Controversy over sluice sculpture

A STRIKING light and video sculpture approved for Ely s riverside has sparked fierce debate in the community. Sluice, pictured, will use light and video technology to portray the ebb and flow of water at Denver Sluice – but the piece has not been without

A STRIKING light and video sculpture approved for Ely's riverside has sparked fierce debate in the community.

Sluice, pictured, will use light and video technology to portray the ebb and flow of water at Denver Sluice - but the piece has not been without its share of controversy.

Quayside resident Patricia Beattie said she had not spoken to any residents who were in support of the plans.

"This kind of thing is brilliant for the Turner prize, but I don't see why it should be inflicted upon Ely," she said.

The district council's planning committee refused permission for the sculpture's original site opposite Jubilee Gardens in November last year, following bitter opposition from residents who felt the sculpture would ruin views of the river.

Last week, however, the committee approved the project for an alternative location next to The Maltings.

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The four-metre high steel sluice replica will project light images of water ebbing and flowing in synchronisation with the real river flow using data gathered from Norfolk's Denver Sluice by the Environment Agency.

Designed by artist Lulu Quinn, the sculpture will also feature sounds of water from speakers built into the structure as well as blue and white lighting to animate the artwork.

Alison Callaby, team leader of Town Centres at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: "Sluice is a unique artwork commission for Ely's riverside, highlighting as it does the link between water management and the physical environment.

"The images on the screen will reflect the changing nature of the river as it passes through the Denver Sluice - sometimes it will be calm and reflective, at other times it will surge."

The Sluice Gate is jointly funded by the Arts Council, which has contributed £97,500, The Ely Perspective, which has put in £2,000, and East Cambridgeshire District Council through money specifically provided by developers to enhance the cultural offering in the city (£27,500).

The district council has stressed that none of the £127,000 bill has been met by taxpayers.

It is hoped the project will be completed by the summer, but the piece has already divided the community.

Chairman of the Friends of Jubilee Gardens, Susan Long, opposed the original site for the sculpture but said she welcomes the new location.

"We think it's a good position for the piece and we have written to the council in support of the new location.

"The shape of the piece and the boat hoist opposite will complement one another well."

Ely businesswoman Elaine Griffin-Singh said she is opposed to the project, and that many people she has spoken to are also against it.

"It is irrelevant whether or not I like it," she said.

"It's about how the majority of people feel about it and in this case, the majority seems to be against it," she added.

The Ely Standard spoke to artist Lulu Quinn, who has created the sculpture.

How did Sluice come about?

I was commissioned over a year and a half ago now, and the project started with a lot of research about Ely. My brief was to create a new sculpture for the area. The site is absolutely stunning and it's a major tourist centre and so it was important to create something that was sympathetic.

What were your aims with the piece?

One of the things that fascinated me was the way people are drawn to the water, and the way the water is managed. It's a celebration of the huge amount of engineering and skill that's gone into the management of the area.

What would your argument be to people who say the piece spoils the natural beauty of the area?

My argument would be that it highlights the natural beauty of the area. I've spoken to a number of people and everybody I've had contact with have all been very positive about it. There are elements who feel it's not appropriate, but I'm not sure they have seen all of the information about it.

I think you always have to pay attention to the public, because it is the public that own it.

Have you had a negative public response to any of your other public projects?

One work I've had up for four years in Gateshead was actually awarded a civic trust award which you can only get if the public support it. It's really about trying to create a work that enhances the environment.

- AN website poll has revealed that more than 60 per cent of our web users believe the Sluice project is an eyesore that detracts from the beauty of the riverbank.

What do you think? We are waiting to hear from you at

The poll will stay open until next week, when we will publish the results, so cast your vote now.