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Arts Diary: Anniversary time for literary greats.

AMONG the literary anniversaries of 2003, the centenary of writer George Orwell is expected to be the most celebrated. Two rival biographies are already planned. The Bengal-born (in 1903), Eton-educated journalist and novelist was a rebel who turned his back on privilege. He ended up in low-paid, dead-end jobs, a situation he recorded in his first book in 1933 aptly titled Down and Out in Paris and London.

Among his books of Q journalism, His Road to Wigan Pier published in 1937 remains his most famous. It was an account of mass unemployment and poverty in 1930s Lancashire and Yorkshire. It had been commissioned by the Left Book Club and even they were unsettled by the book's concluding Socialist polemic. On his way to Wigan, Orwell noted that ``on the outskirts of Liverpool there are what amount to whole towns consisting entirely of Corporation houses, and they are quite pleasing to the eye. ``The blocks of workers' flats in the centre of the town modelled, I believe, on the workers' flats in Vienna, are definitely fine buildings. But there is something ruthless and soulless about the whole business...''

It is thought the flats to which he was referring were at St Andrew's Gardens in Brownlow Hill.

Ironically, Wigan has now created its own tourist attraction named Wigan Pier, partly a nostalgic recreation of the past.

Less celebrated this year, undoubtedly, will be the 70th anniversary of the death of the writer John Galsworthy. Despite the television success of his Forsyte Saga, after Galsworthy's death in 1933 his reputation declined and his literary merit is little regarded these days. Galsworthy himself is supposed to be an Establishment figure. The truth was that he, too, was quite a rebel, his prison play Justice produced in 1910 led to the reform of the practice of solitary confinement in prisons. Equally trenchant was his play Strife about the human effects of a strike at a Welsh tin p late works. It was tough stuff for audiences in 1909. It was a play that also paved the way for the formation of the Liverpool Repertory Company and the Liverpool Playhouse.

A group of theatre-lovers had been campaigning for a repertory season in Liverpool and in 1911, they ran a six week experimental season at Kelly's Theatre in Paradise Street. Galsworthy's Strife was the first drama staged.

Galsworthy himself went on stage at the theatre to ask ``this great city'' to support'' an enterprise which is setting out to do its best for what is strong, vital and true in drama''. The critics were cautious about the drama. The Daily Post reported that it was ``certainly not cranky, though it is in a category of dramatic works with which the general theatre-going public are not familiar''.

By the end of the year, however, the Liverpool Repertory Theatre - as the Playhouse was then known - opened u p for business with J M Barrie's The Admirable Crichton.


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 6, 2003
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