VAN HALEN RISING with author & historian Greg Renoff

Greg was brought up in New Jersey, USA “I grew up loving history, and eventually got a PhD in the discipline. I spent about two decades in academia, and was a college professor for over a decade. All that time, my childhood love for rock music remained strong”. 

In 2020, Greg released the authorized autobiography of Grammy winning record producer Ted Templeman (Van Halen, Van Morrison, Doobie Brothers, Little Feat). His latest book is ‘Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal’.

Van Halen toured the UK in 1978 opening for Black Sabbath did you come across any stories from that tour?

“I write about the VH/Sabbath UK tour a lot in Van Halen Rising. One of the main reasons I wrote the book and looked at Van Halen’s ‘pre-fame’ years was I wanted to know – how did Van Halen become a band good enough to blow Black Sabbath off the stage? Those questions couldn’t be answered by focusing on 1981 or 1982. It had to be focusing on earlier years”.

Van Halen debut album released 1978.

What inspired you to write Van Halen Rising?

“I grew up a big Van Halen fan, and by the time I became a historian, I was struck by how little info was available about their early beginnings. There hadn’t been a book that had looked at those years”.

“If I wanted to learn the details of how The Detours became the Who, I could read that story in any number of books, if I wanted to learn the details of how the New Yardbirds became Led Zeppelin, a group that stormed the globe and released some of the best albums in rock history, I could read that story in any number of books”.

“But if I wanted to learn about how Van Halen, a band that recorded one of the most successful debuts in rock history, wowed stadium crowds in 1978, and became giants, I couldn’t read that story anywhere”.

Where and when did you first hear Van Halen ?

“I was 14 in 1984 and for me once I heard ‘Jump’ that was it. Then I was able to see Van Halen on the ‘1984’ album tour – a guy in my homeroom class had scalped a ticket. I paid 50 bucks for it in ’84, but was just so desperate to go. And that was it. I became a big fan”.

“So, I saw Van Halen on a Monday night, April 2, 1984. That night, the band was just so larger than life. I’d seen a couple of concerts but the stage was so much bigger, the lights were brighter, it was louder and it was so much more energetic and just a spectacle”.

“Roth jumping off the drum riser and the other thing I remember he stood on the edge of the stage and said “F— the rest of the concert. Let’s go to the bar across the street and get drunk”.

“He was just doing whatever he wanted and I thought it was amazing. And of course Eddie’s guitar playing. You left with your ears ringing and you were so overwhelmed by the whole sensation of the band”.

Researching for the book did you come across any funny or surprising stories ?

“So many, but one comes to mind. There was a huge backyard party in November 1974 in Pasadena. The kids who threw the party went to high school with the Van Halen brothers and they just loved the band”.

“Their parents went off to Mexico so they threw this massive party at their home that Van Halen played at. There were hundreds of kids in attendance. It ended up that the riot police from one of the sheriff’s departments broke up the party!”

‘Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal’ out now.

For more information contact Greg at the official website:

Van Halen Rising – How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal | Greg Renoff | ECW Press

Alikivi  June 2022

KEEP OFF THE GRASS with Orwell Society member Brian Thompson

Museum worker and book collector Brian from Kingston Park, Newcastle, first came across George OrwellWhen I read Animal Farm at Benfield Road Comprehensive school in the 1970s then in 1980 read Nineteen Eighty Four which were both great, then in 1997 I watched the film Keep the Aspidistra Flying which I loved, then I was hooked”.

“I then read all of Orwell’s novels back to back. I also had the privilege to meet briefly, the actor John Hurt at the North East premiere of the film Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984 at the Tyneside Cinema, and get his autograph which is now framed and on the wall”.

When did you first find out about The Orwell Society “Around six years ago I was reading Down & Out in Paris and London and a quick internet search took me to the Orwell Society. I liked the aims of the group so applied for membership and joined in 2017”.

George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair) was married to South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy who is buried in St Andrew’s Cemetery, Jesmond. When did you first come across Eileen’s grave ?

“I was reading a local history book about Tyneside when I saw it in a Did You Know section.

