THE READING Chronicle is campaigning to Save Reading Gaol!

The historic town landmark is under threat with fears it could be sold to the highest bidder. Over the coming months we will highlight different articles and views in relation to the campaign in a bid to raise awareness and support.

This week we focus on the LGBT community who want to help with the fight.

Members of Reading’s LGBT community have voiced their backing to save Reading gaol.

Lorna McArdle is the CEO and founder of Support U, a leading Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) help and support service in Reading.

One of the prisons most famous inmates was Oscar Wilde who was incarcerated for homosexual offences and has since caused the prison to become a ‘mecca’ for the LGBT community.

Miss McArdle believes the prison is of “major importance” and doesn’t want to see it sold to the highest bidder.

She thinks that the prison’s history and Wilde’s incarceration have helped to make it a mecca and “an integral part of LGBT history”.

She added: “It’s not about being LGBT it’s also about his (Wilde’s) work and the importance at that time, the way that he was incarcerated.”

READ MORE: Reading historian calls to save gaol.

Others from the LGBT community have expressed their feelings towards the prison’s sale.

Leo Bowman, 20, president of Reading University’s LGBT+ Society, believes that LGBT history is “scarce” and needs to be saved.

He said: “Erasure of LGBT history makes it difficult to connect with our past and creates a narrative suggesting LGBT+ haven’t always been around or have been in hiding, which is obviously not true.

“We need to preserve and teach our history and give people access to it.”

Suggestions have been made about what the prison space could be used for.

Miss McArdle said she would “love” for it to become a cultural hub to celebrate Reading’s heritage.

She thinks it will “just bring another layer to Reading” and with 1000 years of history there is “plenty to work with”.

Alternatively, Leo wants it to be turned into an LGBT museum.

He said: “I really think this could be a huge opportunity, there are very few museums featuring queer history and something really unique and important could be created.”