations underpinning utopian visions. Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) offer dystopian accounts of failed utopian projects and act as a ‘warning’ for his contemporaries. Orwell, however, never lost his faith in the possibility of a more humane society. His writing aimed ‘to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.’

If you are interested in learning more about Orwell’s writing on social change and the future, you can read a more detailed account here.

 

THE WORLD TODAY

Today we tend to share Orwell’s scepticism towards grand utopian impulses and prefer to allow each of us to decide our own futures. However, we are currently living through uncertain times that impact our collective future. The climate crisis, divisive politics, deep inequality, and technology’s irreversible impact on society forces us to consider a question that pervades Orwell’s writing: what kind of society do we want to live in?

We have included a few links below for you to explore the factors that define how we approach this question. We will update this list throughout the course of the prize, but your reading should not be limited to the list below. Be inquisitive and critically engage with news items and articles you read. Most importantly, keep questioning the world around you and be radical in your solutions.

CLIMATE CHANGE

FIRST STOP OUR CLIMATE CHANGE RESOURCE 

Extra ideas…

Read

Greta Thunberg’s Speech ‘You Did not Act in Time’

RSA Resources on Climate Change

Nine Original Poems on Climate Change

Listen

Naming and Shaming the Polluters (The Guardian)

Are Extinction Rebellion the new Suffragettes?

Watch

Samsa – Anthropocene ft. Atlas

EDUCATION

Read

Should there be comprehensive universities?

The Stormzy Effect

Getting In

Watch

The Future of Education (Sajan George)

 

TECHNOLOGY & AI

Read

Elon Musk: The Architect of Tomorrow (Neil Strauss)

Would you recognise yourself from your data?

 

PLACE & COMMUNITY

Read

Meanwhile Use of Buildings

The Alternatives: making the economy work for everyone (Aditya Chakrabortty)

The rebel bank, printing its own notes and buying back people’s debts (Anna Leach)  

The Brixton Pound

 

IDENTITY

Read

What’s The Future of the Feminist Movement? 12 Leading Voices Respond

Intersectionality: Why it Matters?

Does Extinction Rebellion have a Race Problem?

Watch

The Kids are Having None of It

Listen

Kate Bornstein: The Future of Gender

 

WORK AND POVERTY

Read

RSA The Future of Work

Ending the Poverty Premium

Need some more information on what we want to change. Check out our resources on: Food Poverty  & Poverty Premium Resource

MENTAL HEALTH

Read

In Mind: Found on Mental Health (The Guardian)

Is young people’s mental health getting worse?

 

ART, TECHNOLOGY & POLITICS

Read

What will art look like in 20 years?

Listen

New Ways of Seeing

Tate Podcast: Art & Protest 

POLITICS & DEMOCRACY

Read

Politics as usual can’t fix the climate crisis Maybe it’s time to try a citizens’ assembly

The Case for Reparations

Watch

Knock Down the House

The Tate Podcast: Art & Protest

UTOPIAN FICTION

Read

Ecotopia (1975), Ernest Callenbach

Island (1962), Aldous Huxley

Herland (1915), Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Dispossessed (1974) Ursula K. Le Guin

What We Can At Least Afford to Lose, Luke Kennard

Watch

Avatar (2009), James Cameron

 

WRITING ADVICE

Guide to Style

Guide to Form

Encountering Orwell

The brilliant work of previous winners of the Orwell Youth Prize

If you have any further questions, suggestions, or thoughts, please get in touch with Alex Talbott, alextalbott@orwellyouthprize.co.uk