Despite Britain suffering its worst recession since 1945, some authorities still think it is acceptable to use £2 million of taxpayers' money to pay for a 60ft tall head alongside the M62 motorway in Merseyside, which must resemble a giant that is rising out of the ground.

St Helens Borough Council hope the work will rival that of the popular Angel of the North statue in Gateshead in norh east England.

90 pieces were used to contruct the head, named "Dream", which has been built to honour local coalminers.

Huge folly or amazing work of art? Giant 60ft head costing taxpayers £2m nears completion

By Julian Gavaghan (external - login to view)
20th April 2009
Daily Mail

Workers today put the finishing touches to a 60ft-tall sculpture of a head that has been criticised for costing taxpayers £2million.

The elongated woman’s face, entitled 'Dream' was erected on the site of a former slag heap alongside the M62 motorway in Merseyside.

It was created by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa following orders by St Helens Borough Council to rival Gateshead's Angel of the North.

Finishing touches: A Worker fills in the gaps between the 90 pieces of concrete of St Helen's 'Dream' sculpture

The sculpture, which will be unveiled next month, was constructed like a puzzle using 90 pieces of pre-cast concrete mixed with marble.

Each piece has been painstakingly winched into place at a rate of two a day.

The head, whose eyes are closed in a dream-like state, was created in response to the memories of a group of local ex-miners from the former Sutton Manor Colliery as part of Channel 4’s The Big Art Project.

Situated close to Junction 7 of the M62, Dream is intended as a gateway feature for both Merseyside and Greater Manchester, as well as symbolising the regeneration of St Helens.

Gateway: Built on a former slag heap by the M62 motorway, the giant head is seen daily by thousands of drivers

But its price tag has been controversial – with critics describing the enornmous artwork – built amid a rising unemployment and hardship - as a ‘huge folly’.

The Taxpayers Alliance said the money would have been better-spent creating jobs and helping families hit by the recession.

Spokesman Mark Wallace told the Daily Telegraph: ‘£2million is a huge amount of money at the best of times.

‘But in the middle of a recession, when people are struggling to make ends meet, it's obscene to spend it on this huge folly.’

But St Helens Borough Council has defended its decision.

Dreaming: Spaniard Jaume Plensa's design is intended to reflect the regeneration and future of St Helens

Spokeswoman for the 'Dream' project, Catherine Braithwaite said: ‘The decision to erect the sculpture was not taken lightly and consultation took over three years.

The end result will be amazing.’

And Council leader Brian Spencer, himself a former Sutton Manor Colliery worker, said: ‘It’s an incredible sight witnessing the birth of this amazing new art work.

‘It will put St Helens on the map and provide a landmark sense of welcome and arrival for the region as a whole for generations to come.

‘This transformation is particularly poignant, given the history of the site itself.’

Criticism: Despite being welcomed by former miners, the Taxpayers Alliance described it as a 'huge folly'

Mr Plensa met with former miners and the local community to discuss their ideas for the art work, which is one of seven linked projects across the UK.

The progress of each of the projects will be broadcast on Channel 4 next month.

Gary Conley, who was 17 years old when he began working in the colliery from 1974 to1991, was among the team which nominated the site.

Mr Conley, who now works for St Helens Council as a resource manager, said: ‘My ex-colleagues and I have been involved in the process every step of the way.

‘It’s fascinating to see how a group of ex-miners now view the world differently, following this amazing art journey.’

Rival: The statue was comissioned by St Helens Council to be a landmark like the Angel of the North, above