(Tyneside: A History of Newcastle and Gateshead from Earliest Times by Alistair Moffat and George Rosie, first published 2005).

So I visited in 2017 and it was remarkable how easy I found it. It was looking a bit shabby with overgrown weeds so I went to the shops and bought some flowers. Next day I brought along some long nosed decorating scissors and give the grass a good cut”.

“Through The Orwell Society I contacted Richard Blair (George Orwell’s son) and told him what I was doing, he asked me to plant a white rose along with bedding plants”.

Eileen Blair headstone & plaque St Andrews Cemetery, Jesmond (pic Alikivi collection)

Next to the modest headstone there is a plaque, how did this come about ?

“When I visited the grave people were asking me who was buried there so I contacted Richard again and ran the idea past him about putting up a plaque. He agreed it would be a great idea”.

“I got some flat grey Lakeland stone and attached a small plaque, it came out great, really proud of it”.

The Orwell Society at St Andrews Cemetery, Jesmond, Sunday 27/3/2022 (pic Alikivi collection)

Were you at the events for the 77th anniversary of Eileen’s death ?

“Yes along with the Orwell Society we watched the film Wildflower, the author Sylvia Topp was there and walks to locations where Eileen lived plus the blue plaque at South Shields – it was fantastic”.

Have you any events planned in the future ?

“I’d love to go to Barnhill where Orwelll wrote 1984 but for now I’ll continue to tend to Eileen’s grave, it’s a pleasure – like you I think we are under her spell” (laughs).

For more information & how to join the Orwell Society contact:

http://www.orwellsociety.com

Alikivi   April 2022

UNDER HER SPELL : Eileen O’Shaughnessy (1905-45)

Memories of events years ago can sometimes be sketchy but after checking my diaries and emails it was March 2012 when I was shown a South Shields birth certificate for Eileen O’Shaughnessy by the Local History Librarian Ann Sharp.

We bumped into each other near South Shields Registry Office where I was going to collect a family research certificate. The Orwell connection peaked my interest but was more intrigued when I noticed her birth address was Park Terrace, now re-named Lawe Road – just two minutes from where I live.

I wasn’t a fan of Orwell’s writing then, I heard about him – who hasn’t? Over 20 year ago I went to see a theatre production of 1984 at Newcastle Playhouse, and have since read 1984, Homage to Catalonia, Down and Out in Paris and London plus selected essays and journalism but it was more from a local history angle that I first approached this story.

In May 2012, May being Local History month in South Tyneside, a display appeared in South Shields Library and an earlier blog from October 2018 mentions this –

There were three large boards. On the left was a birth certificate and census records. To the right was a photo of George Orwell and a picture of a cemetery in Newcastle. In the middle was a large black and white photograph with about a dozen men standing near sandbags and a machine gun at the front, obviously a war image. Then I noticed a dark haired woman crouching behind the machine gun. I looked closer and got goose bumps’.

Who was this woman who was born in South Shields married to one of the most controversial writers of the 20th century, buried in Newcastle and had a photo taken on the front line of a war ?

Ann mentioned that Eileen had been to the Spanish Civil War explaining the photograph, also “an American lady has been in she is researching for a book about Eileen”. That was Sylvia Topp and she left note looking for any help searching locations where Eileen lived.

Sylvia Topp outside The Customs House, South Shields 10 May 2012 (pic Alikivi collection)

We arranged to meet and I took Sylvia down to South Shields riverside and The Customs House where Eileen’s father worked as a Customs Collector, then into the town centre where he had an office then onto her childhood home in Beach Road.

Afterwards we had a meal in the Italian Restaurant on Winchester Street and left it where I would look into Eileen’s North East life. This proved difficult because there wasn’t much information out there about Eileen.

As the months passed the research grew and in the blog Oct. 2018 –

There wasn’t much information out there just a few bits and pieces that had been mentioned in Orwell books. So there was extensive research over the next year or so. Phone calls, letters, checking and re-checking details.

Interviews on camera were arranged around the country. One led to another, and another. It felt like being gently nudged along to find more about her. I never came across any obstacles, everybody asked wanted to be part of the documentary and were only too happy to help’.

