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Controversial new public artwork by River Ness in Highland capital is target of vandalism within days of unveiling


By Val Sweeney

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Graffiti appeared on the Gathering Place within days of it being completed.
Graffiti appeared on the Gathering Place within days of it being completed.

The controversial new riverside artwork in Inverness has been the target of vandalism within days of it being completed.

The Gathering Place, which has been designed as an amphitheatre with curved walls on either side of the River Ness near Bught Park, has divided public opinion and prompted heated debate.

It forms part of Highland Council’s £758,350 River Connections Public Art Programme, and was unveiled at the end of last week.

But over the weekend, graffiti had appeared on the structure created from Clashach stone.

A council spokesman said the report of vandalism was "extremely disappointing" and the matter had been reported to Police Scotland.

"Any incidents of graffiti should be reported to the police so they can investigate," he said.

"Now we have been made aware of it, our staff will take action to remove the graffiti.

"Graffiti and vandalism is a total waste of taxpayers’ money, and diverts resources from council works and services. We urge anyone with information to contact police on 101 or phone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

The Gathering Place has attracted criticism.
The Gathering Place has attracted criticism.

Members of the ICArts working group approved the detailed design for the Gathering Place in December, but since being unveiled, it has attracted fierce criticism with people posting their comments on social media.

Many described it as an eyesore and felt it was a waste of money, while some raised concerns that it was an open invitation for others to apply their own artwork.

Others likened it to an unfinished road from a 1970s’ US car chase movie, a diving board, or something to be forever known as the "Ness Folly".

One post said: "So much could have been done with Ness Islands instead of a concrete eyesore at the edge of the fast-flowing river where it’s really dangerous."

Another reflected: "You cannot improve on nature. Bad move."

Some people feel it blends in with surroundings.
Some people feel it blends in with surroundings.

But others felt it blended in, while one post stated: "I like it and think it’s improved the area."

Helen Smith, of the campaign group OpenNess, has yet to see the finished piece, but said: "I still stand by what a lot of people think – it is unnecessary.

"I don’t think it can be called art.

"I am not against public art. But I think it was a shame an opportunity was lost to create something which was special to the River Ness."

Visitors take a close look at the structure.
Visitors take a close look at the structure.

Chairwoman of the ICArts Working Group, Councillor Isabelle MacKenzie, said it was an exciting new public artwork and she was delighted to have international artists Sans façon and KHBT involved in the project.

"Their unique artwork has taken inspiration from the River Ness incorporating the shore and water creating a truly individual urban architecture using local company Simpson Builders and locally sourced stone, with its connection to other well-known public buildings," she said.

Poll: Does the Gathering Place enhance the riverside?


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