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Ilfracombe says yes to Damien Hirst's 60ft 'Belly of the South'

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: July 19, 2012

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ILFRACOMBE Town Council has voted 8 to 1 in favour of erecting Damien Hirst's 60ft statue in the town.

The proposed sculpture, named Verity, shows a naked pregnant woman holding a sword and, if approved, would overlook Ilfracombe harbour.

At a planning meeting on Tuesday members of the public were given the opportunity to air their views about the artwork to the council.

Concerns were raised about the suitability of Verity being situated in Ilfracombe.

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Lin Wheelan, of Ilfracombe, said: "The only relevance I can see for the proposed Hirst statue is to bring ridicule to the area.

"All I can foresee for this incongruous piece of work is graffiti and for Ilfracombe to once again be the butt of so many jokes regarding the statue nicknamed, 'The Belly of the South'."

However, many people felt the statue would boost tourism and encourage visitors to the area.

John Brown, chairman of the Ilfracombe Tourism and District Association, said: "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that can only increase visitor numbers.

"Tourism is the lifeblood of this town and must be supported in any way it can be. There is a vested interest in this artist and people are extremely interested in his work."

Council chairman, Phillip Webb, said a survey, taken from Facebook at 5.20pm that day, showed 68% of people were for the statue while only 32% were opposed to it.

Councillor Peter Rawles said out of all the people he had spoken to about the statue, almost 100% of those aged under 40 were in favour.

He said: "I have spent the last week speaking to as many people as I can. This is hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of free advertising. It is a way to move forward into the 21st century."

Councillor Michael Dymond, who voted against the sculpture, argued that it would be a ten minute wonder.

He said: "It is going to be a seagull roost. What will it look like in two years and who is going to clean it?"

He added: "A pregnant woman is a personal matter and should not be exhibited in this manner."

However, Amber Jenkins, 23, from Ilfracombe, who was nine months pregnant at the time of the meeting, disagreed.

She said: "It is not disgusting as some people say. It is not sexual, it is scientific with the foetus being in there. If we say no to this, it will be a waste."

The council's recommendation will now be passed to North Devon District Council which will make the final decision regarding the statue.

A poll on the Journal's website thisisnorthdevon.co.uk had recorded more than 630 votes by Tuesday afternoon. In favour of the statue were 44% with 56% against.

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