I remember the time I was filming in Sunderland Church High School where Eileen was a pupil. I phoned reception who passed on my number to former Head of English, Sylvia Minto. Next day she rang and we arranged to meet at the school.

We filmed in the main hall where the walls were full of honours boards with names of pupils who went onto higher education. Eileen read English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford and her name was on a board. That same board is now in a room in my house.

A couple of years ago the school was closing down and the receptionist remembered me and got in touch – “of course I’ll have it” not realising the sheer weight and size of the board at 5ft x 3ft !

Someone else who was also captivated by Eileen was South Shields born Professor Robert Colls who had just published his book George Orwell – English Rebel.

pic courtesy of The Shields Gazette

Then teaching cultural history at De Montfort University, Leicester, Colls featured in an article in The Shields Gazette (25 October 2013) by local journalist Terry Kelly.

Colls said “One of the pleasures of writing about Orwell was not only getting to know him, but getting to know Eileen. The evidence is sparse but I really like her and Orwell’s spirit was lifted after meeting her. Her letters show great fun and sharp wit. Getting to know Eileen was an unexpected treat”.

In the October 2018 blog I finished off with –

‘Who knew that a library visit in 2012 would take me and my camera, from South Shields to Sunderland, Newcastle, Stockton, Warwickshire, Oxford, London and finally Barcelona. I remember I had the camera in my backpack walking through Barcelona Airport thinking how did I get here. It seemed so effortless, the whole process just fell into place’.

Link to a short edit of the film ‘Wildflower’  

George Orwell’s first wife, South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy (Alikivi, 11mins edit) – YouTube

To find out more information or how to join the Orwell Society check the official website:  www.orwellsociety.com

Alikivi  March 2022.

LOOKING FOR ERIC – with Richard Blair, Patron of The Orwell Society

In March 2015 The Orwell Society visited South Shields to watch ‘Wildflower’ the documentary I made about South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy, George Orwell’s first wife. We also visited St Andrews’s Cemetery, Newcastle, where Eileen was buried in 1945.

In March 2020 another visit from the OS was planned but unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic. The itinerary included another screening of ‘Wildflower’ along with unveiling a blue plaque to Eileen who was born in 1905. Hopefully we can reschedule a visit later in the year.

Richard Blair is the adopted son of Eileen O’Shaughnessy, and George Orwell – real name Eric Blair – who was author of many books including Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four.

In 2012 I was researching the life of Eileen in the University College London where the Orwell archive is held, and through a connection there I got in touch with Richard. He kindly invited me down to his home in Warwickshire where we filmed a piece for the documentary.

The day went well and in earlier posts (links below) I talked about the ease in which the documentary came together and how each contact led to another clue in looking for Eileen.

November 2012 I was in Barcelona Airport with a camera in my backpack thinking, what led me here ? It seemed so effortless. Eileen and George where involved in the Spanish Civil War and I wanted to film a sequence of that part of their life.

I searched for a contact who could add that piece, I found Civil War historian Alan Warren who was based in Barcelona. We arranged to meet and filming took place in Los Caracoles, a restaurant just off Las Ramblas. A place that Eileen and friends often visited.

Earlier this year I was watching a travel programme about Spain when Richard popped up on screen, I asked him how did that come about ?

Richard Blair

I was asked by Michael Portillo’s TV production company if I would appear with him out in Spain on the Aragon front between Zaragoza and Huesca where both our fathers fought in the Spanish Civil War.

For Michael this was a personal pilgrimage as his father was a Republican and so was fighting on the same side as my father and in relative close proximity to each other, so Michael was very admiring of Orwell and wanted to meet me and talk about the circumstances.

We met in the trenches overlooking Huesca and he wanted to know about my father and how he sustained his injury. It was a very personal interview and he did say that it was one of his high lights of his railway programmes.

I watched ‘Nineteen Eight Four’ at Newcastle Playhouse around 2002 – do many theatre organisations request to stage a play based on Orwell writing and have any TV companies made a similar request ?

