Beacon Quay Public Art Project 2004 – 2006

Project Review May 2006 Paul Osborne Senior Urban Design and Landscape Officer, Torbay Council


Beacon Quay RingIn October 2004 Torbay Council was approached by lead artist Melanie Thompson who proposed to work with the authority to create a site specific piece of public art in Torquay. Melanie proposed a site specific, interactive work of art that would assist in the regeneration of Torquay harbour and town centre. The timing of this proposal was fortuitous as Anna Whitehead (Arts Officer) and myself had been discussing potential sites for public art within Torbay. We discussed a number of options with Melanie, and started to set out a programme for developing a public art project and identify the key parties that would need to be involved.

In November 2005 artist Bob Budd was appointed to develop the public art scheme. Bob worked with the project team to develop a design which was presented to the public on 30th March 2006.

Project Description

We quickly identified Beacon Quay as the best potential site for the project. Proposals to implement public realm improvements at Beacon Quay (set out in the Torquay Harbour Public Realm Masterplan) already identified the potential for public art to create a focus in this area that would draw people around the inner harbour and help to regenerate Beacon Quay itself. The public realm design for Beacon Quay was being developed (led by the Torbay Development Agency) and a proposed start date for works on site was identified as September 2005. This gave us time to develop the public art project, advertise for and appoint an artist and develop specific proposals.

Project Structure (relationship to Public Realm works)

Melanie Thompson, Anna Whitehead and myself became the core project team, and we identified the need for a Steering Group that would bring in representatives from other relevant groups.

The Public Realm works were predominately funded by the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), who required a high quality hard landscape design to be fixed by March 2006 and for funding and programme to be tightly controlled. As at March 2006 we had no confirmed funding the Public Art Project had to be developed in parallel with the Public Realm works, and could not be fully integrated at this stage.


Funding for my and Anna Whitehead’s time was provided by Torbay Council as part of our ongoing jobs. Melanie Thompson’s time was funded by Dartington College of Arts.

At the start of the project we had no funding for the artist or artwork itself. We discussed potential sources of funding. Melanie approached local businesses and managed to secure £5,000 from Living Coasts. I managed to secure £5,000 from the Torbay Council planning budget as seed funding to secure grant aid. We also managed to secure £15,000 from the Public Realm works towards the public art works, and the potential for minor changes to the hard landscape scheme to be accommodated within the site works budget. Later on, as the artwork was being developed, we also managed to secure £5,000 from Brewer’s Fayre for lighting works to their building which faces onto Beacon Quay.

A review of funding streams identified the Arts Council and the Esme Fairburn Foundation as key potential funders. A bid for £14,000 for artists fees from the Arts Council was successful, but a larger bid to Esme Fairburn was not. The failure of this bid limited the scale of the public art work and we were unable to secure any further funding from other sources. The total budget for the artwork was therefore £25,000 (plus £5,000 for Brewer’s Fayre). We did not have full confirmation of the funding until August 2005.