Look at the Carrot before supporting more public art

The Silica artwork - also know as The Carrot - at Big Lamp Corner in Weston-super-Mare
The Silica artwork - also know as The Carrot - at Big Lamp Corner in Weston-super-Mare -Credit:Google Maps

North Somerset Council should look at the state of “the Carrot” in Weston-super-Mare before pushing for more public art in the district, a councillor has warned.

A bid by the Green group on the council to require housing developers to invest in public art — brought as a motion to the council's annual meeting on Tuesday May 14 — was passed by the council despite concerns art may “decay.” Green group leader Bridget Petty (Backwell, Green) told councillors: “After 14 years of Conservative government cuts to our local services, the council cannot financially support many important public services in arts and culture.

“This motion is partly a response to our inability to raise funds for public arts and placemaking. However, as is written in the motion, the large housebuilders have been making vast profits and this is a reasonable ask.”

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Her constituent Sophie Scott, who works in art commissioning, raised the issue with her after discovering the council had no policy on developers commiting to public art, unlike in nearby Bristol and South Gloucestershire. She said: “I believe that communities who are connected through culture have more pride and satisfaction in where they live.”

Thomas Daw (Wrington, Green) called the plan “a great way to bring back some of these huge profits from these billion pound housing companies.”

North Somerset Green councillors Bridget Petty and Thomas Daw -Credit:Bridget Petty
North Somerset Green councillors Bridget Petty and Thomas Daw -Credit:Bridget Petty

But James Clayton (Weston-super-Mare South, Labour) warned: “I think its quite naive to think we will be clawing back some of the profit from these developers because it is just simply fact that they will just pass it onto the consumer. They will not be losing money if forced to place public art around the district.”

He added that the council had a neighbourhood management team which installed public art 15 years ago that was now “decaying,” as North Somerset Council had failed to take ownership of it. He said: “What we had was a team of affluent people working in an urban area thinking that the art strategy that they put in place would benefit the people and nearly 15/16 years on, I can tell you that they were wrong.”

He added: “We can have a look at the public art — is the correct name Silica? — or the Carrot/the Turnip. We could all walk out this chamber now and walk around the corner and have a look at the state of that some years on.

“So I’m not against public art, I think there is a place for it. My issue is, who’s going to take ownership of the public art once its in place.”

Steve Bridger (Yatton, Independent) said he would support the motion but that Yatton Parish Council was currently battling to get £70k in developer funding slated for a sculpture on a roundabout in the village to be freed up, at the same time as he had been attempting to get funding to get a bike crossing nearby to provide a safe route to school.

But Nicola Holland (Portishead West, Portishead Independent) urged councillors to support the “fantastic motion.” She said: “Up here in Portishead we have already benefited from such investment in our public art trail which is situated around the marina, it goes into the estates on either side of the marina.

“As chair of Portishead Festival, the organisation that's been running ArtPort for the last four years, I can tell you how much we appreciate our public art. Its a valuable resource for the eyes and the heart.”

The motion was passed by clear majority, despite some votes against and abstentions.

Silica — known almost universally in Weston as the Carrot — was installed on Big Lamp Corner in the town centre in 2006. It is covered in LED lights and is intended to represent a drop of liquid about to hit the pavement.