Turn Oscar Wilde's Reading Prison to art venture, celebs demand

Shubham Dasgupta
·2-min read


Turn Oscar Wilde
Turn Oscar Wilde

10 Jan 2021: Turn Oscar Wilde's Reading Prison to art venture, celebs demand

After LOTR stars campaigned to preserve author JRR Tolkien's Northmoor house, several British stars have now joined hands to save another old structure having a rich heritage.

The Reading Prison, where Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, one of the greatest litterateurs ever, was incarcerated between 1895 and 1897 for being gay, is their focus now.

It is located about 65km west of London.

Details: In prison, Wilde wrote 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol'

The noted playwright was convicted in that jail on grounds of "gross indecency" after his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas got exposed.

It was during his imprisonment that Wilde wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, opening about his struggles as a prisoner who has been victimized by the Victorian penal system.

To note, the building was known as Reading Gaol earlier.

Revival call: Several celebrities joined hands for campaign

The prison was shut down in 2013.

Three years later, the Year of Culture events program replenished the scope for this empty building to become a haven for art exhibitions.

The Grade-II listed building was also about to be bought by developer Artisan Real Estate, but the bidder withdrew.

Given its potential for an art museum, British stars are now seriously wanting the conversion.

Did you know?: Stephen Fry had played the playwright in a 1997 film

Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Fry, and Natalie Dormer have united to campaign to turn the building into a center for culture.

"If living art can rise up from the place where Oscar and so many others suffered, then how perfect that will be, for Reading, for Britain," Fry had commented earlier.

Interestingly, he had played the playwright in the 1997 movie, Wilde.

Fact: Both Branagh and Dormer have connections to Reading town

Notably, both Branagh and Dormer have Reading connections.

While he has spent a part of his childhood there, Dormer is a Reading-born.

The GoT star said this is a massive opportunity for Reading Borough Council to create a "cultural gem for Reading."

The Council echoes this sentiment and has claimed its interest to revive the bid to transform the site into an arts complex.

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