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Feargal Sharkey unimpressed by golden wave sculpture for River Cam

Former pop star Feargal Sharkey, who is now an environmental activist, has slammed a proposal for a new golden wave sculpture to be installed on the banks of the River Cam.

The keen fisherman, who has been campaigning for cleaner, safer rivers, took to social media to complain about the project.

To The River, the art project proposal from Cambridge City Council
To The River, the art project proposal from Cambridge City Council

He said on Twitter: “Did I mention that all of this is getting more surreal by the day? The River Cam is a chalk stream, it is being killed due to over abstraction and pollution. (Cambridge City Council’s) response? Cover a stretch of bank in a gold metal ‘artwork’, to make it look pretty. Give me strength.”

He was responding to a message from Friends of the Cam who said the questioned the “appropriateness” of the city council “using developer funding to gold-plate a stretch of riverbank whilst at the same time ignoring the impact that uncontrolled rapacious development has on the river through increased abstraction and pollution”.

The artwork, called To The River, is being funded by Public Art S106 contributions from developers, which have been negotiated specifically for public art and cannot be used for anything else.

The city council has just held a public consultation on the project, as previously reported.

Feargal Sharkey
Feargal Sharkey

The artwork will be etched with a Cambridge Lace pattern, paying homage to the female influences on the river; from the anonymous laundresses who gave nearby Laundress Green its name, to the specific lace pattern used on Cambridge University gowns, to the artist Gwen Raverat (1885-1957 grand-daughter of Charles Darwin), who etched artworks from her vantage point overlooking this site.

Cllr Anna Smith, leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We recognise that Greater Cambridge’s chalk streams, including the Cam, are precious parts of our natural environment. They support a vast range of species, are important for our drinking water and we know that many are degraded and under pressure. That is why we are working with our partners on work to restore, enhance and protect them and commissioned a study to help us shape future policies and approaches.

“Last week, with our partners, we highlighted the importance of improving our chalk streams in our response to Water Resources East’s new plan for water management over 50 years. Last month a plan to carry out projects which make local chalk streams and the species they support more resilient was submitted to the Combined Authority by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning – a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils – and the board members agreed that £420,000 would be made available from the Combined Authority, so long as additional checks such as value for money assurances are passed.

“All of this work, and much more besides, is being done because we recognise the importance of the Cam and our chalk streams and the fact that action is needed.”

Commenting on To The River public artwork, Cllr Smith added: “To The River recognises the importance of the river in a different way. It was commissioned in 2018 in response to people in the community suggesting a piece of art that reflected the river’s role in shaping Cambridge and it has been a highly collaborative project so far.

“The earlier artist research and feasibility work identified the proposed site and how the art would aesthetically improve the current engineered sheet metal structure but also create opportunities to enhance the views for those using Mill Pond, Laundress Green and Silver Street Bridge.

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