Reading Gaol is an important national heritage site. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned there and wrote his famous ballad on his release. The prison is in the grounds of Reading Abbey and Henry I is believed to be buried nearby. The prison has been closed since 2013. The Ministry of Justice is planning to sell it to the highest bidder by the end of 2019.
Many people in Reading wish the gaol to be converted into an arts hub and museum.
Artist Linda Saul is arranging a mass hug of the Gaol on 13th October to draw attention to the desire to have the gaol as an arts hub.
Local MP Matt Rodda has started a petition to preserve the gaol and enhance it to become an arts hub.
“Converting the prison to an arts and heritage hub, especially one containing both a museum and a theater, would be the perfect way of honoring Wilde’s memory as well as the importance of Reading Prison itself to nineteenth- and twentieth-century debates about the justice system.“
Prof Nicholas Frankel, Virginia Commonwealth University, author of The Annotated Prison Writings of Oscar Wilde (Harvard University Press, 2018) and Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years (Harvard University Press, 2017).