VERITY has certainly polarised opinion among our readers like nothing else over the past few months. We’ve been inundated with letters both radically pro the sculpture and staunchly against. It seems North Devon Council’s planning department have had a similar experience, having received 300 letters on the subject. 177 for, 100 against, with the rest indifferent.
But isn’t this what art is all about? Is it not supposed to provoke opinion? At the Journal we have thoroughly enjoyed reporting on such a polarising issue. And as journalists we love the bizarre juxtaposition of it all. Here you have an off-the-wall artist, famous for creating some of the most provocative pieces of modern art in recent years, offering to install a sculpture depicting a giant bronze pregnant woman wielding a sword – on Ilfracombe Pier.
You couldn’t make it up. It has North Devon written all over it. In one story it completely encapsulates North Devon’s biggest challenges and the beautiful quirkiness of our area, which sets it aside from everywhere else in the country. Where else would you have people so proud of their town and its traditional heritage that they’d fight tooth and nail to keep a Damien Hirst original out of the town?
There is something wonderful in the fact these people feel so passionately about Ilfracombe that they put the town’s heritage ahead of all else. But despite our respect for the people against Verity, we at the Journal have to say on the record we are for the giant pregnant woman coming to town. Yes it’s a bit weird, yes it’s probably inappropriately massive and no, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Ilfracombe or its maritime history, but does it need to? A truly exciting piece of modern art shouldn’t fit. The Angel of the North doesn’t fit, it just is.
We hope North Devon Council gives Verity the stamp of approval today, not just because of the obvious economic gain to the town, but because the whole concept of Verity is brilliant and rebellious. It’s going to attract hordes of visitors to the town and well and truly put Ilfracombe on the map, and not for something which happened 100 years ago, but for something which is happening now.
Let’s not fear change.