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Great Britain. Banksy wants to raise £ 10m to buy a former Reading prison

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Banksy wants to raise £ 10m to buy the former Reading prison where the poet Oscar Wilde was serving his sentence. The British street-art artist who does not reveal his identity wants the building to be transformed into an art center, the BBC station reported on Sunday.

The artist, who did not reveal his identity, promised that he would collect the equivalent of the asking price by selling a stencil which he used in March to paint his work on the building of a former prison, included in the list of monuments.


Banksy has previously confirmed that he is the author of a work that depicts a prisoner – resembling the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde – escaping on a rope made of sheets tied to a typewriter.

Destroyed Banksy mural on a former Reading prison building (photo from March 2021)Reuters Archive

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The building in Reading has not been used as a prison since 2013

Oscar Wilde was held in a prison in Reading west of London from 1895 to 1897 after his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas was revealed. He commemorated them in a poem published in 1898 entitled “The Ballad of the Reading Prison”.

The building has not been used as a prison since 2013, and two years ago the British Ministry of Justice put it up for sale. However, a contract with one of the developers in 2020 did not materialize and the building – which costs £ 250,000 a year to maintain – was put back up for sale. As a result, Reading City Council re-submitted an offer to convert the building into an arts center. It is this offer that Banksy wants to support by raising money.

“Turning the place that (Wilde – ed.) Destroyed him into a haven for art fits so perfectly, we have to do it,” said Banksy. He explained that he had once come across the building of the former prison by accident, passing by it, and even before he knew its history, he promised himself that he would paint something on it, because it is rare to find a single 500-meter-long space in the center of any city.

The UK Department of Justice said the deadline for submitting bids has expired and that those submitted are now being examined.

Main photo source: Reuters Archive

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