VIDEOS: 'Win-win' welcome to Torbay for Nowhereisland
TORBAY is to be a port of call in August for a controversial art project described by one Devon MP as an 'extraordinary folly'.
But Torbay Council's new culture and arts executive lead has insisted the arrival of Nowhereisland off the shores of the bay won't cost Torbay a penny and represents a 'win-win' situation.
Nowhereisland is a public art project conceived by Devon-based artist Alex Hartley.
It is one of 12 art projects across the UK, funded by the Arts Council of England, which will form part of the Cultural Olympiad this summer.
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Mr Hartley discovered the island, which measures 40 metres by eight metres, in the High Arctic region of Svalbard, Norway, in 2004.
With the permission of the Norwegian government, he sailed a portion of the island territory into international waters where it was declared a new island nation with citizenship open to all.
The island is now on the move on board a barge, travelling south to visit ports and harbours along England's South-west coast during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Torquay Harbour will welcome the island on Monday, August 6 and Tuesday, August 7, along with the Nowhereisland Embassy, a mobile museum packed full objects which tell the story of the nomadic island.
Geoffrey Cox, the Tory MP for Torridge and West Devon, has called Nowhereisland an 'extraordinary folly' and has said the £500,000 spent on it by the Arts Council could have been better invested in community arts projects.
But the Arts Council says the 'remarkable visual sculpture' will open up a debate on global warming.
Mr Cox said at the time the project was unveiled: "I think my constituents are going to find it quite astonishing that, at a time when thousands of people are losing their jobs and when the country is on the brink of bankruptcy, we are spending half a million pounds digging up earth from somewhere in Norway and floating it down the South West coast."
But Torbay Council's Executive Lead for Culture and Arts, and Regional Arts Council Board Member, Cllr Dave Butt, said: "The English Riviera is certainly gaining a well deserved reputation for hosting amazing art, not only by some of the most renowned artists in the world but also fantastic local artists.
"It is a win-win situation for us. Nowhereisland, a piece of art commissioned as part of the Cultural Olympiad, is coming to the Bay as part of its journey from Weymouth after the sailing events.
"There is no cost to the local authority and it will really help to attract more visitors to the Bay which in turn boosts our local economy and raises our profile as one of the cultural attractions in the South-west.
"This may not be to everyone's liking, but in partnership with the Arts Council we are always looking at new and exciting ways of boosting our arts and cultural industries so watch this space. I am sure future events will be equally impressive and inspire even more debate about the nature of art.
"We will be looking to arrange visits for local children to the land-based 'Embassy' which will be parked by Living Coasts on Haldon Pier."
More than 7,000 people from nearly 100 countries across the world have already signed up to be citizens of Nowhereisland, including people from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia, South Korea and Puerto Rico.
More information on Nowhereisland and how to become a citizen is available online.