Graffiti Artist Banksy Vows to Transform a Prison Into an Arts Centre

Graffiti artist Banksy has offered to sell one of his stencils to save the former prison where Oscar Wilde was an inmate from property developers.

He used the large cut-out when spraying an artwork on a wall at HMP Reading, formerly Reading Gaol, at the end of February, which was seen as a sign of support for a local campaign to save the building for the community.

The stencil for ‘Create Escape’ – depicting an inmate lowering himself down the wall on sheets that morph into paper and a typewriter – has since been valued at up to £15million.

The Ministry of Justice is said to want £10million for the jail, but Banksy’s offer is conditional on the building becoming a community facility. He said: ‘Converting the place that destroyed [Wilde] into a refuge for art feels so perfect.’

Wilde was imprisoned there from 1895 to 1897 after being convicted of gross indecency over a gay love affair. His poem The Ballad Of Reading Gaol is about the brutality of the Victorian penal system.

The Ministry of Justice said: ‘The deadline for bids has passed and we are considering the ones we received.’

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