Joe Orton artworks to be auctioned for appeal

Sir Ian McKellen and Leonie Orton launching the campaign at Curve theatre

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 in 1962, 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 19 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 30 November at the exclusive auction website.

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, who has remastered the artworks for these new prints, 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."

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 here 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.

The appeal seeks to raise £120,000 to design, create and site 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 (pictured with Leonie Orton), 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.

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."