The Save Reading Gaol campaign group is made up of volunteers with a shared interest in protecting and preserving both the fabric and the associated history of the Victorian prison, as well as the scheduled ancient monument site of Reading Abbey upon which it is built.
Many people are working behind the scenes on the campaign. However it is currently led by the following volunteers.
Hannah E. Pearson
Hannah studied Mental Health Nursing at Reading University in 1993. After two decades working in the NHS in hospital and community settings, she left to pursue her creative ambitions.
She has worked on sets for filming inside Reading Gaol, including: ‘Lucky Man’, ‘Killing Eve’, ‘White Dragon’ and ‘Summer of Rockets’. Hannah was involved in the 2016 Artangel Inside exhibition in Reading Gaol.
Passionate about the rich history in her home town, she volunteers as a Wardrobe Assistant for Reading Museum’s costumed tours in the Abbey Quarter. Hannah is a Dreadlock Artist, she is involved in many local creative groups and also works on a freelance basis for the RABBLE theatre production team in costuming and props.
Hannah became part of the core team of volunteers in the Save Reading Gaol campaigning group after she organised the attendance of Queen Elizabeth I, Empress Matilda, King Henry I, Jane Austin and Oscar Wilde for the Reading Gaol Hug in 2019. She subsequently co-organised the planned ‘March to Reading Gaol’ in 2020, which later became the Cyber March.
In order to support the Save Reading Gaol campaign, she continues to raise awareness of Reading’s unique heritage, arts and culture.
Heather started the Save Reading Gaol social media pages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in the summer of 2019 and has worked with the group to raise the profile of the campaign since. The cause now has over 3000+ followers and over 8000 people have signed the petition, begun by MP Matt Rhodda. Heather says she started the pages because she: “Didn’t want the sale of the heritage site to developers to go unnoticed….”
Since this time, Heather has volunteered at the Reading Gaol Hug and co-organised the March to the Gaol in 2020 – later becoming a Cyber March, as a result of the pandemic.
Heather has a background in performing arts and worked as an actor and musician in theatre for 15 years both in the UK and abroad; she has also worked within the outreach department of the Watermill Theatre in Newbury. She is now a Speech and Language Therapist for children with communication disorders but continues to work within the community as a freelance drama workshop leader.
Kirsti Wilson came to Reading for University in 1991 and never left! She met her husband on campus in 1992, and they now live in East Reading with their 2 children.
After working as a marketing manager within the IT and telecoms sector, Kirsti then worked at the University for 11 years, laterally as the the University’s external engagement lead.
In 2016, Artangel recruited Kirsti as the Project Manager for the Inside exhibition at Reading Gaol, managing the local marketing of the event and recruiting a team of front of house staff. It was a highlight of her career, and she fell in love with the iconic building and is passionate about helping save it for future generations.
Kirsti is currently the Head of Marketing and Fundraising for Reading’s leading homeless prevention charity, Launchpad, and a trustee of RABBLE Theatre. In 2019, she was nominated for a Pride of Reading community Champion award for her work running the charity Connect Reading.
Linda was born and raised on the Isle of Wight but has lived in Reading for about 35 years. After studying at Cambridge she embarked on a successful career in IT. In her younger, wilder, days she developed a habit of falling out of aircraft before finally learning to fly one. She is now a full-time artist and is Chair of the Reading Guild of Artists. She often exhibits in London and in 2021 was elected to the Royal Watercolour Society. A perpetual student, she has completed a physics degree with the Open University and is now studying for a Masters in mathematics.
Linda has co-curated art exhibitions in Reading including an exhibition of art inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol in 2019.
Galvanised by the campaign to save Reading Gaol for the town, she conceived the idea of “hugging” it and organised the successful Reading Gaol Hug in 2019 . Since the Reading Gaol Hug Linda has continued to campaign to raise support within the community and media to save Reading Gaol.
In 2020 Linda co-authored the Two Rivers Press book Reading’s Influential Women.
Toby is co-founder and artistic director of RABBLE Theatre, formed in 2012 to celebrate diverse and inspiring local stories, facilitate spaces for ideas and establish Reading as a vibrant and inclusive cultural destination.
Since 2013 Toby has done all he can to ensure that Reading’s Gaol can become a catalyst for artistic excellence and public benefit in memory of Oscar as an individual, as board member of Theatre & Arts Reading and as Artistic Director of RABBLE, travelling the country for research, engaging high profile individuals & press and attending meetings.
Toby trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School after studying English Literature at St Andrews University. He has produced all of RABBLE’s shows with his wife, Dani, and continues to perform for RABBLE. Other credits include West End, Hampstead Theatre, Tobacco Factory and tours across the UK.
You can contact the Save Reading Gaol campaign group by using the Save Reading Gaol contact form.