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The George Garrett Archive

Writing on the Wall wins Heritage Lottery Support for George Garrett Archive Project

Writing on the Wall are delighted to announce they have won the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund to celebrate and preserve the legacy of the neglected Liverpool born writer, George Garrett (1896-1966)

George Garrett, Merchant Seaman, writer, playwright and founder member of Liverpool’s Unity Theatre, was a radical activist and a ‘militant advocate of tolerance’ who travelled the world and wrote a series of short stories and plays that led George Orwell, who he met and gave guidance and support to in his research for ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, to say, 'I was very greatly impressed by Garrett. Had I known before that it is he who writes under the pseudonym of Matt Low in the Adelphi (a magazine published in the 1920's and 30's) and one or two other places, I would have taken steps to meet him earlier.' His importance in the literary 'canon' of working class literature is also supported by a leading scholar of working class writing, Professor John Lucas from Nottingham Trent University, who states that, 'Garrett is probably the most notable working-class writer of his time'.

In early 2012 WoW met members of George Garrett’s family who shared with us a number of incredible items owned by, or relating to the life and work of George Garrett, including the original drafts of a number of his short stories, original poetry, plays and correspondence with theatres, publishers and literary magazines of the 1930’s. The collection also includes correspondence with some of the key political figures in Liverpool from the 1930’s onwards, including Jack and Bessie Braddock, and a series of identity cards and other material relating to his life at sea.
This is a highly significant body of material relating to Liverpool's literary, cultural, social and labour history, which also carries important social and historical material about Liverpool's ocean-going, and radical political and syndicalist links to America and Latin America.
Project Outline
The George Garrett Archive Project seeks to explore, preserve and share the life and work of Liverpool writer, seaman and political and social activist, George Garrett (1896-1966). George Garrett’s work occupies a unique and significant position as the central point of a compass that links Liverpool's literary, cultural, social, political, theatrical and sea-going history. Through a series of workshops and field trips focused on researching, collating and cataloguing Garrett’s work, the project will collaborate with Garrett’s family, other interested individuals and organisations, and with professional bodies to preserve and create a permanent physical and digital archive of Garrett’s work. The project aims to enhance awareness and understanding of Garrett’s work, explore the possibility of the existence of undiscovered work, and make his work accessible to the public through displays and exhibitions. By telling George Garrett’s story WoW is demonstrating its commitment to showcasing the legacy of the best of working class arts and culture.
Starting in January 2013, the project will run for 18 months, culminating in a weekend celebration of George Garrett’s Life and Work during Writing on the Wall’s annual festival in May 2014. The legacy of the project will be extended through the development of a display, an education pack, a short film and the housing of his archive at Liverpool’s Central Library.
Project Aims
To involve Project Participants/volunteers to work with local historians and other professionals to research, gain knowledge and raise awareness of the life and work of writer, George Garrett, and Liverpool’s literary, social and maritime history.
To enable project participants/volunteers to develop skills to research, collate and preserve the work of George Garrett, creating a physical and digital archive of his work.
To encourage the local population to celebrate Liverpool’s literary history by sharing the work of the project through public display and performance and making George Garrett’s work accessible to a wider audience.
To encourage an interest in local heritage and writing in schools, colleges and community groups, inspiring a creative response and encouraging a new generation of writers.
The George Garrett Archive Project is launching a series of workshops that will explore George Garrett’s writngs – short stories and plays, his involvement in Liverpool’s radical social and upheavals and his life as a Merchant Seaman, with a particular focus on his time spent in America and his involvement with the International Workers of the World (The Wobblies). Course participants will also gain skills in archiving and conserving Garrett’s work, and play an active role in researching his life and bringing his work back to Liverpool for display in the newly refurbished Central Library and Records Office. 

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Writing on the Wall believe in creativity, community, diversity, artistic excellence and social and economic justice. We are Liverpool’s longest-running writing and literary organisation and festival. We celebrate and inspire creativity and writing in all its forms through inquiry, debate, performance and publishing. Our annual WoWFest brings together local audiences with the best local, national and international writers, artists and social commentators.