A mural on a former British jail has triggered efforts to preserve the building from developers.
The Reading Gaol jail was up for sale, but a bid from building developers fell through, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
“Banksy,” a famous guerrilla artist, may have let his feelings be known about the project by painting a mural of renowned writer Oscar Wilde. It shows Wilde escaping from the jail on a rope made of a bedsheet tied to a typewriter. But the mural has yet to be claimed by Banksy, according to the article.
“I’d like to thank Banksy, or whoever else painted this, for their support for the campaign to save Reading Gaol,” said Member of Parliament Matt Rodda to the BBC. “This unique historic building should be saved for future generations.”
The artwork is described as compelling. “It would have been hard for an amateur to do in the dead of night using a scaffold,” said Professor Paul Gough, vice-chair of Art University Bournemouth and a Banksy expert.
“It draws attention to the town, it brings people out on the street,” said Gough. “They then have a conversation and so public art is suddenly given a foreground at a time when people do want that level of diversion — and I think that’s terrific.”
Wilde was convicted and sentenced to Reading Gaol after his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas was exposed. He served his term between 1895 and 1897. His celebrated poem, titled Ballad of Reading Gaol, captured his time in the harsh Victorian penal system, reported the article.
The artwork has drawn a lot of attention and many took selfies with the mural. Also, people would look out of their car windows to see the painting. Since the housing development bid fell through, advocates are happy to keep the campaign alive to turn the old prison into an art hub, reported the article.
“In the right hands, this gaol will evolve Reading into an internationally recognized historical and cultural destination,” said Toby Davies, Reading-based Rabble Theatre artistic director. The mural was “built on the values of acceptance and diversity. Dare I say it, it looks like Banksy agrees.”