READING artists are showcasing visual artwork inspired by Oscar Wilde’s poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol later this month.

Twenty artists will be showing work inspired by Wilde’s dark and psychological ballad which is regarded as one of the most important poems of Victorian Britain and highlights the terrible conditions that existed in prisons in those times.

READ MORE: Reading Gaol could be a ‘world-class cultural hub’ with theatre company’s vision says culture minister

Curated by artists Jenny Halstead and Linda Saul, the exhibition will be held at the Turbine House, Riverside Museum from August 31 until September 15, everyday between 10am and 6pm.

READ MORE: Reading Civic Society supports campaign to save gaol and turn it into arts hub.

Jenny Halstead said: “This themed exhibition offers an exciting opportunity for artists to respond in their own personal way to the spirit of this classic ballad.”

Carole Pembrooke, one of the artists, said: “Images came vividly to my mind when I read the poem.”

Carole’s work “Hangman Walking” shows the hangman carrying straps to bind a prisoner to be executed.

The Ministry of Justice have indicated the intention to sell the gaol to the highest bidder.

This is causing concern both locally and further afield.

Nicholas Frankel, Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US, said: “It is vital that a site of such historical and literary significance should be preserved and made accessible in some form that does justice to Wilde’s legacy, while simultaneously reminding us of the harsh price the Victorian penal system exacted on its victims.”

There is wide local support for a plan to develop the gaol into an arts hub, a cultural centre with performance spaces, an art gallery, digital hub, maker space and museum.

Peter Stoneley, Professor of US Literature and Culture at the University of Reading said: “Reading Prison is a landmark building in our social and cultural history.

“How we preserve it, how we think about what it stands for, will say a lot about who we are now.”

Ms Saul, has initiated a project which will see an attempt, on October 13, to “hug” the gaol, surrounding the prison walls with people holding hands, in support of the campaign for an arts hub.