Calls to protect Banksy's artwork at former Reading prison

Video report from ITV News Meridian reporter Heather Edwards

There are calls for the Ministry of Justice to protect a painting by street artist Banksy, that's appeared on the wall of Reading Gaol.

The artwork, which depicts a man using bedsheets to escape, appeared on the side of the former jail overnight.

Dozens of locals gathered to see it for themselves on Monday.

Some residents think it looks like poet and former inmate Oscar Wilde trying to escape the prison, formerly known as Reading Gaol, with a typewriter in his hand.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Banksy confirmed the artwork was his in an Instagram post, showing the process of creating what he's called the 'Create Escape'.

Reading Borough Council says it's pushing the Ministry of Justice, which owns the building, to "protect the image".

The former prison could be sold for redevelopment, meanwhile campaigners have been fighting to turn it into an arts and heritage hub instead. 

Locals now believe Banksy has created the artwork to help with the campaign.

Campaigner Heather Snaith says: "Without a doubt it has shone a spotlight on the rich heritage of the gaol. It has got such an important history, not just obviously the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for his sexuality. It's incredibly important to the town's heritage."

A spokesman for Reading Borough Council said: "We are thrilled that Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind the Council's desire to transform the vacant Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture."

Credit: ITV News Meridian

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We are aware that Banksy has confirmed he is responsible for the graffiti which appeared outside Reading Prison.

"We are considering next steps and will provide an update in due course."