Verity means visitors

SIR - Robin Goodwin (‘The whys of Verity’, Gazette, August 29) makes some good points but, in suggesting that the supporters of the statue are ‘only thinking about money’, he has completely misunderstood and misrepresented the argument.

Ilfracombe, like much of North Devon and, indeed, the South West peninsula, is heavily dependent on tourism.

If there were any significant decline in the number of tourists visiting the town, much of what is good and special about the town would disappear.

This is not just the obvious tourist-supported things like the restaurants and theatre, but the knock-on effects would take out less obvious assets, such as the art gallery and many of the independent shops that grace our high street. Without tourists, Ilfracombe would be a dismal place indeed.

We cannot simply sit back and expect tourists to come to us. Over the last few decades, the number visiting the town has declined. Looking at those who come here, many are elderly and will, inevitably, at some point stop coming. Simply in order to stand still, we must attract new visitors.

Throughout the year, we have many events and attractions, often organised by volunteers, which bring in visitors. Some that spring to mind are Victorian week, carnival, Sea Ilfracombe, Birdman. These are marvellous, but the only one that ever receives any national attention is Birdman, and that not consistently.

In contrast, the mere offer of the statue by a world-renowned artist made the national press.

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Mr Goodwin and others opposed to Verity have suggested that she would be better replaced by something more resonant of Ilfracombe.

If we had a bevy of world famous artists queuing up to offer us their work or if the town council had a few million pounds to spare with which to commission a work of art, possibly I and other proponents of Verity would agree with him. However, sadly this is not the case. On the table is an extraordinarily generous offer from Damien Hirst of Verity or nothing.

I confess that I do not appreciate much of Mr Hirst’s work. However, given what seem to me crazy prices paid for it, plenty of people do appreciate it.

It therefore defies belief that the opportunity to see an example of it for free will not bring in more visitors, including, one must hope, some who otherwise would not think of visiting us. Provided we make the town attractive and welcoming to them, perhaps they will then become more regular visitors.

This must surely be welcomed by all who love the town as do Mr Hirst and I, and, I suspect, Mr Goodwin.

Yours faithfully,

David G Tubby, Langleigh Road, Ilfracombe.

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