Hollywood A- Listers lend support to campaign for statue of iconic playwright Joe Orton in his hometown of Leicester

A host of celebrities including Sir Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, Alec Baldwin, Kenneth Cranham and Sheila Hancock are lending their support to a fundraising campaign to have a statue of the iconic British playwright Joe Orton erected in his hometown of Leicester.

The fundraising campaign, Joe Orton Statue Appeal (www.spacehive.com/joe-orton-statue-appeal) has been organised by a committee of Orton fans in Leicester and is headed by his sister, Leonie Orton (pictured with Sir Ian McKellen) and Dr Emma Parker, a leading Orton expert at the University of Leicester, home of the Orton archive, which includes manuscripts, letters and other original material written, compiled or collected by the playwright.

Acting legend Sir Ian Mckellen is an active supporter of the fundraising campaign saying:

“’The idea that in Orton Square there should be a statue, a memorial to Joe Orton, is terrific”.

Upon hearing of the fundraising campaign, Hollywood A Lister Alec Baldwin said about the writer:

“I have craved Orton’s writing for a long time, whether I’m sitting in the audience or performing in the cast. There are no comparisons. He’s a true original. Half poet, half devil’s apprentice. I never tire of his wit, soul and anarchy.”

Actor, writer and national treasure Stephen Fry added:

“’Joe Orton has always been a hero to me, both in his work and in the authenticity, wit and wonder of his life. A statue is a wonderful idea”

Born in Leicester and raised on the Saffron Lane council estate, Orton shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies such as Loot, Entertaining Mr Sloane and What the Butler Saw.  His career, although short lived, was incredibly significant, influencing future generations of writers, so much so that his unique style has given rise to the adjective ‘Ortonesque’ to describe work that blends the comic and the macabre. His life, as revealed in his diaries, was as scandalous as his plays, and he died tragically at the age of 34, murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, in 1967.

One of only a handful of memorials to LGBT icons in the UK, a fundraising platform has been set up to meet the projected cost of £100,000 to design, create and site the statue within a prominent position in the city of Leicester. The design of the statue will be subject to a competition where artists will be asked to represent a likeness of Orton in a suitably ‘Ortonesque’ way. It is hoped that the statue, the favoured location of which is Orton Square by Curve, at the heart of the Cultural Quarter, will become a symbol of Leicester’s significant literary heritage and passionate commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Leonie Orton, who administers the estate of Joe Orton with her sister Marilyn, said:

“A statue of Joe will ensure that a great writer is not forgotten, raise awareness of Leicester’s rich literary heritage and serve as an inspirational reminder that talent is everywhere and art is for everyone, regardless of social background or circumstance.”

The launch of the Joe Orton Statue Appeal will take place at Curve at 5.30pm on 25th July where invited guests and Orton fans will be presented with a short fundraising film from Sir Ian McKellen and Leonie Orton, as well as being given the first opportunity to pledge their support to the statue’s funding. Those wishing to pledge their support can do so at www.spacehive.com/joe-orton-statue-appeal

Guests will also be able to take part in a silent auction to bid for rare items from the Orton Archive, exclusive theatre experiences and Orton artwork and there are some once in a lifetime  rewards for donating on offer including the chance to have your photo taken wearing Orton’s coat, that inspired his famous statement: ‘Cheap clothes suit me. I’m from the gutter. And don’t you ever forget it because I won’t.’ and the chance to have his favourite actor Kenneth Cranham come to their house and read from the Orton Diaries.

The fundraising campaign is supported by the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council, Curve, Fraser Urquhart Media and Big Difference Company. Donations can be made at www.spacehive.com/joe-orton-statue-appeal