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George Garrett Archive Project

The George Garrett Archive project was created by Writing on the Wall to celebrate and preserve the legacy of the Liverpool born writer, George Garrett (1896-1966).

Garrett and Orwell on The One Show!

         Garrett and Orwell’s historic meeting in 1936 featured on The One Show

The George Garrett Archive project was created by Writing on the Wall to celebrate and preserve the legacy of the Liverpool born writer, George Garrett (1896-1966).

On Wednesday 20th November The One show screen a short film about when George Orwell met George Garrett, in February 1936 in Liverpool, when Orwell was researching The Road to Wigan Pier.


Richard Blair and Sean Garrett
being filmed in Central Library.


The film features Orwell’s son, Richard Blair and Garrett’s grandson, Sean Garrett, who met in Liverpool to discuss how the lives of the two writers, one, Orwell, who achieved major recognition in his lifetime, and Garrett, who achieved recognition in the late 1930s, but sank into post-war obscurity, crossed in 1936.

George Garrett, Merchant Seaman, writer, playwright and founder member of Liverpool’s Unity Theatre, was a radical activist who travelled the world and wrote a series of short stories, stage plays and documentary reports about poverty and struggle in the 1920’s and 30’s.

George Orwell, who was then researching his seminal work on poverty, The Road to Wigan Pier, was introduced to Garrett, who showed him round Liverpool, visiting the docker’s hiring stands and the new corporation housing, before Garrett dropped him off at Wigan Pier.

Sean Garrett and Richard Blair, George Orwell's son,
holding the original ship in a bottle bought by
George Orwell in Liverpool in 1936.


Garrett took Orwell around Liverpool’s housing estates, to the Docker’s stand and then to Wigan. They appear to have got on well together and sat up in the night discussing literature and politics. Garrett was well-travelled and known for being well-read and would no doubt have been able to hold his own in discussions with Orwell. 


Orwell confessed to ‘being very impressed by Garrett’, even more so when he realised Garrett also wrote under the pseudonym also Matt Low, with more stories published than he previously realised.



Richard Blair holding a picture
of himself 
aged three on Orwell's knee.


‘I urged him to write his autobiography’ wrote Orwell, but, as usual, living in about two rooms on the dole with a wife (who, I gather, objects to his writing) and a number of kids, he finds it impossible to settle to any long work and can only do short stories. Apart from the enormous unemployment in Liverpool it is almost impossible for him to get work because he is blacklisted everywhere as a Communist.’ (Garrett, like many activists had flirted with the Communist party briefly, but was actually a lifelong syndicalist, having joined the Industrial Workers of the World, or The Wobblies, as they were better known, during his time in America in the early 1920s).


In his diaries Orwell wrote that while he was with Garrett, he ‘Bought two brass candlesticks and a ship in a bottle. G considered I was swindled but they are quite nice brass.’ 



In a very touching and fitting end to the day’s filming, Richard Blair produced the very ship in a bottle that Orwell had bought in Liverpool in 1936. Sean was surprised, and probably a little more moved than he would have expected to be. 

Orwell and Garrett never met again, but, inspired by Orwell’s advice and fired up by his view of The Road to Wigan Pier, Garrett did set out to write his autobiography, Ten Years On The Parish. Sadly, it was never published in his lifetime, but, after being rediscovered in a suitcase by the Garrett Archive Project, Liverpool University Press published it in 2017, along with Garrett’s correspondence with his editor John Lehman as Ten Years On The Parish, The Life and Letters of George Garrett.













 




Writing on the Wall Co-Director Mike Morris with Sean Garrett 
and Richard Blair outside Unity Theatre, Liverpool.



You can find out more about Garrett’s life and work by purchasing Ten Years On The Parish here

The George Garrett Archive Group will be talking about Garrett’s life and work at Liverpool’s Central Library, 6pm, on Wednesday 20th March, and launching a new 8-week education course – all welcome. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details.

Mike Morris, Co-Director, Writing on the Wall. www.writingonthewall.org.uk

Since 2013 a team of volunteers – The Garretteers – have been collecting, collating Garrett’s archive, which is now available for viewing and research In Liverpool’s record Office, based on the 3rd floor of Liverpool’s central Library. In 2017 Liverpool University Press published Ten Years On The Parish, The Autobiography and Letters of George Garrett. The project has published An Introduction to George Garrett, produced two rehearsed readings of his plays Two Tides and Flowers and Candles, held numerous exhibitions and talks, created an installation in conjunction with Liverpool John Moores University’s John Lennon Art and Design Academy, and delivered school-based educational and literacy projects – George Garrett, The Travelling Man.

Click here to buy Ten Years on the Parish


If you would like to find out more information about the project, and/or book speakers or commission a project for your organisation or event, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Click here to go to The George Garrett Archive Project Website