Verity of Ilfracombe, Devon

There’re dozens of reasons why I love Ilfracombe. The sleepy, late summer evening sort of a feel, the mad amount of cute tea rooms, the views. Friendly people. Cheap, well, everything. Walks up the hills.

And there’s one reason I don’t love it. The reason is Verity.

After arriving in Ilfracombe, we went for a walk down the harbour. It was already dark outside but the lights and lanterns lit up the boats and buildings, creating a postcard-like view.

The one thing we couldn’t see almost at all was the town’s landmark – a sculpture of a woman with a sword on a pile of law books – Verity. This stainless steel and bronze statue created by Damien Hirst looks over the Bristol Channel and, according to Hirst, represents “modern allegory of truth and justice.”

Initially, I fully embraced such a great idea for a landmark – promoting women, female strength – and on such a big scale; I’m all for it. At night, I could only tell Verity was very tall.

I saw her in full detail the next day. She was huge as if really there to look after the town. She held a sword, looking brave and majestic. Powerful… And really awful. I was shocked by how much I disliked her. It’s not that it’s a bad sculpture as such. It certainly evokes emotions. Mine were just not of the positive kind. I was disturbed, to say the least. Verity is sort of cut it half vertically, so one side is just the regular woman while the other lets you admire her anatomy. And she’s pregnant so you can also see the fetus. I’m no expert – I admit I might have missed the true greatness and meaning of Verity, and I appreciate art is not always all butterflies and rainbows, but dear me – no. Just no.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me to find out that Verity is the Marmite of Ilfracombe – some love her, some hate her. You know which team I’d back. To me, the only good news about Verity is that she is only loaned to Ilfracombe for 20 years. So not long to go.

What I’m also wary of is that I have just written an entire blog post about her. I might not have liked Verity but she obviously stuck in my memory. And I guess that’s the whole point, so well done, Hirst.

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