There are always requests from theatres to do one or the other of the two ‘main books’ and I daresay they will continue, except that there will be no further copyright to contend with after 31st December.

There have also been many requests to do films and for all sorts of reason they wither on the vine. There was a very successful play by Icke and MacMillan that started in Nottingham about 2014/5 and went round the country twice including the West End.

It then went abroad and also ended up on Broadway. I had the privilege to attend the opening night. Come to think of it I and many of our Orwell Society members have seen several small productions of Nineteen Eighty Four.

How is the Orwell Society set up ?

The set-up is a members society with a small group of Trustees (8) to run and oversee the day to day and long term plans. The Trustees are strictly non-political and allows members to express themselves as one would expect in a democracy.

However blatant extremism that causes offence or is illegal to the members is not tolerated and the Trustees can remove the membership from that person, should they refuse to recant.

What is the aim of The Orwell Society ?

The aim of the Orwell Society is to promote the works of George Orwell, through several ways; through the website with information; through organised events, which allows us, the members to meet up at numerous places that Orwell visited or lived (present problems not withstanding); through media channels such as Facebook and Twitter; and organised monthly ‘Orwell Talks’ via Zoom, introduced recently.

We also promote, as part of our charity obligations, contact with schools to encourage writing and hopefully (when we can start again) visits through their teachers and it is to them that we award bursaries. In other words get the word of Orwell out into the public domain.

Have you seen an uptake in the writing of George Orwell ?

There has always been an interest in Orwell and the society has been proactive in its promotion of his works. We do this in conjunction with the Orwell Foundation and Youth Prize. An organisation that has been running in its present form for some 15/20 years and was born of Bernard Cricks Orwell Awards set up in the late eighties.

It is run by Trustees, but is not a membership organisation. It oversees all the Orwell Awards for writing and journalism and it also runs the mainstream schools youth prize (there were some 1200 entries this last year).

The OS runs in parallel with the OF and the OYP, but does not overlap, but we do cooperate wherever possible. The society membership is running at about 300 members and fluctuates up and down, but mostly up.

Since the society began, have you found anything unusual, interesting or unexpected ?

I think the outstanding feature of the Orwell Society is how friendly we all are. New members are very soon sucked into the animated flow of conversations when they meet older members. I also think we do an enormous amount of activities (sadly curtailed) organised by Quentin Kopp, our organiser and acting Chairman.

Orwell lived in many places, which gives the opportunity to go and see them; from Scotland to London, to Paris, to Spain and many other places. Some still to be explored like Morocco and Burma.

Looking back on your father’s life what do you think about so much of it being documented and what do you feel about his work?

I suppose the short answer to that question is that over the decades he has become one of the more significant writers of the 20th century and yet his relevance has gained more and more traction and continues to resonate to this day.

Interview by Gary Alikivi   December 2020.

For more info about the Orwell Society go to the official website:

The Orwell Society – Promoting the understanding and appreciation of the life and works of George Orwell

Links to research & documentary:

WILDFLOWER – South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy 1905-45 timeline. | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)

WILDFLOWER – documentary about George Orwell’s wife, South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy | ALIKIVI (garyalikivi.com)   plus DVD trailer.

WILDFLOWER – South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy 1905-45 timeline.

SEPT 25 1905 copy

In October 2018 I wrote about making a documentary on George Orwell’s first wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy. The short film had a real local interest as Eileen was born just two  minutes from where I live.

Little did I know when I started the search in 2012 that the film would be shown to the Orwell Society and Richard Blair, son of George Orwell, on the Isle of Jura where Orwell wrote the dystopian classic, Nineteen Eighty Four.

Timeline research 2012-13:

In a graveyard in Newcastle you will find a headstone for Eileen Maud Blair who was married to George Orwell (real name Eric Blair), arguably one of the most controversial writer’s of the 20th century. Books included The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Homage to Catalonia (1938), Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty Four (1949).

But who was Eileen?

