Why is it that local councils want to look a gift horse in the mouth when they’re presented with an opportunity to adopt a tourist attraction of international importance?
Bristol City Council was initially dubious about having the SS Great Britain sitting in the otherwise useless harbour in the 1970s.
Bradford failed to support Jonathan Silver’s attempt to bring the Victoria & Albert Museum’s South Asia collection to the derelict Lister Mill in Manningham.
Sefton Council in Merseyside wasn’t at all keen on Antony Gormley’s haunting collection of cast-iron figures, Another Place, staying very long on Crosby Beach.
Another Place originated in 1997, and Gormley’s figures had previously gazed out to sea in Germany, Norway and Belgium before they were brought to the Mersey estuary as a component of the 4th Liverpool Biennial (2006) and the European Capital of Culture event (2008).
They were intended, when the temporary planning permission for their installation ran out, to be taken to New York, but Sefton Council relented and they are now to remain.
They’re by no means universally popular. They’re considered a hazard to watersports. Wildlife authorities worry about the effect of visitors on feeding birds, though biologists study with interest the colonisation of the figures by barnacles.
Some people regard them as pornographic, because each has a “simplified” penis. Whether the objection is to the penis or the simplification is unclear.
The plethora of brown tourist signs directing motorists to Another Place is stark evidence that this mysterious installation has put Sefton on the map.
When all’s said and done, why else would people traipse down to Burbo Bank, but to gaze on Gormley’s iron men?
Nicholas Wroe’s 2005 profile of Antony Gormley is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2005/jun/25/art.