The team behind a controversial tilting pier in Inverness is confident the £300,000 seesaw-like scheme will go ahead, despite fears over its viability, public support and location
Earlier this week SNP councillor Ken Gowans, chair of the working group of project backer Inverness City Arts, resigned from his role because he did not believe KHBT’s competition-winning Gathering Place proposal ‘to be a viable concept’.
In his resignation letter (see below), Gowans said he feared the project next to the river Ness would not have ’any realistic chance of public support’, adding that he too could not ’continue to champion a project [he did] not personally support’.
Last week it also emerged yet another site had been mooted as a preferred location for the structure following opposition to both the initial proposal to build it close to St Andrew’s Cathedral, and to a revised plan to move it downstream to Friars Shott, close to Friars Bridge.
Inverness City Arts working group has now commissioned a report into whether the art installation could be located on Ness Walk, near the Eden Court theatre.
Responding to the news, Karsten Huneck, who set up the London and Berlin-based KHBT in 2010, said Gowan’s resignation was a ‘political’ move and that he was optimistic the scheme would progress.
He told the AJ: ’We think it is very likely the group will approve the new site and we can go ahead. In a way we couldn’t be more positive in terms of location and site, given its interconnectivity to the neighbouring cultural quarter.
’The plot was just outside the original boundaries of the competition so we never looked at it. But I am actually quite chuffed about the location - it is effectively an extension of the theatre and our concept is for a performative piece [which moves when people go on it].’
Huneck said the scheme was fully funded and expected a decision from the group in the next couple of weeks.
Resignation letter by councillor Ken Gowans
I am writing to inform you all that I am stepping down as Chair and also from the ICArts Working Group with immediate effect. This will come as no surprise to those members I made my feelings very clear to after the Focus Group meeting on Thursday. I took some time to consider my position over the weekend and feel I really have no option other than to be very clear to the group and the public about my stance on the recent developments in the River connections project.
I do not personally believe the ‘Tilting Pier’ is a viable concept or one that will have any realistic chance of public support. I say that in the full knowledge that public art is often controversial, however, I feel that the public’s response in this case goes well beyond that. Whilst I am willing to take personal public criticism for matters I strongly believe in, I do not feel it is reasonable to ask me to do the same for a project I am not personally in favour of and one that I feel that the public will never support as demonstrated by the consultation analysis.
As Chair, I have always accepted and respected the democratic choices made by the members of the ICArts Working Group and made statements on behalf of the group in that respect. That said, I do not feel I can be reasonably expected to continue to champion a project I do not personally support especially when other members of the Working Group feel very differently and are therefore in a better position to support and promote it.
ICArts was formed to facilitate the delivery of public arts projects in Inverness ensuring high levels of governance, accountability and transparency and I think that has been achieved in my time as Chair and is something I am very proud to have been a part of. I would like to thank you all for your continued support and I hope you will respect my decision.