Eileen’s story starts in Ireland where her father, Laurence O’Shaughnessey, was born in 1866 on the small island of Valencia and Portmagee in County Kerry. His father, Edward O’Shaughnessy was employed in the Royal Irish Constabulary. Aged 25, Laurence moved to England and boarded at 19 East India Dock Road, Limehouse in London and found work as a clerk for His Majesty Customs.

Eileen’s mother Mary Westgate was born in 1866 in Hempnall, Norfolk, at 24, Mary moved south to Greenwich in London and worked as an Assistant Teacher at Lewisham Hill Road School.

Laurence and Mary met and eventually married in Holy Trinity Church, Gravesend, Kent in February 1900. The couple then travelled to the North East and made a home at 109 Cleveland Road next to the Union Workhouse in Sunderland.

Laurence continued working as a Tax Clerk for HM Customs at Custom House, based at 138 High Street, Sunderland. In 1901 they had a son Laurence who went on to become a distinguished Medical Surgeon.

Six years later the family moved to 3 Park Terrace (re-named Lawe Road) South Shields and Laurence senior was employed as Port Administrator, Collector of His Majesties Customs and had an office in Midland Bank Chambers, 65 King Street, South Shields.

Then on 25th September 1905, Eileen Maud O’Shaughnessey was born and baptised on 15th November in St Aiden’s Church.

After a short time the family moved to 2 and a half Wellington Terrace, now known as Beach Road. They called the house ‘Westgate House’ after her mother’s maiden name and it’s still visible above the front door of 35 Beach Road.

Eileen was educated at the local Westoe School then attended Sunderland Church High School and finally in 1924 the family moved south when Eileen graduated to read English at St Hugh’s College in Oxford. Sadly, Eileen’s father Laurence died not long after, he was 62 years old.

After leaving education Eileen held various jobs including work as an English teacher and purchased a small secretarial agency. But she returned to education in 1934 for a Masters degree in Educational Psychology at the University College in London.

By 1935 Eileen was a graduate student and living with her widowed mother in Greenwich. One night she was invited to a house party at 77 Parliament Hill in Hampstead where she met the journalist and author George Orwell, real name Eric Blair.

Eric was born on 25th June 1903 in India. The Blair family had returned to the UK, settled in Oxfordshire and Eric received a scholarship to Eton College.

Over the months the couple found they had a great deal in common, a passion for poetry, literature and countryside walks. Eric was attracted to Eileen’s blue eye’s, heart shaped face and wavy dark brown hair, her Irish looking features.  They married at Wallington Parish Church in Hertfordshire on the 9th June 1936 and lived at The Stores, 2 Kits Lane, Wallington.

In Europe, a Civil war had broken out in Spain and in 1936 Eileen’s husband travelled to Barcelona and joined the militia of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification. Orwell wanted to help the revolt against Franco and the Fascists. Eileen followed in early ‘37 where she stayed in the Hotel Continental on the Ramblas in Barcelona. She worked as a secretary for the ‘New Leader’ which was a newspaper for the Independent Labour Party.

The party’s General Secretary was John McNair from Tyneside. Orwell was stationed at the front and in battle was shot through the throat. He recuperated in a sanatorium outside Barcelona.

The couple returned to the UK and by 1939 Eileen worked at the Censorship Department of the Ministry of Information. For a time they lived with her brother Laurence and her sister in law Gwen, at their home in Greenwich Park.

Orwell worked at the Empire Department of the BBC as head of cultural programming for India and South East Asia. Unfortunately during the Second World War Eileen’s brother was killed at Dunkirk while serving in the Army Medical Corp, and her mother died a year later – this was a very sad time for Eileen.

But good news was on the way as Eileen and George adopted a baby boy and named him Richard. Eileen by now had given up her job at the Ministry and taken well to motherhood. Orwell began writing ‘Animal Farm’.

Growing tired of London and feeling unwell for the last few months, Eileen travelled back to the North East with their son, Richard. They stayed with her sister-in-law Gwen at her home near Stockton and with the Second World War nearing it’s end Orwell was in Germany working as a War Correspondent.

