AN Echo-backed campaign to keep a seafront sculpture in Seaham has almost reached its target – and needs just one final push.
The nine-foot sculpture of a World War One soldier – officially called Eleven ‘O’ One, but nicknamed Tommy by fans – is on a temporary display in Seaham.
But after the statue won the hearts of hundreds of visitors to the town, fundraisers launched a drive to make it a permanent feature, backed by the Echo’s Soldier On campaign.
Around £72,000 has now been raised towards the 1.2-tonne steel statue – with just £13,000 left to find.
A deposit of £20,000 has been handed to South Hetton artist Ray Lonsdale, who created the artwork, to take it off the market to other bidders. It leaves around seven weeks for a final push to be made to collect the full amount.
Councillor Eddie Bell, leader of Seaham Town Council and a Durham County Council member, said: “We have facilitated the deposit to secure it from the sculptor. It will still be funded by the local community and the greater public who are campaigning, but we will help facilitate it in whatever way we can.”
Coun Bell and his wife Jenny, also a member of both authorities, have both donated £5,000 to the pot from their neighbourhood funds.
Businesses have also made large donations, with a host of events held to help spread word about the project and collect cash. David Stewart, chairman of the Mission 1101 campaign, said: “As we have reached 80 per cent of our target amount that it would be a positive course of action to offer Ray Lonsdale, the artist, a deposit to secure him against other bidders.
“As such, we have approached Ray and offered him £20,000.
“The terms of this deposit mean that Tommy will not be sold to any other interested parties for the remaining loan period of seven weeks.
“This will mean that the committee will have seven weeks to raise the remaining balance.
“We discussed this course of action in depth, and felt that it was important to maximise any opportunity to secure Tommy against other interested parties.
“Please note that the Just Giving balance will be reduced by £20,000 but that the target will also reduce down to £65,000 correspondingly.
“The committee would like to take the opportunity to thank each and everyone one of you who has supported us so far, without all of you we would not be able to take this positive step in securing Tommy for the people of Seaham.”
CAMPAIGNERS behind a memorial to the men who served in the Durham Light Infantry have also almost reached their target for a permanent memorial.
Planning permission has already been secured for the memorial front of the Town Hall in the Market Place, Durham City, with another £20,000 needed ahead of a proposed unveiling date in September.
The larger-than-life bronze will symbolise the moment DLI soldiers sounded the ceasefire in Korea in 1953 from a hilltop on the front line – the regiment’s last battle honour.
DLI Memorial appeal co-ordinator Colonel Arthur Charlton said: “The dedication of the memorial on September 14 is just over two months away and we still need some funds to cover all the costs.
“We have raised £52,000 and are looking to hit £75,000. The bronze has been cast and now money is needed for the plinth.
“Because final planning permission was only granted in May, fundraising could not forge ahead before then, in case there were any hitches.”
•Donations can be made payable to the Regimental and Chattels Charity of the former DLI and sent to DLI Memorial Appeal, The Rifles Durham Office, Elvet, Waterside, Durham, DH1 3BW.