Students discover Leicesters literary secrets on Joe Orton walking tour

This year the University of Leicester has been celebrating the work of Joe Orton.

The Leicester-born playwright is one of our city’s most treasured cultural icons and 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of his tragic death. In commemoration there have been a huge number of events and cultural activities organised by University staff, aimed at celebrating the life and enduring work of Orton. In this spirit, the University Library gave students the opportunity last week to learn as much about him as possible on a Joe Orton Walking Tour.

The event was a great success, and was organised in collaboration with Leicester University Theatre (LUT), the Attenborough Arts Centre, The New Walk Museum, and Dr Emma Parker from our School of Arts. The walking tour was designed with the intention of giving the uninitiated a crash-course in the controversial artist’s life, work and impact on contemporary culture. Starting at the University Library, students were first introduced to the artwork and historical material on display in the lobby, such as a vase created by Orton’s niece, Rachel Barnett. Students were then given an introductory talk on who Joe Orton was, his unique artistry, and why we continue to celebrate him today.

After the talk, students were taken to the Attenborough Arts Centre to watch a performance of a scene from his famous play What the Butler Saw which was given by the LUT, and then given a guided tour of the exhibitions on display. The tour culminated in a visit to the What the Artist Saw exhibition at the New Walk Museum, guided by the exhibition's curator, Dr Emma Parker, and accompanied by the Museum’s artistic curator, Simon Lake.

The event was attended by a broad variety of students and disciplines, and the feedback we have received so far has been brilliant, meaning students can definitely look forward to similar events in the future! Students described the event as “very interesting and informative”, “highly enjoyable” and English students who will have the option of studying Orton next semester have expressed a lot of positive feedback. Another great result is that students have been able to let us know what they’d like to see in the future, with the requests for more local writer showcases being high, so watch this space!

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