Kate Winslet said it was “incredible” Banksy had chosen Reading Prison for his latest piece as she joined calls to turn the old jail into an arts venue.
The Oscar-winning actress supports a group of theater and hopes to stop the demolition of the site due to housing.
Banksy has confirmed that he was behind the painting oand many believe it shows his support for the art center.
Winslet, who grew up in Reading, has promised to perform on opening night if the plans became a reality.
Banksy’s portrait of an escaping prisoner – perhaps similar to the famous prisoner Oscar Wilde – emerged last week.
The Department of Justice, which owns the site and previously described the artwork as “graffiti”, said it was considering what it would do with the art.
“I Just Feel Incredibly Excited”
Winslet told the BBC she believed the “incredible Banksy piece of wall art” should remain and become part of the “legacy” of a new diverse cultural and arts hub.
She said: “I just felt incredibly excited for Reading to have a Banksy.
“If Reading had a legacy space like that, to hand on to generation after generation, it could really be as valuable as some of those central London theatres.”
The Reading Borough Council will submit a new application next week to purchase the property and convert it into an art gallery.
Ballad Of Reading Gaol
The sale to a developer of the Grade II-listed prison, where Wilde was held between 1895 and 1897, fell through in November.
It was included in Wilde’s poem Ballad of Reading Gaol while he was living there, which showed the violence of the Victorian punitive system.
Titanic star Winslet described her own experiences growing up in the town and how she learned how to act at drama clubs held in scout halls, church halls and school gyms “because there was no real central space for creative communities to be built”.
However, the star of Hollywood films, including The Reader and Revolutionary Road, believes it is harder for young people today because of “unrealistic ideals” that come about through social media.
She added: “Yes, I come from a family of actors – but those actors were also dentists, Christmas tree sellers, tarmac layers, they were more often doing those jobs than they were acting because they found it hard making a living from acting.”
Winslet said she felt compelled to back the cause after being contacted by Toby Davies from the Reading-based Rabble Theatre, who has been leading the campaign.
“I really wanted to be able to lend my voice because it is very important to me. By joining forces in some way now hopefully… we might be able to do something wonderful,” she added.