Wednesday 19th June 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

A Monumental Task?

North Yorks Enquirer Harbours correspondent ALLAN ROBERTS questions the aesthetic and financial judgement of the Scarborough Town Deal Board (STDB). Who wouldn’t?

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As many of the public are aware, the Scarborough has received in excess of £20m as part of the Town Deal Fund.

Part of that funding is “specifically assigned to the development of a nature, art and culture offer in Scarborough”.

The Town Deal Funding has already been used to fund at least one sculpture, at a cost of £140,000.

It is significant that this same artwork was wholeheartedly rejected by the residents of Whitby, before being discreetly hidden away in the grounds of Scarborough Castle:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-56252929

This publicly funded sculpture is available for public viewing, provided the viewer  is willing to pay the entrance fee to Scarborough Castle.
Current entry fees are:

  • £10:00 per Adult

  • £5:90 per Child.

On 1st June 2023, a funding application for another sculpture was submitted to the STDB, the cost was not disclosed.
This application has been the subject of a previous article:

http://nyenquirer.uk/seaweed-sculpture/

The Town Deal Fund is also funding the West Pier Regeneration Plan to the tune of some £11.4m; and that plan, too, is overseen by the Scarborough Town Deal Board (STDB).

Designed primarily to promote tourism on West Pier, rather than the intended purpose of the Town Deal Fund which, I understand, is to revive Town Centre shopping areas, the West Pier Regeneration Plan has placed much emphasis on the importance of recognising the culture and heritage of West Pier.

Readers should be aware that West Pier was formerly known as the Fish Pier, and was the acknowledged base of the Scarborough fishing industry since its creation.

The STDB have, rightly or wrongly, long been criticised for the lack of consultation with stakeholders.

However, for the first time since the ‘consultation exercise’ began, the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre (SMHC) were invited to a meeting with Scarborough Town Deal Board (STDB) representatives to discuss the heritage of West Pier.

The meeting took place at Town Hall on 26th June 2023.

Being aware that the STDB are not noted for providing accurate details of the outcomes of  previous stakeholder consultations, and in the absence of minute takers by the STDB, one of the attendees took the precaution of noting and placing on record the details of the discussion that took place.

Heritage Meeting, Town Hall, Scarborough – 26th June 2023

Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre members were invited to meet with representatives of the Scarborough Town Deal Board to discuss ways to display the heritage of the Fish Pier to visitors.

Representing SMHC                   Representing STDB

Les Shannon                                Ellis Cooper

Lindy Rowley                               Helen Jackson

Stewart McDonald

David Normandale

Bob Roberts

Allan Roberts

Lauren Bruce

It quickly became apparent that the STDB favoured a ‘trail’ of information boards around the West Pier – and little else.

The members of the SMHC, while not disagreeing with that plan, were of the opinion that a memorial to the many hundreds of local fishermen who lost their lives over the years in pursuit of a living from the sea, was long overdue, and that the West Pier is the ideal location for such a tribute.

Images of memorials in other ports were placed on the table for discussion, and the general consensus of the meeting was that a memorial was the favoured option, as the main subject and focus, of any proposed ‘trail’.

The Town Fund has already funded an artwork, resembling an acropod, and this is currently situated in the Castle grounds. That artwork is described as “an unfinished sculpture designed to only be complete when it snows”.

SMHC members were of the opinion that this concept was not one they would like to see on West Pier.

The view expressed by Allan Roberts was that any memorial should be objective and realistic, rather than subjective or abstract, and that any memorial should tell the story visually, without hidden meanings which have to be explained.

When asked what the budget for the ‘heritage’ aspect of the West Pier Plan was, the STDB representative, Helen Jackson, said she did not know.

When the £140,000 cost of the Caste ground artwork was quoted to Miss Jackson, she said it would be unlikely that any funding of the West Pier proposal would be in that region, although she did inform the meeting that the ‘Gansey Lass’ monument at Bridlington Harbour cost £60,000.

Ms Jackson said she would go back to the STDB to discuss further funding.

It was suggested by Bob Roberts that any memorial should be community-led, with perhaps the possibility of a crowd-funding exercise, and canvassing of local businesses for possible donations.

SMHC agreed that they would be happy to provide information regarding fishing methodology and equipment, to display on any information boards.

At the end of the meeting, it was felt that the STDB representatives were left in no doubt as to the aspirations of those present, and it was agreed that a further meeting will be arranged in July to discuss the response from the STDB.

My suspicion are that the invitation to SMHC, at this late stage in the West Pier Regeneration Plan, is merely an afterthought contrived to tick yet another faux consultation box, and that any plans by the STDB to recognise the heritage of West Pier, are predetermined.

I do hope I am proved to be wrong, and that a dignified and fitting memorial dedicated to the hundreds of fishermen who sailed from Scarborough Harbour and never returned.

Only time will tell.

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