Shaun works for Leicester City Council and was marketing & events manager and a researcher for the 'Ortonesque' exhibition held at Leicester's New Walk Museum in Spring 2007. Shaun was also part of the promotions team behind the highly acclaimed Joe Orton Project, which premiered at Phoenix Arts, Leicester, in the Winter of 2007. Shaun also contributed to the development of Joe Orton Online.

The Ortonesque exhibition brought together for the first time collections of Joe Orton's literary papers and memorabilia from the University of Leicester's Orton Collection, defaced library books from Islington Local History Centre and personal items such as his typewriter from The Orton Estate's collection. See some of the exhibited items in the Gallery Section here



Entertaining Mr Sloane had my 19 year old daughter in stitches recently. The fact that today’s comedy-fussy younger generation still find Orton funny is testament to the quality, uniqueness and freshness of his writing. Even more incredible when one considers that it was written some 44 years ago.

The screening of Sloane was part of an events programme we developed to compliment the Ortonesque exhibition. For myself, working on the project was the realisation of an ambition I had had since the 1990s. Working within the tourism sector in Leicester, i’d wanted to do ‘something’ around Orton but couldn’t get the project off the ground. The general opinion was along the lines of ‘wasn’t he that dead poof off the Saff… who hated Leicester…that nobody has heard of?’ A decade on, it was both ironic and uplifting that the negativity surrounding Orton in the mid 1990s had now transformed itself into the positive reasons why the staging of the Ortonesque exhibition was agreed; he was Leicester born, a hugely successful playwright, a gay icon, an enigma in his hometown who’s work was admired around the world.

Orton and Leicester both had a love / hate relationship and, in the 40th anniversary of his death, it finally looked as though via the exhibition, they were going to buy each other a beer in the bar of life, shake hands and make up. And they did. Although I’m sure if Orton had wrote about the above in his diary, he would have disclosed that halfway through making up, he left Leicester sitting at the bar, nipped into the gents loo and slipped some married geezer a length before casually returning to order cocktails for two. Which brings me nicely to an area of the Joe Orton legend that still fascinates me some 20 years after first reading Prick Up Your Ears; the diaries. Were they genuine accounts of his life or were they part fact, part homo-erotic fiction with ‘Joe Orton’ as the central character? The diaries were always intended for publication after his death and today, 40 years after his murder, all of the supporting characters mentioned have long since fallen out of the tree, unable to validate or disprove the easy sexual conquests that have made Orton a modern day gay icon. At the end of the day, I guess we will just never know.

The Ortonesque exhibition pulled in some 25,000 people and introduced a whole new generation to the life and times of Joe Orton. It was fun to work on, extremely rewarding, and I met some great people along the way. Orton’s unique brand of humour - the ‘Ortonesque’ - was something that I got straight away and continue to enjoy to this day. He is still funny. His writing is still clever. He is still an intriguing character. And I still feel smugly chuffed that he came off ‘the Saff’ and used to live around the corner from me.

Image © Shaun Knapp   Text © Shaun Knapp  

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