Eileen: The Making of George Orwell

£2 per person

Suitable for ages 16+

Richard Blair, the adopted son of author George Orwell and patron of the Orwell Society will be joining us at The Word alongside Sylvia Topp, author of the novel Eileen: The Making of George Orwell. Sylvia will be launching and discussing her book which is the never before told story of George Orwell’s first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy, a woman born in South Shields who shaped, supported and even saved the life of one of the 20th century’s greatest writers. The event will also include Jarrow-born Tom Kelly ‘in conversation’ with Richard Blair and there will be an opportunity for the audience to ask their questions. There will also be a showing of Gary Wilkinson’s ‘Wildflower’ film, about Eileen O’Shaughnessy.


As the adopted son of George Orwell, I am honoured to be invited to be patron of this society. Since there is no blood relationship, I have followed a very different career path. My upbringing and training is in agriculture, followed by a period working for a well known tractor company. Redundancy in the mid-eighties led to a complete change, which involved the ownership of a holiday complex. Following the sale a few years ago I am now fully retired and am in a position to give more time to all things Orwell, including the Orwell Society. I hope that it will provoke, not only light-hearted and serious discussions about Orwell himself, but also about the issues he took passionate interest in’.


Sylvia Topp began writing seriously in her forties, creating an eclectic variety of articles and short stories. A compilation of her work will soon be in print. She was the longtime wife and partner of Tuli Kupferberg, a Beat poet who later was a co-founder, in 1964, of the Fugs, a legendary rock and roll band. Together Sylvia and Tuli wrote and designed over thirty books and little magazines, including As They Were, 1001 Ways to Live Without Working, and Yeah magazine. Sylvia has worked in the publishing world since college, starting as a copy editor on medical journals, then moving to freelance editing at major literary publishing houses. After that, she joined the staff at The Soho Weekly News and later The Village Voice, ending her publishing career recently, after sixteen years in the editorial department at Vanity Fair. She is now retired and planning a memoir of her life’s adventures.

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