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Banksy's Reading Jail Stunt

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Suspicion that the globally renowned graffiti artist was behind the mural that materialised on one of the high red-brick perimeter walls last week was just confirmed via a short video entitled “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross and Banksy”.

Old clips of Ross, a bearded Eighties American TV art instructor, who died in 1995, were intercut with nocturnal footage of the anonymous Bristolian spray-painting intricate stencils at impressive speed.

The result: a striking, viral-friendly visual (dubbed Create Escape) of a uniformed prisoner descending the wall on a sheet weighted with an old typewriter (the imaginative daring cemented by the morphing of knotted bed-sheet into typing paper).

Message received loud and clear: art releases us from wretched lonely, cell-like confinement. And, since Reading Jail is probably only famous because Oscar Wilde was incarcerated there, if you wanted to read between the lines with an eye for fine detail, you could note that typewriters were coming into mass use from the mid-1880s onwards (Wilde’s sojourn was November 1895 to May 1897).

Now that the building has been earmarked for development into housing, the immediate question as to what to do with this pop-up art-work now (the video shows non-plussed police officers in first-response attendance) remains to be figured out.


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