Following the revelation that the Sculpture on Clyde organisers were planning to cancel the event this year due to the last minute untenable imposts placed on them by Eurobodalla Shire Council the Mayor organised an emergency meeting of Council staff members and Sculpture on Clyde representatives to "work through the issues". The issues as reported by The Beagle and clearly laid out in a written response by the Sculpture on Clyde volunteer group were Council's insistence that it have access t financial records before considering offering any money towards the procurement of this year's acquisition work. Council also demanded a seat at the judging table while failing to identify why they insisted or offering up any credentials of who their nominated judge might be. The insistence was clearly seen as an impost by the Sculpture committee that would strip away the independence and integrity that the decision required, especially in light of the fact that it was the committee that paid the prize money with council contributing nothing at all to the event prize winnings. Lastly the issue of the siting of the next acquisition was stated by Council without any move to consider options. This came as an anathema to the group as it lacked any logic or consideration that the 2018 winning acquistion piece might well be unsuited to the site stipulated by Council directly adjacent to an intense salt water environment. Without knowing the material, scale or design of the winning piece the insistance of council to only install at the site of their choosing in return for their in-kind donation of a concrete slab pushed the envelope that Council was on a toatlly different planet to the intentions and vision behind the Sculpture on Clyde event. Of the urgent meeting yesterday Mayor Liz Innes said she had a productive meeting with representatives of the Bay Chamber on Monday. “We worked through the three issues and confirmed they weren’t preventing the event from proceeding. I look forward to seeing this wonderful event continue, and I’m really pleased that following our meeting the Chamber lodged the Event Management Plan with Council for approval.” In essence the meeting was less cuddly with the Council accepting any responsibility in its role of having cause upset to the organisers and the many Batemans Bay business owners and residents who were horrified that Council's last minute conditional insistence might have bought a halt to the event. Batemans Bay Tourism and Business Chamber president David Maclachlan told The Beagle “there has been overwhelming support from the community. Yesterday we saw council make a series of concessions and based on those we want to proceed with the event.“ "Council are beginning to realise that this is a difficult and expensive exercise and we will once again do what we can, as volunteers, to keep it rolling.“ "We're now looking at site options, on both public and private land to support our vision of the creation of a world-class sculpture walk which is a parallel purpose of the event that leaves a legacy for the whole community to enjoy year around. We have created a prime destination event we can be proud of which encourages tourism to Batemans Bay and the area during a quiet time of year yet contributes to a year around experience for visitors on the Sculpture Walk and provides a cultural legacy for our community. It is vision and passion like this that needs to be nurtured across the whole region, with or without Council's hands-on approach.” While the Mayor may have stated "we worked through the three issues" The Beagle understands the Council representation were told very clearly that they would not be given access to the financials as they were commercial in confidence and that there was neither need nor otherwise to reveal those figures to Council and that the Sculpture group had already provided all the financials required by Destination NSW to satisfy their grant application. Of the location the Council eventually conceded that it needed to look at other sites and was advised that they needed to consider alternate locations of the next and future acquisitions. Private locations within malls and pedestrian walkways are also an option that would still see the vision of a sculpture walk in Batemans Bay come alive. Council has already been advised on several occasions by members of the community wishing to secure and install public art that it needs to review its own Public Art Policy and make clear its intentions as attractions such as the Batemans Bay Sculpture Walk develop and as more public art comes on line through philanthropic donations. It is understood that Council also acquiesced during the meeting on its insistence of having its own judge on the panel which is good news for those fearful that their vote might be weighed by other agendas such as maintenance, risk and of their intrinsic civic style and suitability of their own, as yet unstated, town-planning concepts and designs. So, in all, the Mayor was correct that they worked through the three issues in that Council was put very much on it's back foot and bought to task that that their actions had already resulted in this year's event not seeing the expected international entries. Of remaining concern however is the continued uncertainties around the event being held on public land as the Council could offer no direction of the impact that the proposed new Batemans Bay Bridge would have to the shoreline and T-wharf area of Clyde Street nor could they advise of any long term commitment to the Sculpture Walk. The Sculpture on Clyde event is a vision that sees an annual sculptural event draw interest to the area over an otherwise quiet week in the calendar of Batemans Bay. The event has been a major success for two years in a row due to the tireless commitment of its volunteers, supporters and sponsors. While the event is now a gem in the tourism calendar for the town it is also the means for the town to begin to acquire a public art collection and as such the event is a legacy event that brings something of art, interest and culture to Batemans Bay and the region all year around. It is clear that Eurobodalla Council has underestimated the sentiment and enjoyment that this more than successful event, designed and organised by volunteers and they have also failed to recognise the vision and legacy the event has contributing a richness to the warp and weft of the town. Whilst it now looks as if the event might proceed of coming days with further discussions and clarifications of Council imposts we might find the event reborn to ensure it continues with the passion and spirit it deserves and whether that includes Council is to be seen.
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