Friday, 19 April 2019

Vandalised mermaid sculpture set to be returned to riverside

Vandalised mermaid sculpture set to be returned to riverside

A MERMAID statue could soon return to the riverside in Henley.

The 6ft 6in bronze sculpture, which stood on a plinth on Red Lion Lawn, has been in storage since it was vandalised and thrown into the river in November 2017.

Now the “ama” is set to be put back after the owners decided to gift it to the town. An anonymous resident has already agreed to pay the £780 cost of hiring a diver and flatbed crane to fish it out of the water..

The council only needs to raise up to £1,200 to reinstall it and members will discuss this at the next full council meeting on April 30.

Town clerk Janet Wheeler said she hoped another donor would offer this sum.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s town and community committee, she said: “We’ve managed to get the owner to agree to donate the mermaid to Henley so we no longer have to buy her, which is fantastic news.

“We’ve also found an incredibly generous resident who’s going to pay the salvage bill from those mindless idiots who threw her in.

“There are some costs involved in putting her back securely in her rightful place and I’m in the process of trying to find another generous benefactor to fund the reinstallation.

“A lot of people were really unsure about the idea but I know a lot of people have taken her into their hearts so I may ask the town council if it would consider paying on the basis that she’s loved across the town. This is the final stage and I would like the full council to at least have a proper discussion about it.”

Lorraine Hillier, who chairs the committee, told the Henley Standard: “I’m pleased that it has been gifted to Henley and it would be marvellous to find someone to pay for the installation as it would be quite an expense for the council.

“However, we will have a look and see if we’ve got any pots of money. I think people have come to view the statue as a permanent fixture because it provides a nice focal point for that part of the riverside.

“We’d need to quickly check it over but it has been well looked after in storage and should be in a good condition to reinstall when we’re able.”

The 370lb statue, which was designed by French artist Amaryllis Bataille, was loaned to the council in 2013 by a German company named Koh i Noor.

It was offered in 2012, prompting conflicting opinion as to whether the town should accept it.

It was supposed to be sold for at least 15,000 euros (£12,800) after five years, with a share of the proceeds going to charity, and replaced with another piece but the owners said they wanted the council to buy it after it was vandalised.

They first wanted £8,800 minus the salvage costs then reduced their request to 5,000 euros, about £4,455, which the council agreed to try to crowdfund online.

The statue was retrieved by experts from Cook Piling, of Hurley, which sets up the royal regatta course every year.

Staff from Hobbs of Henley fished out awnings and umbrellas thrown in on the same night but couldn’t pull up the statue as it was too heavy.

Ama is the name given to the Japanese and Korean women divers, or “ladies of the sea”, who collect pearls.

Henley was one of 20 locations around the world chosen to have a statue as a “place of beauty near water”.

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