Scary, beautiful, ugly, creative: Views of Ennistymon locals on Puca statue

The Clare Co Council consultants’ survey that resulted in the Council saying ‘no’ to the €30,000 bronze Púca sculpture for Ennistymon after an eight-month-long controversy
Scary, beautiful, ugly, creative: Views of Ennistymon locals on Puca statue

Gordon Deegan

Scary, beautiful, ugly, creative, hideous, quirky, vulgar, wonderful, grotesque, imaginative, evil, humorous, frightening, refreshing, eye-catching and eye-sore.

These are just some of the words used by those who participated in the Clare Co Council consultants’ survey that resulted in the Council saying ‘no’ to the €30,000 bronze Púca sculpture for Ennistymon after an eight-month-long controversy.

Released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the 24-page report by Council-hired consultants Connect The Dots, reveals the depth of local feeling that the Púca engendered.

The report states that 674 responses were received as to whether people liked the Púca or not with 370 or 55 per cent outlining reasons for disliking it with 291 or 44 per cent in favour of the Púca.

Dark, evil

The report states that there were at least 79 mentions of ‘ugly’, 10 mentions of ‘scary’, 11 mentions of ‘hideous’ and eight mentions of ‘eye-sore’.

The report states: “Other examples included dark, evil, unappealing, unpleasant, frightening, grotesque and vulgar.”

The report states that a number of responses were concerned with the lack of connection of Puca to Ennistymon.

The report states that furthermore a number of submissions were concerned for its impact on the community, specifically kids, deeming it as inappropriate and scary for younger children.

The report states that in the responses, that there was a “concern for vandalism in the case that the installation would go ahead”.

Asked for an alternative location for the Púca, responders suggested ‘at the bottom of the ocean’, ‘Space near Pluto’ and another suggested ‘somewhere hidden’ or ‘behind a wall’.

Humorous, imaginative

The report states that “others commended the artist’s abilities” and respondents also mentioned descriptions of the Puca including "fun, humorous, imaginative, abstract, quirky, eye-catching, refreshing and striking”.

One person wrote that the artwork ‘beautifully encapsulates the essence of the Púca legend - he is not supposed to be a cuddly character’ while another wrote ‘technically, stunning, incredible craft and thematically rich. A memorable work of art’.

Another wrote ‘it puts the ‘Wild’ in ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, while another wrote that “I didn’t like it, but with all the publicity, I have grown to love it’.

'Entertaining reading'

On Tuesday, the creator of the Púca, artist, Aidan Harte said the Connect the Dots report “made for entertaining reading”.

He said: “It was a losing battle from the start. There is a sound reason why public art is typically not selected by a vote.

“Wherever it is tried, the results please no one and I blame shows like the X Factor that promoted childish ideas that art should be as convenient as fast food, instantly appealing, easily consumed and quickly forgotten.

“A poll like this promotes division and extremism and tellingly the report says that 99pc of people to respond were online and the majority of those chose the highest or lowest rating, so it is either ‘love or hate’ and nothing in between in the middle where most normal people are and they are entirely excluded.”

Mr Harte said that such a consultation process and report “reduces a complicated nuanced discussion into numbers and percentages”.

Mr Harte also questioned responders who expressed concerns over the impact the Púca would have on young children.

Mr Harte - who confirmed that work on the Púca is continuing -visited west Clare school, Rineen National School with a model of the Púca recently “and the kids were lining up to touch the Púca - it turns out Clare kids are ‘monster mad’.”

He said: “Whatever my reservations about hiring a consultancy firm to organise an online vote, I fully accept Clare Co Council’s decision not to put it up in Ennistymon.”

Following the Ennistymon rejection, Clare County Council put the Púca up for grabs for other north Clare communities.

The closing date for expressions of interest was last Thursday and the Council is remaining tight-lipped, for now, on the level of interest.

A Council spokesman said that information concerning expressions of interest will be released and the next steps following a closing meeting with Connect The Dots on April 6th.

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