Joe Orton: 50 Years On

Joe Orton (1933-1967) was a Leicester-born playwright whose life and work Joe Ortonhelped to define 1960s British culture. Known for his anarchic black comedies and sexually frank diary, Orton is a major postwar dramatist and a gay icon.

This project, led by Dr Emma Parker, marks the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Orton’s three major plays:

  • Entertaining Mr Sloane (2014)
  • Loot (2016)
  • What the Butler Saw (2019)

The project also commemorates the 50th anniversary of his death in 2017.

Through a series of exhibitions, productions, screenings, talks, and publications that pay particular attention to issues of class and sexuality, the project seeks to celebrate Orton’s achievements, to consider previously overlooked aspects of his work, and to recognise his cultural impact and legacy.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Orton’s death in 2017, Emma Parker partnered with BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Chris Shepherd to launch a creative writing competition for post-16 students inspired by the prank letters of complaint that Orton penned under the name ‘Edna Welthorpe’, to commission new letters from renowned writers, actors and artists and to make an animation inspired by the original Edna Welthorpe letters.

Saboteur Awards Winner 2018

In 2017 ‘Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)’ , starring Alison Steadman, screened at Encounters Short Film Festival, Bristol, the London International Film Festival, Barbican, on the BBC Arts webpage and on Criterion TV in the USA. In 2018, the film screened at the British Animation Awards, London; the Short Film Festival, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; the LGBT Feedback Film Festival, Toronto, ‘a showcase of the best LGBT shorts in the world’.

The Edna Welthorpe project won a Saboteur Award (2018).

Read Emma Parker’s close reading of Loot on the British Library’s Discovering Literature webpages

Listen to Emma Parker discuss Joe Orton on BBC Radio 4 ‘Front Row’

Project partners

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Curve theatre, Leicester
  • Leicester Arts and Museums Service
  • National Justice Museum, Nottingham
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, London
  • Arts Council England
  • Polkadot Productions

Events

Event titleLocationDate

A Screening of Entertaining Mr Sloane (1968) starring Sheila Hancock, introduced by Emma Parker

FREE

Homotopia LGBT Festival, Tate Liverpool

Saturday 4 November 2017

2.00pm

Joe Orton and Shakespeare: Collage, Class and Queerness

A Talk by Emma Parker

Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society 26 October 2017

Joe Orton and Me: Breaking Boundaries

An exhibition sponsored by Heritage Lottery Fund

Soft Touch: Young People’s Arts and Heritage Centre and Pork Pie Library, Leicester 9 August –30 December 2017

Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)

A Celebration of Joe Orton

Frances Barber, Graham Fellows (aka John Shuttleworth), Leonie Orton, Emma Parker, David Quantick, with a special message from Alec Baldwin

The Little Theatre, Leicester

Wednesday 9 August 2017

7.00pm

Joe Orton: Working Class, Queer, and Onscreen British Film Institute, Reuben Library

Monday 7 August 2017

6.30pm

What the Artist Saw: New Art Inspired by the Life and Work of Joe Orton

An exhibition co-curated by Emma Parker and Michael Petry with Simon Lake, featuring work by David Lock, Louise Plant Stewy, Danielle Vaughan, Tim Youd

David Lock’s painting ‘El Muniria’, commissioned for this show, was shortlisted for the John Moores Painting prize 2018. The exhibition was featured on BBC East Midlands Today news (27 July, 2017) and ITV Central News (19 October, 2017)

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester 29 July – 22 October 2017

Crimes of Passion: The Story of Joe Orton

An exhibition co-curated by Bev Baker and Emma Parker

Winner of a Special Commendation at the Nottingham Heritage Awards 2018

National Justice Museum, Nottingham

22 July – 1 October 2017

Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)

A Celebration of Joe Orton

Chris Shephard, Robin Ince, Emma Parker, Leonie Orton

Latitude Festival, Southwold

Sunday 16 July 2017

7.25pm-8.25pm

Joe Orton: Legacy and Influence

A Talk by Emma Parker, David Lock and Marilyn Lock

Tate Britain, London

Queer and Now: Tate Britain Pride Festival

Saturday 24 June 2017

3.00pm-4.50pm

What the Artist Saw: New Art Inspired by the Life and Work of Joe Orton

An exhibition co-curated by Emma Parker and Michael Petry

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), London

5 February – 4 March 2017

Leonie Orton: I Had it In Me

Join Leonie Orton to discuss her newly published memoir I Had it In Me.

Chaired by Dr Emma Parker

FREE

Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester

Wednesday 16 November 2016

2.00pm-3.00pm

 

Joe Orton and 'Shoxbear' with Dr Emma Parker

A free lecture about Orton's relationship to Shakespeare

FREE

Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester

Wednesday 16 November 2016

1.00pm-2.00pm

Joe Orton’s Loot: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

A day of talks by Orton’s friends, family and fans

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester Sunday 25 September 2016

Joe Orton’s Loot: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

An exhibition of material from the Joe Orton Archive, University of Leicester

Curator: Dr Samantha Mitschke, AHRC Cultural Engagement Fellow, University of Leicester

FREE

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester 24 September – 30 October 2016

An Evening with Kenneth Cranham

Introduced and Chaired by Dr Emma Parker. Tickets £7

Curve Theatre, Leicester Saturday 24 September 2016
Entertaining Mr Sloane: A 50th Anniversary Celebration University of Leicester Wednesday 29 June 2014

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