Love her or hate her – but year-old Verity's still a draw
Her installation on the Ilfracombe seafront was highly controversial, but, a year on, one thing is certain; Verity, Damien Hirst's 65ft bronze sculpture of a naked, pregnant, sword wielding woman, has sparked interest in the coastal town.
Exactly 12 months after the statue, on a 20-year loan to North Devon Council, was hoisted into position on Ilfracombe pier, hoteliers and councillors are reporting a big increase in visitors to the town.
According to figures from North Devon Council, numbers at the pier car park have risen by more than 6,000 in the last year – from 74,975 to 81,756, bucking a national trend for falling car park figures.
Executive member for development at Ilfracombe, councillor Mike Edmunds said there has been no denying there has been a buzz around the town over the last year.
"More visitors mean more business in the town and that can only be a good thing," he said. I know many people were dubious about Verity's arrival. Love her or hate though, I hope everyone can see how she has benefited Ilfracombe and will hopefully continue to do so in the future. Still, the council mustn't rest on its laurels. This is only the start of developing Ilfracombe to make it a far more prosperous community."
The town, keen to take maximise the potential of their guest, has seen the installation of two information boards by Damien Hirst's company Science Ltd, and is soon to see a third along with improvement works on the viewing area.
Local ward member Paul Yabsley said one hotelier he had spoken to had reported a 53% increase.
"I have asked many businesses in Ilfracombe how this summer has been compared to recent ones and many are reporting a significant increase in trade," he said. "Many objectors have come around and are also now embracing the unique visitor to our town."