Renowned street artist creates ghostimage of famous playwright Joe Orton in library

A renowned street artist has spray-painted a ‘ghost image’ of playwright Joe Orton in our 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 His stencil of Joe Orton was originally made outside Islington South Library, London ( 2011), where Orton and Halliwell stole and redesigned books.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!”

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