top of page
  • Writer's pictureFraser Urquhart Media

Joe Orton Artworks To Be Released For Sale For The First Time Alongside Exclusive Charity Auction

To support a campaign to crowdfund a statue of the iconic British playwright Joe Orton in his hometown of Leicester the Estate of Joe Orton is releasing, for the first time ever, limited edition prints of three of the infamous library book covers that Orton doctored with his partner Kenneth Halliwell, an act that led to the couple being sent to prison. The prints release coincides with the announcement of a charity auction to be held at The Curtain Hotel, Shoreditch on 19th November with donated artworks from Christian Furr, David Locke and The Connor Brothers alongside rare Orton artefacts and handwritten lyrics for the Pet Shop Boys’ song ‘Up Against It’.

The Orton Estate has collaborated with Islington Local History Centre and celebrated artist Christian Furr to produce just 100 prints of three designs: Collins Guide to Roses, Queen’s Favourite and The Secret of Chimneys. Each print will be stamped with the Orton Estate seal and signed by Leonie Orton and Christian Furr, who has remastered the original images.

Each print is available in exchange for a pledge of £500 by the 30th November at:

Leonie Orton said: ‘It would mean the world to me to see a statue of Joe Orton in Leicester. And it will be good for the city, too. Joe would be so proud.’

Christian Furr said: ‘I have always loved the work of Joe Orton, primarily for its humour. The book cover collages by Joe and his partner Kenneth are at first glance seemingly done for their own amusement but they happened over the course of two years and show clear intent. They are valid works of Art to my mind and add to the tradition of collage and situationism. I see their influence in art today. The collages are visual additions to Joe's literary canon and it was an honour to be involved in this timely reappraisal and remastering of this beautiful new print edition.’

In 1962, Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell were sentenced to six months in prison for theft and ‘malicious damage’ after they doctored the covers of seventy-two books belonging to Islington Public Library, rendering them comic or absurd.

Initially decried as an act of vandalism by the authorities, Orton and Halliwell’s redesigned dustjackets later came to be seen as an amusing prank and playful protest against conservatism.

Today their collages are recognised as an act of artistic creation rather than destruction, one that anticipates the central themes of Orton’s plays, particularly his satire on social and sexual norms.

The charity auction, to be held at The Curtain Hotel, Shoreditch, will be introduced by actors Kenneth Cranham and Julia Foster with donations on the door and proceeds from the auction going to the statue appeal. Tickets for the auction are available at with spaces limited.

The Appeal is organised by a committee of Orton fans in Leicester and headed by his sister, Leonie Orton 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.

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 Halliwell in 1967.

Seeking to erect what will be one of only a handful of memorials to LGBT icons in the UK, the project has already received international backing and support from celebrity Orton fans such as actors Sir Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, Sheila Hancock, Kenneth Cranham and Alec Baldwin; choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne; novelist Patrick Gale as well as members of the Leicestershire business community and theatre goers.

The appeal seeks to raise £120,000 to design, create and site the statue at a prominent position in the city of Leicester, ensuring a literary legend and LGBT trailblazer will be remembered for generations to come. It is hoped that the release of these special limited edition Orton/Halliwell prints, along with the upcoming auction, will help the appeal to reach its target by the deadline of 30 November.

Dr Emma Parker said: “The appeal stands at a critical point. We have already raised a significant sum but desperately need the revenue from the prints and auction to succeed. A pledge for a print offers people the chance to be part of an exciting project that will change prevailing ideas about who deserves to be commemorated and to acquire a collectible artwork.’

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.

Anyone wishing to pledge £500 for a print or register an absentee bid for artwork should contact Dr Emma Parker to make arrangements:

Prints are limited and available on a first come, first served basis.

10 views0 comments


bottom of page