Monday, 21 June 2021

Opening of Orwell centre delayed

A VISITOR centre dedicated to author George Orwell will open next year.

A VISITOR centre dedicated to author George Orwell will open next year.

Art publisher Peter Burness-Smith had hoped to open it to coincide with next week’s Henley Literary Festival but he has been forced to delay the launch due to illness.

He is now organising a celebrity reading event on November 1 and 2 at the centre, which is the former chapel in Fair Mile cemetery, ahead of its formal opening in January.

Mr Burness-Smith, who lives in St Mark’s Road, said: “We are going to have two evenings of celebrity readings to show people what we have got to offer.

“The building itself is almost ready but there is painting and decorating and cleaning still to do. By that time we will have the 1984 club board up which has the names of sponsors.”

Mr Burness-Smith will pay a peppercorn rent of £1 a year to Henley Town Council, which owns the disused chapel, for the next 30 years under the terms of the contract.

The centre will be called George Orwell’s Henley and will document what the town was like in the early 1900s. It will be open all year round and be free to visit.

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

Plans include the conversion of the chapel’s anteroom into a replica of Orwell’s study at Eton College and a free book exchange.

Stained glass windows will be created by illustrator Gerald Scarfe. Two large windows will depict Animal Farm and 1984.

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.

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