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Campaigners battling controversial Highland riverside artwork disappointed at imminent start to work

By Val Sweeney

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Work on the Gathering Place is expected to finish by the summer.
Work on the Gathering Place is expected to finish by the summer.

Campaigners against a controversial artwork on the banks of the River Ness are disappointed that work is now about to begin.

Installation of the Gathering Place, an amphitheatre landmark with curved walls on either side of the river near Bught Park, has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Site preparations are set to start with the work expected to be completed in early summer, coinciding with the easing of lockdown and people coming together again.

The project has prompted opposition but members of the ICArts working group approved the detailed design in December.

Helen Smith, of the campaign group OpenNess, was disappointed it had not been shelved.

"With Covid-19, you would have thought there were better things to be doing," she said.

"I know a lot of people will remember this at the next council election and show what they really think."

Helen Smith of OpenNess.
Helen Smith of OpenNess.

She was also concerned about the impact on wildlife.

"I hope it doesn’t affect birds which are nesting and fish spawning in the river," she said.

"I think OpenNess supporters will keep an eye on what is going on and raise any problems they see."

An artist's impression of the Gathering Place.
An artist's impression of the Gathering Place.

Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael, said the Gathering Place was a unique piece.

"Who would have thought, when this centrepiece was commissioned, back in 2017, that the world would have been transformed by a pandemic and human beings prevented from the most basic of interactions – gathering," she said.

"I hope that it will not just be an asset to our city but a place where people will be able to come together to pause and reflect on the joy of human interaction within the amphitheatre of the river."

She said it was clear that the artists had listened carefully to views put forward during their My Ness consultation and had incorporated additional elements without losing the originality of the piece.

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