It IS a Banksy (yes, we know you know) but before he came forward, street artist Pistol said he thought it was – here’s why

The artwork, now confirmed to be by Banksy, has appeared on the wall of Reading Gaol Picture: Phil Creighton

A STREET artist confirmed that the artwork added to Reading Gaol was that of Banksy before the big reveal.

In last Thursday’s print edition of Wokingham.Today, Pistol shared why he thought the work was genuine.

The below piece was published before Banksy released a video on Thursday lunchtime revealing that he was indeed the artist.

A NEW verse has been added to the Ballad of Reading Gaol, thanks to a mystery artist’s work.

Overnight on Sunday into Monday, art appeared on the wall of the Reading landmark and it has been attracting a steady stream of visitors ever since.

It features a prisoner escaping, via a traditional rope ladder made of bedsheets.

In a nod to the gaol’s most famous inmate, Oscar Wilde, this is weighted by a typewriter.

The work is thought to have been created by guerilla artist Banksy, whose art is highly sought after and well respected across the country.

And Wokingham-based street artist Pistol is convinced the work is genuine.

“I am 100% sure it’s a Banksy, I’d put my house on it, there is no shadow of a doubt,” he said.

Pistol says the hallmarks are shadowing behind the typewriter, very discretely done.

Also, while Banksy used to use just black, white and grey he now uses skin tones on faces and hands, and Pistol says it is his style completely.

“Apparently, the scaffolding went up at about 3pm on Sunday,” he continued.

“They put scaffolding up then tarpaulin, so they can crack on without being seen. Anyone passing by would just think it was building works.

“I also heard someone questioned them and was told it was for filming.

“When Dismaland [a Banksy art project in Weston-super-Mare] was being built, signs went up saying it was building work, so that is a regular Banksy ‘excuse’.”

Pistol feels that the work was created to help support the campaign to turn the disused gaol into an arts centre, adding that Banksy has previously created work for a struggling Bristol-based boys’ club so they could sell it.

“The prison is going to be either a cultural centre or flats and he has caught wind of that,” Pistol says.

And the timing of the work is fillup for residents struggling with lockdown restrictions.

“Whenever Banksy paints, he puts a smile on people’s faces,” Pistol said. “It is a huge thing for Reading, it is to help the cause of arts and culture in Reading.”

Pistol was waiting for the picture to appear on Instagram, which is how Banksy will claim it as his work.

“It will be interesting to see what happens to it. I hope Perspex will be put over it to protect it.”

And the typewriter’s significance is not lost on Pistol, who realises it is a nod to Oscar Wilde.

“I think it shows that what could be a culture centre in Reading already has its own culture to begin with,” he said.

The work has been welcomed by Reading East MP Matt Rodda, who is one of the leading lights of a campaign to see the site, which has been empty for nearly a decade, turned into an arts and heritage centre.

He has secured a number of celebrity endorsements including Sir Kenneth Branagh, who is currently portraying prime minister Boris Johnson for a new Sky film, and Dame Judi Dench.

But this latest endorsement, if it is by the famous artist, is perhaps the most visible sign of support.

Mr Rodda said: “I’d like to thank Banksy, or whoever else painted this, for their support for the campaign to save Reading Gaol.

“The media coverage generated by this artwork shows the amazing interest in the story of the gaol and Oscar Wilde.

“This unique historic building should be saved for future generations.”

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