When we first moved to Reading, I was always a bit amazed to drive past Reading Gaol. It’s right there, in the middle of town, still a functioning prison at the time. We had to drive by it every day, to get to the girl’s school, or to the campus where Doug and I work. It is easy to not notice it at all as one drives past, busy negotiating the roundabout and lots of traffic, and trying not to get stuck behind a bus as it slows for the bus stop. Yet this is the infamous prison where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned, and which inspired his poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
If you drive by it today, you would notice it. It is now the site of the newest Banksy artwork, and even in these days of Covid, it is drawing crowds of admirers. We went to see it today. After a year stuck at home, it took a Banksy to get us out and about.
It was fun watching the crowd interact with the piece. Doug tried to catch both escaping prisoner and typewriter:
I settled for smiling:
While it was fun to watch the crowd engaging with the artwork, I was also quite struck by how lovely it is. It is quirky, and funny, and moving.