A Level English Literature students from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College (QE), Darlington, have gained a unique, personalised insight into the work of world famous novelist, George Orwell, through the meeting of his son, Richard Blair. The students were attending the launch of the Orwell Youth Prize at Sunderland University, a yearly highlight for QE’s English Literature department, and were delighted to be able to speak with Richard about his father’s legacy. The Orwell Youth Prize seeks to encourage individuals to submit a piece of creative and critical writing based on a chosen theme with the 2023 competition focusing on the concepts of control and power, linking to the issues young people are currently facing in modern day Britain. As part of the launch, the group participated in an engaging journalism and creative writing workshop, allowing them to put to use the skills they have been developing in lessons.

During a Q&A session with Richard and Quentin Kopp, whose father was George Orwell’s commander in the Spanish Civil War, the students asked about the impact Orwell’s works continue to have on society today and how Richard and Quentin feel about the importance of the truth in modern journalism. There was also the opportunity to discover how both men continue to promote the work of the Orwell Foundation which aims to connect people who find Orwell’s novels to be a source of inspiration. His dystopian classic, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, is a key text studied by English Literature students at QE with the theme of surveillance opening the doors to lively discussions within lessons and detailed critical interpretations in essays.

First year student, Robyn Johnson, who is enrolled on A Level English Literature, Politics and Film Studies at QE, thoroughly enjoyed the visit to Sunderland University and is hoping to study English Literature at university. The 16-year-old, from Darlington, comments: ‘The trip provided a great opportunity for me to deepen my understanding of future careers within English Literature, whilst also developing my appreciation of the subject. It was brilliant to meet George Orwell’s son and learn about the Orwell Youth Prize.’

Julie Ashmore, Course Leader for English Literature at QE, adds: ‘It was a wonderful trip and all of the students were very impressed by Sunderland University and the activities they took part in. Their creative and journalistic writing was of a very high standard. However, the highlight was definitely meeting Richard and Quentin. The group asked intelligent and thought-provoking questions, displaying a mature approach to Orwell’s literary masterpieces.’

For more information about QE’s A Level English Literature course, please email Laurence Job, Deputy Principal, at [email protected].