BANGOR’S secret public art project can be revealed as a £1m sculpture of linked hands, to be created by Colin Davidson on the city’s seafront.

    Ards and North Down Council insists ratepayers shouldn’t know about the scheme, and held a behind closed doors debate followed by vote on whether or not to go ahead with it last Wednesday night.

    The Spectator has been able to confirm, however, that current plans will see a large seafront sculpture built by Davidson, one of Northern Ireland’s best-known living artists.

    Around £1m is coming from Stormont’s Department for Communities to pay for the project, while the council will also make a contribution to the cost.

    So far a specific location hasn’t been decided yet, as surveyors still have to check where would be a suitable home for the sculpture.

    But the council has shortlisted Marine Gardens, the Pickie area, and the Long Hole as potential spots for the public art.

    The scheme has been listed as an ‘art-led regeneration project for Bangor city’, with local officials hoping that it will become a tourist draw that will in turn shine a spotlight on the area’s growing creative scene.

    They’re aiming to mirror the success of large-scale sculptures by internationally known names such as Antony Gormley’s Angel Of The North in Gateshead, the Kelpies in Falkirk and Damien Hirst’s creation Verity in Devon, all of which drove massive increases in tourism as people flocked from far and wide to check out the public art.

    The project isn’t connected to either the coming Queen’s Parade revamp or the planned overhaul of a two-mile stretch of the city’s waterfront, though it is intended to work alongside both as Bangor reorients to become more art-centric as a replacement for the collapse of high street retail over the last 20 years.

    Hiring Colin Davidson is a prestigious move; the Belfast-born artist, who has been based in North Down for several years, is one of the best known painters to come from these shores in the 21st century.

    Officials think that having such a big name spearheading the project will help put Bangor on the map for culture vultures, in turn raising the profile of the local arts scene as people who visit the city to see the sculpture will stay around to check out local creatives.

    The council doesn’t want anyone to know about the million-pound project, however, locking all details and discussions about it behind closed doors.

    Officials have declared that everything about it must be kept secret because part of it is held to ‘relate to the financial or business affairs of a particular person’.

    That secrecy even applies to its overall budget, funding sources and potential location, as well as the results of any discussions or votes on the issue.

    It’s understood that the scheme won widespread backing during last week’s secret debate, and passed by an overwhelming majority.