In the final teaching week before the Easter break, I was fortunate enough to visit London for a couple of days as part of a college trip. (Fortunate in that I did absolutely none of the planning or preparation, meaning that I could geek out along with some A-level Politics students.) We had the opportunity of visiting Hampton Court Palace (a first for me) as well as Parliament, along with other site-seeing walking meanderings.

It was whilst on an early morning meander around the setting of the hostel that I stumbled upon the statue of George Orwell. I was primarily out in the morning – aided with a good cup of coffee – to find geocaches in the area, and so the statue was a very happy find. I didn’t realise that the hostel was closely located next to BBC Broadcasting House, nor that the statute was located beside it.

As with countless others, Orwell occupies a special place within my mental headspace. Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four was a formative experience, particularly in terms of helping me question the things around me. However, I generally try to avoid mentions of Orwell in conversation, mostly because his works are so often mis-cited by so many in the western world (particularly conspiracy theorists who do not appear to have ever read the source material). I’m a big admirer of Orwell’s other works, such as Down and Out in Paris and London, and his myriad of essays.

So, having stumbled upon the statue, I informed one of the students (who has become a big fan of Orwell’s writings), and after breakfast we headed back to it for a joint photograph together. We read and discussed the words on the plaque beside Orwell, which reads:

If liberty

means anything at all

it means the right to tell people

what they do not want

to hear

Interestingly, this visit happened within a week or two of the whole Lineker “tweet row” in which he questioned the government’s immigration policies, which ignited debates about the BBC’s impartiality guidelines. I wonder what Orwell would have thought of the role that social media plays in today’s society, but I also wonder what Orwell would have thought of the presence of football players (such as Marcus Rashford) and presenters such as Linker in holding the government to account. I don’t remember reading about the presence of such footballing personalities in Nineteen Eight-Four, but I can only assume that Orwell would have analysed the impact of social media just as brilliantly as he did other forms of media.