Community hug for Reading Prison

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Campaigners plan to hug Reading Prison in a protest over its upcoming sale.

A CAMPAIGN to Save Reading Gaol as an arts hub is stepping up a gear now that the Ministry of Justice has finally announced that the prison has been put up for sale.

Plans for a mass “Hug” of the Gaol on Saturday, a community-led initiative, are well advanced.

Conceived by local artist Linda Saul, the idea is to have a good-natured, family-friendly opportunity to demonstrate support for saving the gaol as a community resource, by surrounding the prison walls with people linking hands.

St Jamesʼs Church, who are highly supportive of both the Campaign and the Hug, have offered the church be used as an operational base for the Hug organisers and volunteers during the event. 

Online registrations have now exceeded 1000 participants, which may enable several rows of huggers in the Abbey Ruins and Chestnut Walk. Hug participants are being asked to congregate at the Abbey Ruins for 2pm on Sunday, October 13.

The campaign is supported by Reading East MP Matt Rodda. Back in August, he said: “Reading Gaol is known across the country and internationally as the place where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated. 

“It is also the burial place of King Henry 1st and the site includes parts of Reading Abbey, once one of the largest monastic complexes in Medieval Europe.

“It is a vital part of our heritage and it needs to be protected. That is why I am calling on the Government to rethink its mistaken approach and to recognise the enormous value of this unique historic site.”

However, Conservative candidate Craig Morley has urged the Ministry of Justice to sell the site off as quickly as possible.

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