'No consultation' for doomed arts scheme

THE professionals tasked with promoting a doomed arts project in a seaside town should have consulted with residents, a councillor said last night.Terry Allen, leader of Tendring District Council, said if Firstsite and Essex County Council had talked to residents in Walton on the Naze they would never have pressed ahead with plans for an upturned passenger coach on the town's esplanade.

THE professionals tasked with promoting a doomed arts project in a seaside town should have consulted with residents, a councillor said last night.

Terry Allen, leader of Tendring District Council, said if Firstsite and Essex County Council had talked to residents in Walton on the Naze they would never have pressed ahead with plans for an upturned passenger coach on the town's esplanade.

The idea was the brainchild of London-based conceptual artist Elizabeth Wright who was commissioned to create a new work for the seaside town that could have attracted thousands of curious visitors.

But despite Ms Wright's explanations that the skywards-pointing coach represented a "new glamorous form of air travel" and a "holidaymaker's fantasy", it provoked outrage in the town.


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Likened in some quarters to Maggi Hambling's Britten memorial scallops in Aldeburgh, councillors feared the sculpture would have attracted new visitors, but for all the wrong reasons.

Spurred into action by Walton councillor Mick Page, locals siged petitions and voted overwhelmingly at a public meeting against the plan.

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Terry Allen said: "I think the fear was that tourists would come not to laugh with us, but at us. The locals just wanted something that they could relate to, something which had a link to the sea, like a lifeboat or parents and children with a bucket and spade.

"I don't understand why the people behind it all never came down to ask residents what they wanted."

The proposed work is part of the Coast project, which is being run by Essex County Council in conjunction with Firstsite and backed by National Lottery money.

Now other locations in Tendring, like Harwich and Dovercourt, are being considered for an Elizabeth Wright sculpture, although a coach has been ruled out.

A senior council spokesman heavily involved with the project said lessons would be learnt.

He said: "The work in Walton will no longer proceed in Walton and the artist will be engaged to do further research, which will include public consultation to develop a new proposal in Tendring."

He added an announcement on the new plan would be made on Tuesday.

Kay Twitchen, cabinet member for environment, culture and heritage at Essex County Council, said: "Clearly the fact that the people of Walton weren't happy means we got something wrong somewhere. There a lot of criticisms that can be levelled – maybe it was too outrageous a concept, too advanced and possibly also that it would only have been temporary."

No one from Firstsite was available for comment.

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