Why Save Reading Gaol?

Reading Gaol is an important national, even international, heritage site. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned there for homosexuality 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. The highest bidder is likely to be a (luxury) property developer.

Converting the Gaol into an arts and heritage hub would give the local community a valuable new resource and also provide a venue that visitors from afar will want to visit. Arts, culture and tourism are all recognised as being important to the economy.

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).