Hartlepool writer’s bid to publish book on George Orwell

Journalist David Ryan who is writing a book about George Orwell. He is holding a paperweight like the one Winston Smith has in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Journalist David Ryan who is writing a book about George Orwell. He is holding a paperweight like the one Winston Smith has in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
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A journalist and film buff from Hartlepool is putting the finishing touches to a new book about the on-screen life of renowned author George Orwell.

Two years ago, David Ryan decided to combine two of his passions - for Orwell, and for vintage TV and film.

George Orwell

George Orwell

He then set out to watch every dramatisation, documentary and docu-drama featuring the writer as he could, asking actors, writers, directors and producers for behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

Now he has launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the book, which he plans to self-publish later this year.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Mr Ryan, 48.

“I was worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to track down all the programmes I wanted, or that no one would speak to me.

“But people have been really helpful.

“The actor Ronald Pickup, who played Orwell for the BBC in 1983, even agreed to talk on camera to help with my Kickstarter campaign.

“And I was thrilled to visit Keir and Louise Lusby, retired prop-makers who worked on the Nineteen Eighty-Four movie starring John Hurt and Richard Burton.

“They’ve kept one of the props – a coral paperweight owned by the hero, Winston Smith.”

Mr Ryan, a freelance sub editor who grew up in Hartlepool and now lives in West View Road, lived in London for many years.

He now works from home on British and Australian magazines.

“I’ve done loads of research in the British Library, looking through old press cuttings, and studied shows at the British Film Institute,” added the former Henry Smith School pupil.

“I’m quite proud that I was able to glean information about two ‘lost’ Orwell plays – Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Coming Up for Air – that were shown by the BBC in 1965 and later junked.

“Not only did the writer and director speak to me, but so did one of the few surviving actors, in an American old folks’ home.

“After that, I went to the BBC Written Archive Centre in Reading, where they showed me the scripts.”

On April 4, independent cinemas across the US showed the Nineteen Eighty-Four feature film, made in 1984, as a protest against current president Donald Trump.

The novel was published in 1949, months before Orwell, whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair, died in hospital from a tubercular illness.

Mr Ryan’s campaign is listed on the Kickstarter website as ‘George Orwell on Screen’.

His target is to generate £2,000.