Monday, 23 October 2017

Orwell visitor centre plan revived

A VISITOR centre dedicated to author George Orwell will open in Henley this autumn ? almost two years behind schedule

A VISITOR centre dedicated to author George Orwell will open in Henley this autumn ? almost two years behind schedule.

Peter Burness-Smith had to put the project on hold while he was unwell so is keen to get back on track.

He said: ?I have been dealing with serious cardiovascular problems. I had a triple heart bypass that collapsed and four heart attacks.?

Mr Burness-Smith, an art publisher, of St Mark?s Road, plans to use the disused chapel at Fair Mile cemetery.

He has agreed a contract to rent the chapel from Henley Town Council for a nominal £1 a year until 2043.

He hopes to open the centre in time for this year?s Henley Literary Festival, which will take place in the autumn. The centre will be called George Orwell?s Henley and will document what the town was like between 1900 and 1920.

Orwell arrived in the town with his mother in 1904 and stayed until 1921, when he was 18. He was then called Eric Arthur Blair.

The centre will be free to visit and open all-year round.

Mr Burness-Smith said: ?We intend to create a visitor experience which is showing what the town was like between 1900 and 1920, the two decades Orwell grew up here. That period of history is a fascinating one.?

The centre will have areas to hold debates and meetings rather than being a museum and Mr Burness-Smith hopes to launch a Saturday morning club for children.

He said: ?The first thing that we will do is to have a debate in there. The idea is to invite the Eton debating society to debate with students from The Henley College and then have a reading.?

Seven stained glass windows will be designed by illustrator Gerald Scarfe. Two large windows will depict Orwell?s books Animal Farm and 1984. There will be five other small windows linked to Orwell.

Mr Burness-Smith said: ?We will have to do the windows one by one but for the opening we will get one of the big windows done.?

The plans also include a replica of Orwell?s study at Eton College.

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