British street artist spray-painted ghost image of playwright Joe Orton in the University of Leicester Library

credit: Osborne Hollis

Artwork allows visitors to interact one-on-one and reflect on legacy of writer

LEICESTER, 23-Jun-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — A renowned street artist has spray-painted a ‘ghost image’ of playwright Joe Orton in the University of Leicester Library – which he hopes will encourage people to reflect on the legacy of the writer.

British street artist Stewy made his stencil of the Leicester  writer at the University of Leicester and later at the Little Theatre.

The commission was part of a programme of events marking 50 years of the death of Orton.  Orton was born in Leicester in 1933 and after winning a scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met Kenneth Halliwell. Halliwell would become Orton’s partner, collaborator and eventually his murderer.

Throughout his life, Orton wrote many acclaimed plays including: Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Loot and What the Butler Saw.

Stewy is a British street artist and psychogeographer who makes hand-cut, life-size stencils of British icons in locations specific to each person. His stencil of Joe Orton was originally made outside Islington South Library, London ( 2011), where Orton and Halliwell stole and redesigned books.

Stewy said: “I have created a life-size image of Joe Orton made from a stencil that I sprayed on the Library wall.

“What is good about doing it here is that it is engaging for students, lecturers and visitors who can look at it on their way through the University. They can perhaps be more aware of Joe’s legacy than they were before by having almost a ghost image of Joe on campus.

“From an artistic point of view, I am really interested in the book covers Orton created with Halliwell using collage. The stencils I create are almost collaged together and drawn into before cutting – the collage is important to me as is the place, the cheekiness, the rudeness, the energy Joe  created in his writing. Hopefully this comes through by having an image of him.

“What’s great about it is people can interact with it- it is one-on-one – and they can reflect upon their own feelings about Joe and on his legacy.”

Leading Orton academic Dr Emma Parker, Associate Professor in Post-War and Contemporary Literature at the University of Leicester, said: ”I am delighted that Stewy has made his iconic image of Joe Orton in the University Library to mark the 50th anniversary of his death in 2017. Given that Orton was arrested for stealing library books, I think he would have appreciated the irony of his image being placed near the self-service check-out machines!”

Dr Parker said that as part of the year of events marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Orton there is:

  • a short documentary to accompany the artwork, which will feature a rare interview with Stewy.
  • What the Artist Saw: Art Inspired by the Life and Work of Joe Orton, New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, 29 July – 22 October 2017. Curated by Emma Parker, Michael Petry (MOCA, London) and Simon Lake (New Walk).
  • Crimes of Passion: The Story of Joe Orton, National Justice Museum, 22 July – 1 October. Curated by Emma Parker and Bev Baker.
  • Special Orton event at Little Theatre on 9 August supported by University of Leicester. Acclaimed actress Frances Barber will read the hilarious prank letters of complaint that Orton penned under the pseudonym Edna Welthorpe alongside new Edna letters commissioned from top comedy writers such as Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, The Thick of It), Arthur Mathews (Father Ted) and Caroline Moran (Raised by Wolves). BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Chris Shepherd is collaborating with Emma Parker on an Arts Council-funded project in which Chris pays tribute to Orton through a new Edna-inspired animation starring Alison Steadman. Tickets for ‘Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)’ available from The Little Theatre from 1 June 2017:
  • Parker and Shepherd are also running a creative writing competition that invites post-16 students to embody Orton’s mischievous spirit and write a new Edna Welthorpe letter. The competition offers students an opportunity to learn how to channel anger into humour and use satire as an alternative to hate speech. Deadline 30 June. The winning letter will be read at the event on 9 August. Creative writing competition:

The University of Leicester also houses the Joe Orton Collection: Joe Orton Collection:

A video of Stewy’s Stencil of Joe Orton at the University of Leicester is available here:


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr Emma Parker on email


T: +44(0)116 252 5761
Out of hours: +44(0)7711 927821

SOURCE: University of Leicester


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