Plans for a giant steam artwork on the Liverpool skyline have been abandoned after 15 months of failed attempts to make it materialise. Artist Anthony McCall designed Column, a spiral of steam that should have risen 10km (six miles) into the sky.
Arts Council England has spent £535,000 of Lottery money on the project,
which was due to have run throughout 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Column was originally due to launch on 31 December 2011 and run for exactly
12 months. The steam spiral should have risen from East Float dock in Birkenhead and
been visible for at least 100km (62 miles) on a clear day, becoming a
"nationally and internationally recognised landmark", according to the
organisers' original proposals.
But it was repeatedly delayed. The Civil Aviation Authority was worried that
it would interfere with aircraft and the Port Health Authority had concerns that
it could cause Legionella. Even after those fears were allayed, the steam-generating mechanism did not
work properly and the column still did not appear. The budget for McCall's project was originally £500,000, including a £40,000 fee
for the artist. The budget subsequently rose by £35,410. None of the money will
Councillor Jim Crabtree, who represents Bidston and St James on Wirral
Borough Council, said it was "a complete and utter waste of public money". "They should have done their homework before committing £500,000, especially
given what we've got going on today - people starving, we've got food banks all
over the place. How many people could you feed with £500,000?" The Arts Council have rejected accusations that it was a waste of money.