The campaign to convert Reading Gaol into an arts and heritage centre is supported by the following prominent individuals from the arts and media.
“I really wanted to be able to lend my voice because it is very important to me. By joining forces in some way now hopefully… we might be able to do something wonderful”
“But flowers can grow out of manure, and if living art can rise up from the place where Oscar and so many others suffered then how perfect that will be, for Reading, for Britain and for us all.”
Dame Judi Dench
“It would be a great gift not only to Reading as a town and growing population centre of the South, but also to the UK and the world as a whole.
The idea of plays being performed, people learning and enjoying themselves, and a community coming together in a space that represented so much sadness and inspiration for Oscar Wilde himself is a beautiful one.”
Dame Judi Dench
“Oscar Wilde is the patron saint of smashing two contrasting ideas together to create magic. Converting the place that destroyed him into a refuge for art feels so perfect we have to do it.”
“It deserves to be protected and supported as a venue for thriving community spirit, education and creative ideas.
[It is] a massive opportunity to create a cultural gem for Reading.”
“In a time of post-lockdown, crippling costs of living and great pain and uncertainty in the world, artists and communities coming together to explore compassionately what it is to be human through theatre, yes, but also through exhibition, talks, and music, is the greatest reassurance that could be given. We need more unifying community arts spaces and Reading Gaol is a perfect candidate. I am reasonably certain Mr Wilde would agree.”
“The town deserves to preserve and transform its world-renowned link with a unique piece of social, political and artistic history”.
“Despite the undoubted challenges, don’t let this wounded beast of a building be killed when it can be cured“.
“Turning a prison into an arts centre is the equivalent of beating swords into ploughshares. I fully support this ambitious and enterprising project.”
“My Mum and Dad met in Reading, many important moments in my life happened there.
But one thing that never happened was the chance to go somewhere as a child, teenager or young adult to explore and learn about the theatre and our local history.
The work that RABBLE and others are doing to see Reading Gaol transformed into a cultural hub – a place of self-development and artistic, creative discovery – is beautiful.
“Growing up, we always had to go to London for a world class cultural experience and so, to deny the people of Reading this opportunity now and to destroy a place of such historical import is to deny the entire region the opportunity to develop culturally, financially and spiritually.
The growing support for the campaign to Save Reading Gaol shows the importance of this unique building and its potential as an arts and heritage hub.”
“I grew up in Reading and left the town at the turn of the century, just as the Oracle shopping centre opened. As the years passed in another part of Europe, I started to miss my hometown and the volunteer-run spaces that nurtured me and my work: Reading Film Theatre, Progress Theatre and the Rising Sun Arts Centre. Those places entertained me, educated me, fostered lifelong friendships and the latter two gave me a chance to try things even if it ended in failure. Reading Gaol and its association with Oscar Wilde’s thoroughly undeserved incarceration is ripe for reinvention as a cultural hub and Reading is in much need of one. A town’s cultural significance is of great social value and Reading never had a shortage of world-class talent in music, theatre, film and literature, yet we’re missing the kind of spaces that one would expect such talent to spring from. The transformation of Reading Gaol into a cultural hub would not only empower more talented people and local professional companies such as the RABBLE Theatre, but it would invaluably shape and edify the lives of countless locals and visitors to Reading. My generation always thought of culture as something you’d have to travel to London for, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be the other way round.”
“I saw a lot of Reading Gaol when I was a kid. From the outside, of course, not the inside! My sister used to work in the Huntley and Palmer’s factory opposite, and we went to church at St James’s next door. It’s such an iconic building, loaded with so much fascinating history. I’d hate to see it turned into yet another block of flats. Reading needs an arts centre. Here’s a chance to have one.”