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Plaque will be UK’s first monument to Clockwork Orange author

10 Oct 2012

Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess will be publicly honoured for the first time in the UK, when a blue plaque is unveiled tomorrow (10 October) at The University of Manchester, where he studied.

The blue plaque honoring  Anthony Burgess
The blue plaque honoring Anthony Burgess

The unveiling will be proceeded by the world premier of a trumpet fanfare he wrote as a birthday present for his son – Andrew Burgess Wilson - and recently discovered by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF) also based in Manchester.

Other than a plaque outside his flat in Monaco -- where he lived for 17 years -- no other monument exists to the world-famous author, who died in 1993.

Dr Andrew Biswell, Director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, said: "Although Burgess was one of the great English-language writers of the 20th century, he has always been neglected in the country of his birth.

"In his lifetime, he was always regarded with suspicion because he lived abroad, even though he regularly visited the UK and came back to London towards the end of his life.

"Burgess was awarded major public honours by President Mitterand of France and Prince Rainier of Monaco, but in Britain he received nothing except a cheap plastic trophy presented to him by Mrs Thatcher at the British Press Awards.

"So I’m delighted that the University has decided to install the first British public monument to Burgess, fifty years after A Clockwork Orange was first published."

The undergraduate John Burgess Wilson – who invented the name "Anthony Burgess" when he published his first novel - studied English literature at the University from 1937 to 1940.

He went on to write 33 novels, 25 works of non-fiction, two volumes of autobiography, three symphonies, and more than 250 other musical works, including a violin concerto for Yehudi Menuhin.

The son of a music-hall dancer and a shopkeeper, he grew up in Harpurhey and Moss Side, before winning a scholarship to Xaverian College.

Some of his earliest poems were published in the University of Manchester student magazine "The Serpent", including a love poem to his first wife and fellow student, Llewela Jones. They became engaged while they were studying at Manchester.

He also wrote music as an undergraduate, composing a piano sonata, a number of cabaret songs, and a setting of T.S. Eliot's poem, "Lines for an Old Man".

The fanfare, called Flourish, was originally written for recorder and trumpet in the 1980s -  but arranged for two trumpets by University of Manchester lecturer and Head of Composition Dr Kevin Malone.

Dr Howard Booth, lecturer in English and American literature, will be chairing a discussion on Burgess with Dr Biswell and  Dr Kaye Mitchell from the University’s  English and  American Studies department.

The plaque will be unveiled by Professor Jeremy Gregory, Head of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, to mark the launch of the school.

Dr Booth said: “It’s a great opportunity for all of us in the new School to celebrate a former English literature student. Burgess is a major novelist who deeply loved literature and language - he wrote so well about other writers.

“I’m eager to celebrate a distinguished former literature student for the benefit of the present cohort.

“Who knows, in fifty years’ time there may be a blue plaque for one of our current students.”

Notes for editors

Drs Biswell and Booth are available for comment.

The unveiling will take place outside the main entrance of the Samuel Alexander Building at 5pm on October 10. It will preceded by the world premier of Flourish for two trumpets.

A one-hour round-table discussion with Dr Howard Booth and Dr Kaye Mitchell of English, American Studies & Creative Writing, and Andrew Biswell from the International Anthony Burgess Foundation will take place at the Arts Lecture Theatre, Samuel Alexander  building at 4Pm on October 10.

Images available:

  • The University ‘Mark book’ containing the  performance  of JB Wilson  - soon to be known as Anthony Burgess.
  • Anthony Burgess aged 5, taken outside The Golden Eagle, the pub owned by his father and step-mother, on Lodge Street in Miles Platting, in 1922. (Low res)
  • His first wife, Llewela Jones (also known as Lynne), who was a fellow student at Manchester University. She enrolled in 1938 and they married a few months after she graduated, in January 1942.
  • Lynne and Anthony together.

For media enquiries contact:
Mike Addelman
Press Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567