Seaham pays £20,000 deposit in drive to keep soldier statue

TEAM EFFORT: Committee members of Mission 1101 with the artwork.
TEAM EFFORT: Committee members of Mission 1101 with the artwork.
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A TARGET of £20,000 has been set for a town to keep hold of a sculpture of a First World War soldier while the rest of its £85,000 price-tag is found.

Artist Ray Lonsdale, of South Hetton, has already had two offers to buy the statue, called Eleven ‘O’ One, but turned them down because he hopes it can be kept in Seaham.

Seaham Town Council has agreed a £20,000 deposit to retain the steel sculpture and has pledged to help meet that price if insufficient donations are secured by the end of the week.

So far, £17,000-plus has been given through the Just Giving page of Mission 1101, a committee of fans of the statue led by David Stewart.

As things stand, the piece is on a three-month loan for display on Terrace Green, with thousands of people having made a visit to see it since its arrival on Thursday, May 29.

The town council has said it will not buy the piece outright, but it is working alongside enthusiasts to keep it, and it has offered to carry out the purchase so VAT can be claimed back, cutting its cost from £102,000 to £85,000.

If that amount can’t be raised, the council will consider dipping into its reserves to make up the shortfall, with county councillors and the East Durham Area Action Partnership also pledging to potentially help out.

Town council leader Eddie Bell said: “This is a non-political decision that we are united and behind the people of Seaham to keep this piece of art. I have spoken to David about it at length, and we will work hard to realise this and have offered to help in any way we can.”

Mission 1101, being helped by the County Durham Foundation to set up a charitable trust, is urging well-wishers to donate through Just Giving so gift aid can be claimed.

David added: “The response has been amazing. We’ve been overwhelmed.

“I would say there was about 2,000 seeing it at the weekend, and sometimes about 100 people around it, but we need people to start making donations.”

Borehole-drilling firm Drilcorp, based at Kinley Hill Farm at Hawthorn, near Seaham, has donated £1,000, and further business backers are being urged to get in touch.

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