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Scrap of the iron ladies

Antony Gormley's iconic Another Place statues almost met their Waterloo last month, but an international outcry has prompted the councillor who almost got shut of them to say "Keep them, let them stay!"

Published on January 11th 2007.


Scrap of the iron ladies

In the red corner we have Claire Curtis Thomas, Crosby Labour MP who, not so long ago, held the dubious honour as the land’s most costly elected member, with an expenses sheet to make the Westminster accounts department blanch.

In the blue corner, let’s hear it for Councillor Debi Jones, wannabe Tory MP, but in the meantime making do with a career on local auction TV.

Now it’s never dignified when girls start fighting, especially over a man, but in this case there are 100 of them, all naked, at stake.

We refer, of course, to the very public tussle over Another Place, the Antony Gormley installation comprising 100 identical iron men who have dotted the beach between Waterloo and Crosby Coastguard Station since July last year.

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The figures, made from casts of the artist’s own body and shown at different stages of rising out of the sand, all look out to sea and are quite something just after high tide when the receding waters make them visible once more, and fun when people adorn them in fancy dress.

Should they stay or should they go?

Well, having toured Germany, Norway and Belgium, they should have been on their way to New York by now, but here people have largely fallen in love with Crosby’s very own Beach Boys who have even graced posters advertising Liverpool 08 across the land.

Lewis Biggs at the Biennial was (and still is) busy trying to get the £2.2m together to buy them, and ministers were about to stump up half of that via Cash Curtis Thomas. At the last minute, step in Debi Jones who insisted that local people “wanted their beach back” and it was high time the men shifted somewhere else. Someone might get stuck on the sand if they were stupid enough to walk half a mile out, she reasoned, or they might frighten the birds, or surfers (what? where?) might smash into one.

“The right decision has been made,” smiled the one-time cabaret singer, filling her lungs with the rare and heady scent of victory after she dazzled fellow Sefton councillors with her motion that the statues be dismantled forthwith.

But victory was hollow, and short lived. An appeal was launched, and a newspaper campaign, and Debi says she was left feeling “vilified” by the people whose votes and love she craves.

Now we are happy to report that unlike the Gormleys, which are firmly anchored in the sand, Debi is a more fluid creature and last week had an abrupt change of heart after the artist's other iconic creation, the Angel of the North, visited her in a dream.

“I like the statues. Keep them, let them stay, let people enjoy them,” she said, still shaking, the next day.

So for now the Gormleys are going nowhere, while an appeal is in force and a new planning application is put together by its supporters to make them permanent, a rigmarole which could have been avoided.

The lady’s not for turning? This one is.

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