University of Leicester academic co-curates special exhibition on Joe Orton

The new National Justice Museum launches its first crowdfunding campaign for exhibition exploring role of crime in Joe Orton’s life and work
The National Justice Museum has launched its first-ever crowdfunding campaign to celebrate the work of Leicester playwright, Joe Orton.
The museum is hoping to raise £10,000 as part of an Art Happens campaign, hosted by national charity Art Fund, to help create a special exhibition – featuring archival materials provided by the University of Leicester – and exploring for the first time the fascinating role of crime in Joe Orton’s life and work.

Titled Crimes of Passion: The Story of Joe Orton, the exhibition will mark the 50th anniversary of Orton’s death and the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The exhibition is co-curated by the renowned Orton academic at the University of Leicester, Dr Emma Parker.

Dr Parker, of the School of Arts, said,

“This exhibition will examine, for the first time, crimes committed by and against Orton alongside Orton’s treatment of crime in his plays. It offers a valuable insight into shifting conceptions of social justice.”

Orton was born in Leicester in 1933 and after winning a scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met Kenneth Halliwell, an actor and writer seven years his senior. Halliwell would become Orton’s friend, mentor, partner and eventually his murderer. Throughout his life, Orton wrote many acclaimed plays including: Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Loot and What the Butler Saw.

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The exhibition will pay homage to Joe Orton’s principle format of work – plays and will feature objects on loan from the University of Leicester’s Orton Archive [1], including archival material and the Morocco diary.

Artist (and Orton’s nephew) David Lock, will also be commissioned to create new artwork and a large-scale collage inspired by the one that lined the walls of Orton’s and Halliwell’s bedsit in London which featured images stolen from library books.

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Donations for the museum’s Art Happens campaign, start at just £5 and donors can take away a selection of limited edition rewards; from badges and tote bags, to prints and original artwork from artist David Lock.

Tim Desmond, Chief Executive of the National Justice Museum said,

“We’re excited to launch our first ever crowdfunding campaign with Art Happens. Joe Orton is a gay icon and a working-class hero from the East Midlands and we hope to bring focus to his life and work through the themes of crime and punishment as part of a new special exhibition. It is important to us that the 50th anniversaries of Joe’s death and the decriminalisation of homosexuality are recognised as part of our programme of public learning as to how the law can and does more to protect fundamental but neglected personal rights.”

Donations can be made via the National Justice Museum’s Art Happens page: [2]

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