Harvey Evers was a surgeon friend of her brother Laurence, he had a private clinic at Fernwood House in Newcastle a train ride away from where she was staying. Eileen made an appointment to see him but after the examination tumours were found on her uterus and a hysterectomy operation was arranged for 29th March 1945.

Before the operation Eileen was aware that she might not survive, and wrote long letters to Orwell. Sadly, under the anaesthetic Eileen died. Aged only 39, Eileen was buried on 3rd April in St Andrews Cemetery, Newcastle.

With Eileen’s death a deep sense of loneliness overwhelmed Orwell. He put off a return to the family home and went back to Germany to report on the end of the Second World War. Close friends looked after his son Richard at their flat in Canonbury Square, London.

His novel, ‘Animal Farm’ was published in the summer and in it he credited Eileen with helping to plan the book. In May 1946 Orwell rented Barnhill, a farmhouse on the remote island of Jura in Scotland and wrote Nineteen Eighty Four, the book was published in 1949.

Sadly on 21st January 1950 George Orwell died of tuberculosis in London aged 46. He is buried in the churchyard of All Saints in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire.

Sources: George Orwell biographies by Gordon Bowker and Scott Lucas. Family history research on Ancestry website. Local Studies in South Shields, Newcastle and Sunderland City Libraries.

Thanks to David Harland present owner of Westgate House.

 Gary Alikivi.

WILDFLOWER – making a documentary about George Orwell’s wife, South Shields born Eileen O’Shaughnessy

SEPT 25 1905 copy

In May 2012 I was in the Local Studies library when the librarian Anne Sharp showed me a South Shields birth certificate with the name Eileen O’Shaughnessy. She wasn’t sure but thought Eileen was the wife of author George Orwell. (real name Eric Arthur Blair).

A few weeks passed and I was doing some research in the library when I saw a display at the back of the room that Anne had put together. There were three large boards. On the left was a birth certificate and census records. To the right was a photo of George Orwell, a newspaper cutting and a picture of a cemetery in Newcastle. This looks interesting.

In the middle was a large black and white photograph from the Spanish Civil War, featuring about a dozen men standing near sandbags and a machine gun. Then I noticed a dark haired woman crouching behind the gun. I looked closer. Is that Eileen ? Goose bumps. I needed to know more. 

close up copy

There wasn’t much information out there about O’Shaughnessy, just a few bits and pieces that had been mentioned in Orwell books. So there was extensive research over the next year or so. Phone calls, letters, checking and re-checking details. Interviews on camera were arranged around the country – one led to another and to another.

It felt like being gently nudged along to find more about her. Weeks and months passed and I never come across any obstacles. Everybody asked wanted to be part of the documentary and were only too happy to help.

Then I put the research to one side as I was also working on another couple of projects, this helps me in the film making process. Spending time on something else gives you space away from a project and then you can return to it with fresh eyes and ears.

Autumn 2013 came and DVD sales of previous documentaries funded my time to start piecing together the film about Eileen.  

Who knew that a library visit in 2012 would take me and my camera, from South Shields to Sunderland, Newcastle, Stockton, Warwickshire, Oxford, London and finally Barcelona.

I remember with the camera in my backpack walking through Barcelona Airport thinking ‘how did I get here?’ It seemed so effortless, the whole process just fell into place.

On 26th March 2014 I screened for the first time the documentary about Eileen O’Shaughnessy in the theatre of South Shields Library where I first met Eileen in that photograph taken during the Spanish Civil War.

The Orwell Society, and Eileen’s son Richard Blair, who is interviewed in the documentary, came up North to South Shields to watch the film. The Society also arranged a screening of the film on the Isle of Jura where George Orwell wrote the classic ‘1984’.

Gary Alikivi June 2018.

Recommended:

Secrets & Lies, Baron Avro Manhattan documentary, 17th July 2018.

Westoe Rose, Amy Flagg documentary, 19th July 2018.

Zamyatin, Tyneside-Russia documentary, 7th August 2018.

Why not check the ALIKIVI You Tube channel for more North East stories.

ZAMYATIN -Russian Link to Tyneside. New documentary.

