Dame Judi said: “It is vitally important that Reading Gaol, a place of such culture, be used in a way that pays homage to its artistic history, namely, to become a cultural and artistic center. It would be a great gift not only for Read as a growing city and population center in the South, but also in the UK and around the world. “
Sir Kenneth, who grew up in Reading, said: “In Oscar Wilde’s iconic poem he says,“ Every man kills what he loves. ”Despite the undoubted challenges, don’t let this wounded beast a building be killed when it can. be healed. “
The prison, built in 1844, was closed in 2014 and its future has been uncertain since.
Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, stressed the need to get “value for money for the taxpayer”, but a sale to a real estate developer who wanted to turn the building into apartments failed this summer and the council local is in talks with the MoJ to preserve it for the public.
Reading West MP and Business Secretary Alok Sharma is also in discussion with Buckland.
The prison is adjacent to the ruins of Reading Abbey, the burial place of Henry I, and historians believe his undiscovered grave may be within the prison grounds. The 900-year-old abbey also stretched beneath the site, meaning very expensive archaeological studies will have to be done by any potential buyer.
The council wants to take the site out of government hands and use the sprawling building for a mix of commercial and public use.
A local professional theater company, Rabble Theater, is among the potential users if the council is able to carry out its plan to turn part of it into a theater, arts hall and museum, and Dame Judi has said she would like see the group move into the building.
Toby Davies, Rabble’s artistic director, said: “We have an extraordinary opportunity of poetic justice for Wilde by putting his pieces in the prison where this terrible thing happened to him. It would also give us a chance to show that there is has more to Reading than a shopping center and a train station. “
Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer of Reading said there was a “huge opportunity to create a cultural gem” in the disused building, while Mr Fry said plans for a center artistic would be a “perfect” legacy for Wilde.
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