A “mass hug” surrounding Reading Gaol has been organised for October in an effort to make the heritage site part of the community.
Local artist Linda Saul wants to build on the support for MP Matt Rodda’s petition to turn the Gaol into an arts hub and prevent it falling into the hands of high-bidding housing developers.
She thought the campaign needed a physical demonstration of the desire to keep the historic location as a community asset by asking people to hold hands and encircle the Gaol.
Ms Saul said: “In the past, inmates would have wanted to find a way out of Reading Gaol. Now people are trying to get in!”
A working group was set up to organise the hug, and several other parties, including the Reading Civic Society, are supporting the project.
There is growing support for the Theatre and Arts Reading proposal for the Gaol, which would turn the building into an art gallery, a digital hub, a maker space and museum and provide a hub for the community to take part in cultural activities.
Lead member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation cllr Karen Rowland said: “Many people in Reading and beyond are eager to see the prison site utilised as a cultural hub for the town.
“I am therefore delighted to assist in facilitating this community-driven initiative as a novel and energetic expression of just how much such a use of the gaol site would enrich the cultural and heritage offerings for Reading’s residents for years to come.”
Twenty artists have also worked together to produce an exhibition inspired by Oscar Wilde’s famous “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” at The Turbine House and is open from August 31 to October 15.
The Reading Gaol Hug takes place on Sunday, October 13, and starts at 2pm.
Register for free to join in the Reading www.readinggaolhug.uk or sign the petition at mattroddamp.com/stopreadinggaolselloff