Ian McKellan backs campaign for statue of gay playwright Joe Orton

Ian McKellan is backing a campaign for a statue of gay playwright Joe Orton

Sir Ian McKellan is just one of the celebrities who are backing a fundraising campaign for a statue of the gay playwright Joe Orton, who was murdered in 1967.

Campaigners are hoping to raise £120,000 to design, create and assemble a statue of the famous playwright in his home city of Leicester.

Orton expert Dr Emma Parker is leading the campaign alongside surviving members of Orton’s family. If sufficient funds are raised, they plan to commission a statue from a leading sculptor.

They will ask artists to submit designs of the statue and will come up with a shortlist of three, before selecting a final version.

Ian McKellan, Alec Baldwin and Stephen Fry have lent their support to the campaign

A number of high-profile figures have lent their support to the campaign alongside McKellan.

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

Stephen Fry also lent his support to the campaign, and said: “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.”

Other celebrities who offered their support included Alec Baldwin and Sheila Hancock.

The idea that in Orton Square there should be a statue, a memorial to Joe Orton, is terrific.

“I have craved Orton’s writing for a long time, whether I’m sitting on stage or performing in the cast,” Baldwin said. “There are no comparisons. He’s a true original. Half poet, half devil’s apprentice. I never tire of his wit, soul and anarchy.”

Meanwhile, Hancock called on potential funders to help “celebrate” Orton’s genius.

The campaign was launched today (July 25), but 36 backers have already pledged almost £12,000 to the fund.

Joe Orton made a big impact during his short life

Orton was born in 1933 and went on to have a short but highly influential career before he was murdered by his boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell. His famous plays include Entertaining Mr Sloane, Loot and What the Butler Saw.

Leonie Orton, the writer’s sister, said the statue will ensure that her brother is not forgotten. She hopes it will “serve as an inspirational reminder that talent is everywhere and art is for everyone, regardless of social background or circumstance.”

If the appeal raises any additional funds, they will go to run Orton-related creative writing and arts events in Leicester.

Donors will also receive rewards for helping the appeal, which will range from badges and postcards, with heftier donations including more unusual rewards.