A MASSIVE group hug surrounding Reading Gaol is being organised by campaigners to save the asset.

The idea was suggested by local artist, Linda Saul, who felt that in addition to the petition, the campaign needed a physical demonstration of the wish to have the Gaol as an asset for the community. The Ministry of Justice is planning to sell it to the highest bidder.

READ MORE: ‘The Oscar Wilde Society wholeheartedly supports the campaign to save Reading Gaol’.

Ms Saul proposed the idea to the Arts and Heritage Forum, a Reading Borough Council facilitated open forum that promotes Reading’s vibrant cultural scene from within the local community.

A working group has now been set up to organise the hug which is scheduled to take place on Sunday October 13 from 2pm.

The idea being that participants will hold hands and surround the prison with a mass “hug”.

Several parties have shown their interest in the movement including the Reading Civic Society.

Councillor Karen Rowland, Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation has also expressed her support.

She said: “Many people in Reading and beyond are eager to see the prison site utilised as a cultural hub for the town.

"I am therefore delighted to assist in facilitating this community-driven initiative as a novel and energetic expression of just how much such a use of the Gaol site would enrich the cultural and heritage offerings for Reading’s residents for years to come.”

There is mounting enthusiasm for the proposal for the prison from Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR).

The proposal includes performance spaces as well as an art gallery, digital hub, maker space and museum, and would provide a hub where local people can meet for arts, crafts and cultural activities.

Now, visual artists are getting more involved with the campaign to save the prison including Ms Saul.

Artist Sally Castle has also been involved and produced a new logo for the campaign, which includes an image by the late Peter Hay from the Two Rivers Press edition of Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”, with their permission.

Sally says of the logo “The chosen image looks like a precious crown - a treasure to be looked after!”.

If you wish to take part in the Hug, to be one of those encircling the Gaol, you can register on Eventbrite or click here

Registration is free but is important in order to give the organisers an idea of what numbers to expect on the day.

Linda Saul added: “In the past inmates would have wanted to find a way out of Reading Gaol, now people are trying to get in!”.

Sally Castle, Peter Hay and Linda Saul are among twenty artists who will have work inspired by “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” exhibited at The Turbine House, Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock from August 31 to September 15.

The petition to Save Reading Gaol can be signed online here.