Derry’s ‘A Stitch In time’ artwork is to be removed from its site atop Rosemount Factory and put into storage following repairs until a new site can be found.
The proposal was endorsed by Councillors sitting on Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Business & Culture Committee on Tuesday evening.
The Committee was told that the artwork – which was gifted to the city by former Culture Minister Caral ni Chuilin following the 2013 City of Culture year – is now in a bad state of repair.
In a report presented to the Committee, Head of Culture Aideen McCarter detailed how the artwork was commissioned by Artichoke for Lumiere as part of the City of Culture programme.
The installation by Tim Etchells is a 22-metre long and two-metre high artwork of steel letters adorned with hundreds of LED bulbs. Ownership of the artwork was subsequently transferred to the former Derry City Council.
Aideen McCarter said that at present, the Council makes an annual licence fee payment of £2,000 + VAT to retain the installation in situ.
In February this year, she said Council officers were made aware of a structural failure within A Stitch in Time , with additional works expected to cost around £12,350.
On top of this, the recurring annual maintenance costs for electrical repairs and relamping sits at around £4,950.
She said it would be “prudent at this stage to remove the artwork from the current site and place in secure storage so that essential repairs can be carried out and consideration given to a more cost effective site or solution for a future reinstall on a temporary or full time basis.”
The deinstallation will cost £10,000 and requires permissions from Artichoke and the artist.
Sinn Féin Councillor for the Rosemount area Mickey Cooper said that when ‘A Stitch In Time’ was installed, it received a lot of attention, adding that it “looked great until bulbs started popping”.
He said the original LED lights were replaced to try and rectify this and said that if some bulbs pop it could end up in a different spelling that wouldn’t be desirable writ large over the city. “We want to make sure its restored to its proper condition and then find a more suitable site. It’s iconic but at the minute it’s not working the way we want it to,” he said.
People Before Profit Colr. Eamonn McCann said he wasn’t sure any site would be suitable for the installation and claimed it “wasn’t the most dazzling” of the light installations brought to the city by Lumiere in 2013.
“If we were going to save anything from the City of Culture year that should have been the last thing,” he said.
Colr. McCann said he had heard it said it was ironic that the sign was erected above a former shirt factory that was no longer operating and said it should be “taken down in the cheapest way possible”.
Chairing the meeting, Aontú Colr. Anne McCloskey concurred and said she would suggest a skip.
DUP Colr. Hilary McClintock however said the artwork was iconic and a “reminder of our past heritage”.
She said that finding an alternative site could be difficult as in its present location it can be seen from right across the city.
SDLP Colr. Rory Farrell said that what was presented as a gift is now costing the Council money and called on Council officers to see if maintenance funding could be sourced from the Department of Communities to help with its upkeep.
Colr. Farrell initially suggested the Council postpone a decision until they hear back from the Department, but later agreed to the recommendation to take it down now after being told the site fee was due for renewal soon.
The Committee endorsed Colr. Cooper’s proposal to remove the piece now and carry out the repair works, which was seconded by Sinn Féin Colr. Sandra Duffy.