IMG_5077

The Shields Gazette Journalist Peter French wrote on 17th August 2018 ‘It’s a long way from St Petersburg to South Shields. But it was a journey once made by a young Russian, an author, who not only upset the Communist authorities back home, but whose work may have influenced the writing of one of this country’s most influential novels – ‘1984’ by George Orwell.

His name was Yevgeny Zamyatin and his story is now told in a new video produced by local film-maker Gary Alikivi (Wilkinson). The film, which can be viewed on YouTube, may be less than 10 minutes long, but like much of Gary’s work it is informative as well as thought-provoking.

Watch the full film on 7th August post or read more at: https://www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/the-link-between-a-russian-visitor-to-south-shields-and-george-orwell-s-1984-1-9306630

Gary Alikivi  August 2018.

SECRETS & LIES – Shields Gazette article on documentary about Baron Avro Manhattan

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As the blog hits 35,000 views Journalist Peter French wrote in The Shields Gazette 7th August 2018….The life and times of Avro Manhattan, an Italian born Baron whose artwork and writing made him friends and enemies throughout the world, and who chose to spend his final years, living with his wife in South Shields are truley fascinating. But don’t take my word for it – let the man himself revael to you all about it’.

To read the story go to…www.shieldsgazette.com/lifestyle/nostalgia/hit-man-s-target-settled-in-south-shields-1-9288202

Or watch the documentary ‘SECRETS & LIES’ posted on 17th July 2018.

Gary Alikivi August 2018.

ZAMYATIN: THE RUSSIA – TYNESIDE CONNECTION. Making the video.

Yevgeny_Zamyatin-3 copy 2

Diary entry 12th December 2016: Reading a post by Leslie Hurst on the Orwell Society blog, a possible link between Russian Yevgeny Zamyatin, author George Orwell and his wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy. Zamyatin was an author, he also supervised the building of icebreakers for the Russian Navy in Tyneside shipyards in 1916. Looked into this and found Zamyatin an interesting character and worth following up. 

Monday morning jumped on a metro to Newcastle City Library to check out Zamyatins link to Tyneside. Got the lift up to the local history section on the 6th floor asked the library assistant if they had any material about him. She came back from the archive with three pieces of information, dates and index number. There was a local biography note, a page from Alan Myers book ‘Myers Literary Guide to the North East’ and a date of an article in the Journal from September 19th 1988. These were all photocopied. 

Within 20 minutes I had found what I was looking for. Normally in local history there is a bit searching, photocopy runs out of paper, the microfiche is difficult to thread and its running slow etc., but no it all went very smoothly.

Then went out into the town with grey skies and a spit of rain. Over the road I caught sight of some graffitti. I had my small Canon camera with me so nipped over and took a few pics. The slogans were on the back of a muti storey car park with small slits for windows. Brutal architecture. Very East European. Amongst the slogans was a red hammer and sickle ! Went straight to Waterstones and bought a copy of Zamyatins novel ‘We’.

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While working on this blog during 2017 I put aside the Zamyatin project until I had more time. Then in May this year started to fully research and write the script. 

Diary entry 4th June 2018: Got on the metro to Jesmond and found the address where Zamyatin was living when he worked on Tyneside. As I went to knock on the door the owner walked up the path. That was fortunate. Introduced myself and told her what I was there for. We talked for 10 minutes about Zamyatin then exchanged contacts. Took photo’s outside the house and the blue plaque on the wall. Then walked about 5 mins to St Andrews Cemetery to see the headstone of Eileen, Orwell’s wife. The grave is in good nick with flowers planted nearby. Did Eileen have any contact with Zamyatin ?

A short script was put together using A Soviet Heretic by D.J.Richards. The narration was recorded at The Customs Space  studio in South Shields. Tyneside actor’s Iain Cunningham  with Jonathan Cash adding the voice of Zamyatin. Again, as on many projects North East musician John Clavering captured the mood.

The finished story of ‘Zamyatin – The Russia-Tyneside Connection’ can be seen here. To see more documentaries you can subscribe to my channel on You Tube.

 

 

 

Gary Alikivi July 2018.