As part of the Liverpool WoWfest 2018 Richard Blair and Sean Garrett joined Ros Wynne-Jones and Mike Morris to talk about the two Georges, Orwell and Garrett, who met in February 1936. Orwell had intentionally travelled from Wigan, where he was deep in the research for The Road To Wigan Pier, to meet his fellow Adelphi magazine contributor, George Garrett. Orwell was even more impressed when he discovered that Garrett also produced the material that Orwell admired, writing as “Matt Lowe”.
Richard Blair gives his impressions of The Two Georges, held on May 25th 2018.
Friday night’s discussion, “A Tale of Two Georges”, was part of “Writing on the Wall”, a month long festival of arts and literature in Liverpool (hence “WoWfest”). This is organised by Mike Morris and his staff of five or six. I was asked if I would attend by Robyn Donaldson of the Orwell Foundation, who worked for Mike Morris in a past life, and agreed to take part.
The subject was “A Tale of Two Georges” or Orwell and Garrett on the Road to Wigan Pier. The participants were Mike Morris, Ros Wynne-Jones, Sean Garrett (grandson of George Garrett) and myself. The object of the evening, in front of an audience of approximately 50 people at the Toxteth Public Library, was to see a small part of Ros Wynne-Jones’s documentary about Orwell’s journey to Wigan and also to Liverpool where he met George Garrett (page 71 of the Folio Society’s edition of A Life in Letters and Diaries, 2017).
Ros Wynne-Jones, Sean Garrett, Richard Blair, Mike Morris
Sean and I then followed, doing two readings: he from The Road to Wigan Pier while I read a piece of George Garrett’s autobiography, Ten Years on the Parish (edited by Morris, Wailey and Davies, Liverpool University Press, 2017). There then followed a discussion about how the two men met, during which I gave the audience a précis of my life with Orwell, and Sean with his knowledge of his grandfather, who died when Sean was seven. We had a very pleasant evening discussing the merits of both men at that time and when they met. With questions from the audience the time soon slipped by from 19.10 to about 21.30 (I hope the audience got their money’s worth). There were certainly many who were well acquainted with Garrett and many who had read Orwell, so it was a lively evening.
The George Garrett Archive is a major project to preserve proletarian writing
My conclusion is a fantasy of what might have been, had Orwell and Garrett continued to keep in touch, as both men seemed to have parallel minds on many subjects, such as the repression of the poor and their working lives and conditions. Orwell had come across Garrett after reading an article published in the Adelphi. Garrett (who used the pen-name “Matt Lowe” because he had been a “matelot”, a sailor) also wrote short stories, and had had an interesting life in New York as a bootlegger. His biggest problem when he returned was that of living in cramped accommodation with a large family, which simply stopped him from getting the peace to write, but he also had to provide for his family so that his output was severely compromised. Nevertheless he is highly regarded in many circles in Liverpool.
All photographs from WoWfest 2018. Thank you.
Uploaded May 27th 2018