Berkshire

Reading Prison opens doors for Oscar Wilde art project

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Media captionThe prison also housed prolific serial killer Amelia Dyer in 1896

A Grade II-listed prison, once home to Oscar Wilde, is opening for public tours as part of an arts project that focuses on the jail and its most famous inmate.

Reading Prison was closed by the Ministry of Justice in 2013 and its fate has since remained uncertain.

Wilde was held between 1895 and 1897 and wrote about his experience in his poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

The project involves the work of artists, performers and writers.

Actor Ralph Fiennes and singer Patti Smith will be among those taking part.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The prison is opening to the public for the first time in an arts project which focuses on the jail and its most famous inmate, Oscar Wilde
Image copyright Marcus J Leith
Image caption The project involves the work of artists, performers and writers. Actor Ralph Fiennes and singer Patti Smith will be among those taking part
Image copyright Marcus J Leith
Image caption The project has been organised by London arts organisation Artangel, in conjunction with the National Trust, which is presenting the tours
Image copyright Marcus J Leith
Image caption The event opens on Sunday and continues until 30 October
Image copyright Marcus J Leith
Image caption Formerly known as Reading Gaol, the prison opened in 1844 and was a working prison until 2013

Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years with hard labour for gross indecency after his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas was exposed in 1895.

After his release, he composed The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which was inspired by his time as a prisoner and reflected the brutality of the Victorian prison system.

The project has been organised by London arts organisation Artangel, in conjunction with the National Trust, which is presenting the tours.

Image copyright Marcus J Leith
Image caption Visitors will be given the chance to see Oscar Wilde's original cell door
Image copyright Marcus J Leith
Image caption Oscar Wilde was held at the prison between 1895 and 1897 and wrote about his experience in his poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Artangel co-directors Michael Morris and James Lingwood said the building was a "powerful place" and they had taken away some of the more recent structures inside the prison to return it, as much as possible, to the way it would have been when it was built.

The event opens on Sunday and continues until 30 October.

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