Following on from last week’s Environment and Community scrutiny committee, Cambridge Labour have issued a clarification with respect to comments appearing widely on social media in relation to the public art item.
Chair of the commitee, Councillor Mairéad Healy commented:
“It is not for me to comment on the current concept proposal for artwork proposed along the river. I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the results of the consultation, which only closed a few days ago. This is for the public ultimately to decide, which is exactly the point I made last week. What I said in the meeting, was that there have been a huge number of local people who have contributed to the development of the concept already through an array of community engagement events. Thousands of people have taken part in these, from all sorts of community groups. We want to make sure important decisions like these include as diverse a range of contributions as possible.
As a council we want to be ensuring all voices are heard in our community, and that means going beyond not just the groups who regularly engage. However, most of the events we held were open to all, so there was also no attempt to exclude anyone. As far as I understand, the narrative that has been created by the artist as a result of all these events with local communities was about telling the story of working-class women as well as the preservation of our river.”
“I am very clear on the importance of scrutiny being raised in a public forum. But this shouldn’t be allowed to override other voices, including those from different backgrounds. There is room for everyone to have a view.
As Cllr Anna Smith said at the meeting, this is still at consultation stage, and there was no intention to make a decision on the art itself at last week’s meeting. Once we have the results of the consultation – the whole range of views – it will give us a clear idea of future directions. This is a piece of public art, so it is only right that the views of the public should be front and centre.”
In response to several comments about whether funding should not be used to fund public art, she said:
“On the question of whether public art is desirable when working class families are struggling- this isn’t an either/or question. We have made it clear from the beginning that this S106 funding is ringfenced, meaning it cannot be used for anything other than public art, and anything leftover would be handed back to developers. Therefore, in funding public art we are not reducing our essential work to support those who are facing the cost-of-living crisis. We believe people of all classes should be able to enjoy public art and equally should have enough to live on too. We have continuously campaigned across a variety of issues related to the cost of living crisis including our recent fuel poverty motion passed at full council, and our ongoing food justice work.”