Plans have been revealed for a sculpture of a giant oyster shell which would stand almost nine metres high on a prime waterfront location in Falmouth.
The team behind the project, which has been a year in development, have unveiled a scale model of The Oyster at the Maritime Museum in Falmouth and people are now being invited to have a look ahead of a full scale public consultation later this summer.
The Oyster is the brainchild of sculptor Andy Nicholls and has been developed with the expert help of engineer, Tony Cowles, and Katy Davidson, who is known as the Oyster Lady.
The exact location of the sculpture has yet to be decided, but the small quay off Events Square is current favourite.
A pre-application inquiry has been submitted to Cornwall Council and a full planning application will be lodged following the public consultation.
The Oyster would stand 7.9 metres high when closed and when the shell is fully open it would reach a height of 8.7 metres.
A website has been developed, with input from Cornwall College, where the reasoning behind the project is outlined in detail.
It states: “It will serve to educate future generations about the historical and cultural uniqueness of the native Cornish oyster; to attract people to see the work and in turn, deliver cultural and economic benefit to the area of its location.
“It will also be a catalyst for an education programme about the native oyster, helping to sustain and celebrate its unique contribution to ecology and to its fishery.
“Visible from some distance away, it would act as a magnet, attracting visitors to the site and nearby destinations. What could be more relevant to Falmouth than a beautiful and striking embodiment of the native oyster?
“Good art tells a story and this proposed sculpture brings with it tales of historical culture, local economy, sustainability and initiates new stories in accompanying education projects all about the native oyster.
“As well as an educational and cultural centrepiece, the sculpture could join the ranks of internationally recognised public art, bringing visitors from all over the world, boosting tourism, business and awareness of the unique fishery in Falmouth.”
Sculptor Andy, who is the lead project coordinator, said at the unveiling: “Today is all about asking people to come and see what they think and after today the model will be left on exhibition here (at the museum) for a number of months so more people can see it.
“Then, over the summer we will have a public event, probably linked to one of the festivals, and at that point we will be asking people’s opinion and there’s also the website so people can look at that and email us any thoughts and suggestions.”
It is estimated the project will cost around £230,000 plus VAT and it is claimed £150,000 of that will go straight into the local economy.
Money is now being sought to fund the project with applications being made to various trust funds and private and corporate sponsorship will also be sought along with grants from the likes of the Heritage Lottery Fun and Art Council. No money will be requested from local councils or the Maritime Museum.
The team hope the project will receive public backing. Katy Davidson said: “We have talked to a lot of people already and there has been a really positive response. It’s really encouraging and I think the reason for that is it’s so relevant to Falmouth.
“It pays homage to the oyster fishery and the oyster fishermen who have sustained the fishery for centuries. People do not see oysters, they are hidden under the ocean – they are silent little things but have so much importance. The sculpture gives the oyster visibility which is something it would not have otherwise.”
The hope is the sculpture will be in place by the end of next year. Andy said: “This time next year I am hoping to be giving the instruction to cut the metal. It will be fabricated in Mylor and we will be floating it down on a barge and craning it into place. If it goes well, we will be looking at the Falmouth Oyster Festival 2015 to unveil it.”
To see the full details of the project visit www.theoyster.org.uk.
Sculpture engineer Tony Cowles, the 'Oyster lady' Katy Davidson and project leader Andy Nicholls
An artist's representation of how the oyster may look