Friday, 12 June 2015
Dagenham meets 1984
When the book's narrator George Bowling returns to his childhood home of Lower Binfield he finds the fields of his idyllic childhood market town built over with mock-Tudor suburban houses. Orwell comments: "Do you know the look of those new towns that have suddenly swelled up like balloons in the last few years, Hayes, Slough Dagenham and so forth? The kind of chilliness, the bright red brick everywhere, the temporary looking shop windows fill of cut-price chocolate and radio parts. It was just like that."
A few pages later he reiterates, "it had given me a jolt to see Upper Binfield swollen into a kind of Dagenham." Coming Up For Air, with its themes of impending war and totalitarian threats, is thought to have pre-dated many of the themes of his seminal novel 1984. And it seems Dagenham might have had a role inspiring Orwell to create Airstrip One.