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Did a business from Gloucestershire help immortalise George Orwell?

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Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 07 November 2017 10:48

Did a business from Gloucestershire help immortalise George Orwell?

If you listen to the BBC you will probably have heard it sounding as proud as punch about a new statue to be unveiled today (Nov 7) at the entrance to its Broadcasting House headquarters in London.

The figure immortalised in bronze is none other than former BBC employee and author George Orwell – who as some have pointed out resigned from the corporation in protest at being made to do “work that produces no result”.

The statue is the work of Martin Jennings, a fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, who fashioned the image in clay. We can now confirm the metalwork was done by none other than Pangolin Editions, near Stroud.

Like all artists know for their bronze sculptures the Mr Jennings produces his images from clay, with the casting work requiring a very special skill - and the small matter of a foundry - which is what brought him once again to Gloucestershire and Pangolin.

For its part the company was saying very little, but did confirm our suspicions.

Steve Maule, a director at Pangolin Editions, said: "We can confirm Pagolin Editions cast the statue."

Mr Jennings has 'made' statues of such iconic figures from the world of words before, including John Betjeman, Philip Larkin and Charles Dickens.

His images of Betjeman and Dickens were also cast by Pangolin Editions, which is based in Chalford, near Stroud, Gloucestershire.

The statue was unveiled in the piazza of New Broadcasting House on November 7 by Baroness Janet Whitaker and Richard Blair, Mr Orwell's adopted son.

A quote from Orwell’s introduction to Animal Farm - If Liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear - is carved on the wall to one side of the statue.

It is not the first time the Mr Orwell has left the county looking much the better for his visit.

Back in 1949 he stayed at a sanatorium near the village of Cranham, near Stroud, in an effort to recuperate from tuberculosis. He would die from the condition six months later at the University College Hospital, London.

Ben Whitaker set up the George Orwell Memorial Trust, in order to raise awareness of Orwell’s life and legacy, and to fundraise for this statue. On his death in 2014, the project was managed by his widow, Baroness Whitaker, with the full support of Mr Blair.

Martin Jennings said: “I was delighted when Ben Whitaker asked me to create this statue. I wanted to express Orwell - with one pugilistic fist on his hip and the other hand jabbing his cigarette at us - as candid and forthright, a pointed and interrogative figure forcefully enquiring of each of us whether we too will take his stand on behalf of intellectual liberty and truth.”

A Radio 4 broadcast, ‘George Orwell Back at the BBC’, broadcast on Sunday 3 November, has told the story of this sculpture’s creation.

After the unveiling there will be speeches by Professor Jean Seaton on Orwell’s connection with the BBC, and by Andrew Marr on Orwell’s abiding importance for contemporary news and journalism.

Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC said: “George Orwell was one of this country’s most important political journalists and his time at the BBC helped influence some of his most important novels. Over 65 years after his death it is right that he is finally being honoured publicly in this way.”

The statue will also become part of the popular ‘Talking Statues’ project, where London statues are brought to life by short commissioned monologues which the general public can access via their mobiles. In this case, George Orwell will be personified by actor Damian Lewis.

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