New exhibition in Reading shows artists’ responses to Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol


AN EXHIBITION that celebrates one of the most famous convicts in Berkshire is currently taking place in neighbouring Reading.

Twenty local artists have come together for the show, which features artwork inspired by Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol.

It has been curated by artists Jenny Halstead and Linda Saul and comes as part of a project aimed at turning the now defunct jail into an arts centre, with performance spaces, an art gallery, digital hub, maker space and museum.

The campaign is backed by Reading East MP Matt Rodda.

Ms Halstead says: “This themed exhibition offers an exciting opportunity for artists to respond in their own personal way to the spirit of this classic ballad”.

And artists have been inspired by the famous piece of work, written out of Wilde’s experiences of being incarerated there.

Artist Carole Pembrooke, has created a piece that shows a hangman carrying straps to bind the prisoner to be executed.

She says: “Images came vividly to my mind when I read the poem”.

And Martina Hildebrandt says of her work: “I had a clear image in my head of Oscar Wilde’s cell as we know it today, but it was only after reading the Ballad that the image of a slightly faded transparent figure of a past prisoner emerged, sitting in despair”.

The exhibition will be held at the Turbine House at the Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock, Reading, just five minutes walk from the Gaol. It is open daily from 10am to 6pm until Sunday, September 15.

Visiting the exhibition is not the only way to show support for the historic gaol, which opened in the mid-18th century.

On Saturday, October 13, a project will see people attempt to hug the gaol and surrounding prison walls.

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