It’s taken more than 120 years but finally Oscar Wilde will be celebrated as an artist at HM Prison Reading rather than a criminal because of his sexuality.
The famous playwright and poet was sent to Reading gaol in 1895 where he served two years for “gross indecency” with men.
During his incarceration he penned the open letter De Profundis, written to “Bosie”, Lord Alfred Douglas, and his time behind bars was the inspiration for his final work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a poem that reflects on the harsh rhythms of his daily prison life.
In one of final acts as Justice Secretary, departing Conservative minister Michael Gove approved an art exhibition at HM Prison Reading, which was closed in 2013.
The exhibition “Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison” will see a number of famous artists and actors celebrate Wilde’s works inside the gaol.
Through September and October, performers including Ralph Fiennes, Maxine Peake and Ben Whishaw will pay homage to the prison’s most famous inmate, reading his works in the prison chapel.
The exhibition will offer the public an opportunity to reflect, in a particularly powerful place, on the implications for the individual when separated from society by the state.