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Banksy confirms Reading Prison artwork showing inmate escaping is his
4 March 2021, 18:30 | Updated: 4 March 2021, 20:35
Street artist Banksy has confirmed he was behind a painting on the side of a former prison where playwright Oscar Wilde was an inmate.
The artwork, which appeared on the brick wall of the former Reading Prison on Monday, shows an inmate, possibly Wilde, using a knotted spool of paper from a typewriter to escape.
Banksy officially confirmed it was his on Thursday afternoon in a video on his Instagram account.
In the footage, told in the parody of an instruction art video, the elusive artist is shown stealthily executing the work entitled Create Escape.
The video is set to archive commentary from an episode of The Joy Of Painting with Bob Ross.
It opens with American painter Ross saying: "Hello, I'm Bob Ross. I'd like to welcome you to The Joy Of Painting.
"Got all your materials out, ready to do a fantastic painting with me? Good."
The footage then turns to Banksy picking up and carrying a ladder, then picking out spray cans, in the dark.
Wearing a headtorch, he places a stencil for his piece on the wall of the prison and begins to spray it with black paint.
The clip later shows the completed piece in daylight as Ross says: "Painting to me represents freedom. I can create the kind of world that I want to see and I want to be part of."
Reading Prison is renowned as the location where Oscar Wilde served two years' hard labour for "gross indecency".
Wilde was jailed in 1895 following a retrial and later penned his final published work The Ballad of Reading Gaol highlighting the need for reform of inhumane conditions.
Although the site closed to prisoners in 2013, its future is currently the focus of fierce debate.
The Ministry of Justice, which owns the building, is due to decide by March 15 whether it will be turned into an arts venue.
There are fears that if that bid by Reading Borough Council is unsuccessful, the Grade II-listed site could be sold to property developers.
Speaking after the piece was confirmed as a Banksy, Toby Davies, artistic director for RABBLE Theatre in Reading described it as "fantastic".
"It adds real kudos to the whole campaign to have someone who knows a thing or two about culture take a risk and come and do this on a Ministry of Justice building," Mr Davies said.
"It is phenomenal, it really displays how much it means to people.”
The campaign to turn the site into an arts hub has won the support of Stephen Fry, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Natalie Dormer.
Mr Davies highlighted that Banksy had created the piece while England is under lockdown restrictions.
"It is a significant personal risk from him. I think it's incredible to have done it at this time when the campaign is at this point," he said.
"It speaks volumes. He could have gone to wider issues around the world, there are plenty of them, but he has come to Reading to highlight this."
A spokesman for Reading Borough Council said: "We are thrilled that Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind the Council's desire to transform the vacant Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture with this piece of artwork he has aptly called 'Create Escape'.
"The Council is pushing the Ministry of Justice, who own the site, to make suitable arrangements to protect the image."