The Peace Bridge and that folly by the Foyle

Mute Meadow, Ebrington Square. (0207PG41)
Mute Meadow, Ebrington Square. (0207PG41)

Sometimes there’s a fine line between success and failure.

In this case, they’re virtually side by side. In the case of the Peace Bridge and the Mute Meadow it’s the good alongside the bad and the ugly.

The Peace Bridge (two years old last Tuesday) is a triumph.

Two million people have crossed it, or more accurately, people have crossed it two million times.

It’s a beautiful and iconic symbol of success.

By contrast, the Mute Meadow project next door has been a dismal failure.

It’s an ugly symbol of failure and a waste of public money.

Last week on Radio Foyle, Ilex were quoted as saying it had attracted much favourable comment.

Now there’s an example of blatant and disingenuous spin, if ever there was one. You’d think it hadn’t attracted any criticism.

Hasn’t criticism far outweighed whatever praise it has attracted? Isn’t that the truth?

Is it a case of those who commissioned the project being unwilling to admit their mistake?

Could it be that those who consider themselves sophisticated don’t want to risk attracting the label, ‘Philistine’?

Is it social suicide to criticise what has been called ‘art’? Can’t we have, “a bit more critical acuity, please” to borrow a pithy phrase, used in a different context last week, by fellow columnist, Eamonn McCann.

By day, the steel columns look like they were left behind from the bridge works and by night there’s more light from the candles on a birthday cake.

The 80 steel beams are meant to; “Create a forest of light which will spill onto the river itself”.

You’d strain your eyes trying to see it. The metal beams are there but the light beams are so muted they might as well be missing.

If ‘the beams by the stream’ are meant to be a visual representation of the sounds of the city, Derry is a remarkably quiet place.

Mark Lusby, the City Walls Heritage Project Coordinator with the Holywell Trust has suggested the problem may be the lighting in the vicinity is too bright.

He might be right. So what’s the solution to that? Should we get rid of Ebrington and the Peace Bridge or keep them in the dark? Of course not – that would be ridiculous.

No, the time has come to accept that Mute Meadow is simply bad art.

Despite its enormous price ticket of £800,000 or more, it has never really worked and now we hear the nickel coating is falling off the steel posts.

What’s the point of building an impressive bridge with its lovely curves and high-quality finishes and then juxtaposing it with rusty steel poles?

It’s an eyesore for those crossing the bridge. It’s like having a bad neighbour who devalues the neighbourhood. Let’s have an Anti-social Behaviour Order on the folly by the Foyle.

It’s a waste of metal and electricity.

It should, literally, be scrapped.

If it were taken to a scrap yard it could be re-cycled into something attractive or useful.

Then it could be like the ugly duckling that turned into a beautiful swan after all.