Residents of Hackney with an interest in two of the borough’s most celebrated Jewish sons will be given a chance to learn more about their life and see where they grew up as part of a London cultural festival this month.
Harold Pinter and Arnold Wesker, two of Britain’s greatest ever dramatists, died in 2008 and 2016 respectively, having both been born in the early 1930s. Pinter won a Nobel Prize in 2005, while Wesker was knighted in 2006.
They were foremost members of the diverse group of playwrights who emerged in the late 1950s to react, in very diverse ways, against “stale middle-class drawing room drama” which formed the staple of British theatre.
Those interested in their lives can join guided walks on 19 and 20 September, led by Hackney expert Laurie Elks, as part of the free annual festival, London Open House, celebrating significant buildings.
“There were huge differences between these two Hackney boys,” said Elks. “While Pinter was concerned with the psychological and the unstated, Wesker was engaged with political and social issues.”
Pinter went to the famed Grocers School, the “Jewish Eton”, while Wesker failed his 11+ and went to Upton House School, before doing National Service. Pinter’s claim to be approved as a conscientious objector was turned down.
“Wesker was absorbed with questions of Jewish identity,” said Elks. “Pinter, like Wesker, encountered antisemitism but side-stepped Jewish themes.”