Berkshire

Former HMP Reading set to be Year of Culture venue

Reading prison Image copyright Google
Image caption In November 2015 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the site would be sold for housing.

Reading's disused prison is set to be used as an arts venue.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed the Grade II listed prison, shut in 2013, would be made available as a venue in the town's 2016 Year of Culture events.

The Year of Culture initiative is aimed at uniting the town's arts groups and making it a cultural destination.

Alex Brennan of organisers Reading UK said it would be a "fabulous" addition to the Year of Culture programme.

The MoJ said it would be working with a third party to make the venue suitable to host a season of art, literature and music in the autumn.

It said there would be no additional cost to the taxpayer.

Reading East Rob Wilson MP said using the prison would "help celebrate the town's cultural and historical significance".

Mr Brennan said: "It has a central place in Reading's history. It would be a marvellous and rather unusual venue and I really hope something comes of it."

The prison was the subject of inmate Oscar Wilde's poem The Ballad Of Reading Gaol and part of the prison is on the site of a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Reading Gaol

Famous inmates

  • Roderick Maclean Shot at Queen Victoria in 1882

  • Amelia Dyer Convicted of 'baby farming' murders in 1896

  • Oscar Wilde Playwright jailed after 1895 trial for indecency

  • Arthur Griffith Leading Irish republican interned in 1916

In November 2015 the MoJ said the site would be sold for housing.

A spokesman confirmed archaeological investigations were set to begin shortly before a development plan is formulated.

Reading Borough Council has hopes to take it over the site and has previously criticised the MoJ for "dithering" about making a decision over its long term future.

The empty jail cost the MoJ about £262,000 in the 2014/15 financial year, which covered security and utility bills.

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