Proposals to place a 66 foot-plus bronze naked statue called Verity on Ilfracombe Pier appear to have divided opinion thus far...
REACTION continues to pour in to news Damien Hirst is proposing to place a giant bronze statue named Verity on Ilfracombe Pier.
Whether you love it or hate it, no one can deny it has become a big talking point and so far 52% of those who have responded to our web poll think it will be a boost to the town.
Depicted as a naked pregnant woman with sword, scales of justice and base of law books, the sculpture would stand some 10 inches taller than the iconic Angel of the North.
Mr Hirst has offered to loan the statue to North Devon Council for 20 years, as well as install the sculpture and its accompanying lighting in the centre of the pier.
A planning application has just been lodged with the council and if successful the 66.5 foot statue could be up as soon as early October.
District Councillor Mike Edmunds, executive member for the regeneration of Ilfracombe, said it was exciting, different and would serve as another tourist attraction for Ilfracombe.
“It’s all subject to planning and we can’t pre-judge the outcome of the planning meeting, but it has attracted worldwide attention,” he said, added that he was just responding to an email from Russia enquiring about the statue.
“I believe this is one of a series of statues he has produced – they are all different, but linked to the theme of motherhood. I must admit this one is by far the most ‘conservative’ of those I have seen.
“I am sure Damien has taken into account the surroundings and where it would be situated. I think he has designed it with the area and the possibilities of it in mind.
“A considerable amount of technical work has been done on it to make sure it will withstand all the adverse weather Ilfracombe can throw at it.”
Resident Robin Goodwin was less impressed. He said: “What could be more offensive than a pregnant woman holding a weapon? This really would be a very giant pregnant white elephant and I dare say hated by many of the town’s people. What little you might get in extra visitors will be well outweighed by the bad feeling created if this went ahead.”
Damien Hirst is of course renowned for creating controversial artwork and has put down roots in North Devon, with a home near Combe Martin and his own restaurant at 11, The Quay.
Councillor Paul Crabb said he was also in favour of the scheme: “I think it will be great for tourism and it’s certainly controversial, provoking a huge amount of discussion already,” he said.
The Mayor of Ilfracombe, Councillor Lynda Courtnadge, said she also felt Verity would be great for tourism and help to extend the season:
“It seems a great honour if we have that statue on loan here for 20 years, marking the entrance to the harbour and it should bring in many more visitors,” she said.
“There will obviously be detractors, people who will hate it as well as those who love it, but that’s the nature of Damien Hirst. It seems appropriate a local artist should exhibit one of his masterpieces here and it will help to mark Ilfracombe as an art destination.
“What a landmark! People talked about the Angel of the North – now this will attract interest too. Think of all the people that will come and view it – if they all spent £10 each think what that will do for the economy of the town.”
On the North Devon Gazette Facebook page, George Slade posted: “I for one don’t want to look at this monstrosity each time I go to the harbour, other people I have asked say the same.”
Andrew Pettey said: “If the powers that be want Ilfracombe to become a laughing stock this is the way to proceed. WHAT has happened to this area being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty when ridiculous monstrosities such as this and the Atlantic Array can ever be considered.”
But Kyle Merry said: “I agree it has nothing to do with Ilfracombe’s heritage but Ilfracombe has very little going for it, and anything that could potentially bring a few extra pounds to the chip shops, ice cream stands and souvenir shops can’t be all bad.”
And Colin Shaddick wrote: “Wonderful news! It will be a terrific boost for Ilfracombe and North Devon. Let’s be ready for all the extra tourists.”
Hotelier John Brown, chairman of the Tourism Association, also believes it will put the town on the map:
“It’s going to be absolutely magnificent,” he said.
“You will always get those who say ‘we don’t want this’ but we have got to go ahead with the times and it’s something that can only be good for Ilfracombe.
“Anything that gets more people to visit the area can only be a great benefit.
“I lived in the north when Antony Gormley was doing the Angel of the North sculpture. Thousands said they did not want this monstrosity and so on, now everyone is saying what a fantastic thing it is.”
Jon Fennell, who owns Variety Sports fishing tackle and shooting shop at the harbour, also said that anything which put Ilfracombe on the map ‘had to be a good thing’.
“If it is not going to cost us anything, it’s got to be a plus,” he said.
It is expected the application will be considered by the district planning committee on September 5. The application, reference number 54294 can be viewed on the council’s ‘planning application tracker’ at www.northdevon.gov.uk/planning. The plans can also be viewed at The Ilfracombe Centre.
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