England

Geoffrey Cox MP angry at Nowhere Island Olympic 'folly'

  • 21 September 2011
  • From the section England

A Devon MP has said £500,000 spent on an Arctic island Olympic arts project could have been better invested in community arts projects.

Part of the island will be transported on a barge around the coast of the South West.

Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, called it an "extraordinary folly".

The Arts Council said the "remarkable visual sculpture" would open up a debate on global warming.

Artist Alex Hartley and 18 volunteers excavated about six tonnes of material from an island exposed by a retreating glacier on the Svalbard archipelago, north of Norway.

The material will be sculpted into a piece of art called Nowhere Island and floated along the South West coast for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

It is one of 12 arts projects funded by the Arts Council to represent each of the UK regions as part of the Cultural Olympiad to run alongside the sporting events in 2012.

Mr Cox said: "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.

"I am not against spending money on the arts, but it would be much better spent on grass-roots community arts centres rather than this extraordinary folly."

Phil Gibby, head of Arts Council England in the South West, said: "It is absolutely vital to invest in vibrant arts projects in Devon."

He added that the money for Nowhere Island had been allocated specifically for 2012 projects and could not have been spent elsewhere.

"It is a remarkable visual sculpture and we reckon more than a quarter of a million people will engage with it.

"So for everyone getting engaged with it, it is about £2 or less."

Mr Hartley said: "London won the chance to host the 2012 Olympics on the basis that they would reinvigorate the Cultural Olympiad.

"We are part of that and our job is to spend that money as best we can in the most ambitious and most engaging way."

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