Diary: Graffiti artist takes a walk on the Wilde side at Reading Gaol

Oscar Wilde in 1882
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Reading Gaol is probably best known these days for its theatrical heritage, having been the residence of playwright Oscar Wilde after his conviction for ‘gross indecency’ in the 1890s.

After closing in 2013, the prison opened again last year to host a series of installations and performances celebrating Wilde and the prison’s history. And for a number of campaigners, spearheaded by a group called Theatre and Arts Reading, it is hoped that the empty building will be turned into a permanent arts space for the future.

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In support of these plans, graffiti appeared on the prison’s perimeter wall last week, saying “I’m not a prison, darling, I’m a theatre”.

But even if the sprayer had a sense of humour, the Ministry of Justice – which owns the building – certainly did not.

A rather grumpy statement was released by the Ministry, saying that it was “aware of an incident of vandalism” and was “working to remove the graffiti”. Presumably that means it was looking for a sponge and a bucket.

“We will not hesitate to refer any criminal activity to the police,” the statement ended, suggesting that, if the culprit is found, Reading Gaol may once again be responsible for bridging the worlds of theatre and petty crime.

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