Council removes ‘disrespectful’ arts installation from Bournemouth beach

A council has apologised for its “crass mistake” of installing a “disrespectful” piece of art at a spot close to where two young people drowned in the sea.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council has agreed to remove the Portal installation from the beach, near Bournemouth Pier, where the pair died on May 31.

Joe Abbess, 17, and Sunnah Khan, 12, drowned and eight other people were treated by paramedics after they were suspected to have been caught in a riptide next to the pier at the Dorset seaside resort.

Bournemouth beach deaths
Joe Abbess, from Southampton, who died after getting into difficulty in the water off Bournemouth beach (Family handout/PA)

The move to dismantle the 15 metre-high mirrored archway follows a complaint by Vanessa Abbess, Joe’s mother, who described it as “disrespectful”.

She said in a statement: “As a family, we were shocked and astounded to see news reports of the disrespectful ‘Arts by the Sea’ installation at the Bournemouth beach yesterday.

“The ‘Portal of Hope’ was badly located and thoughtless, as it frames the area of sea where our son Joe and Sunnah Khan got into difficulties.

Bournemouth beach deaths
Sunnah Khan also died (Family handout/PA)

“In addition, it is sited on the area of beach where emergency services cared for all casualties on May 31 and the tragic circumstances unfolded. This is not a suitable area to celebrate the sea or to place a tourist attraction.

“We emailed BCP Council, as owners of the beach, to express our distress and upset yesterday evening. We fully appreciate that this project may have been planned for many months, but due to the tragic circumstances and ongoing inquest, we feel this (is) entirely unsuitable and plans could have been easily adjusted in the last 17 weeks.

“Last night, Graham Farrant (council chief executive) confirmed the installation would be immediately shut down/relocated. We are grateful that BCP Council have acted so quickly, but feel with a little consideration and respect to Joe, Sunnah and both families, this could have been avoided.”

Mr Farrant said the installation was being removed and apologised to the families.

He said: “We are deeply sorry for such a crass mistake which clearly should never have happened.

“We have extended an unreserved apology to the families for causing further upset at what is undoubtedly already a distressing time.

“Work is underway to close down the installation and we will review our internal processes to understand how this happened and what changes need to be made to avoid this from happening again.”

An inquest has been opened into the deaths of the two youngsters and is expected to be held in full in September 2024.