Campaign grows for Joe Orton statue in Leicester

Published: 25 July 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

Leonie Orton and Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, Alec Baldwin, Kenneth Cranham and Sheila Hancock are among those lending their support to a fundraising campaign to have a statue of British playwright Joe Orton erected in his home city of Leicester.

A committee of Orton fans has organised a campaign, the Joe Orton Statue Appeal, to erect a statue in the city’s Orton Square. It is headed by Orton’s sister Leonie Orton and Dr Emma Parker, a leading Orton expert at the University of Leicester. The university is home to the Orton archive which includes manuscripts, letters and other original material written, compiled or collected by the playwright.

Sir Ian said, “the idea that in Orton Square there should be a statue, a memorial to Joe Orton, is terrific.”

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 life, as revealed in his diaries, was as scandalous as his plays. He died at the age of 34—murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, in 1967.

The appeal has been set up to meet the projected cost of £100,000 to design and create the statue. The design will be subject to a competition in which artists will be asked to represent a likeness of Orton in a suitably Ortonesque way.

Leonie Orton, who administers Joe Orton’s estate with her sister Marilyn, commented, “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.”

Donations can be made at the Spacehive web site.