Sculpture of British soldier pointing towards Parliament to be installed on Margate seafront

A sculpture of a British soldier who served in Iraq pointing in the direction of Parliament will be installed on Margate seafront.

The life-sized figure, which will be temporarily located between the Surf Boat Memorial and the Nayland Rock, will point towards the Houses of Parliament and the Foreign Office, where the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was made.

How the sculpture will look on Margate seafront. Picture: White Wall Company

The project forms part of a series of art commissions for England's Creative Coast called Waterfronts, led by Turner Contemporary and Visit Kent.

Planning permission for the sculpture was approved by Thanet District Council this week and it is expected to be installed in April until the autumn.

Artist Michael Rakowitz is creating the work, which will be made from different elements, including calcite, sand and earth from Basra and chalk from Margate.

The sculpture is named From Basra to Margate, or April is the cruelest month - taken from a line of TS Eliot’s The Wasteland, part of which was written in the Nayland shelter - and is modelled on a British war veteran who served in Basra during the 2003 invasion.

Taking inspiration from the WW1 East Kent Regiment 5th Battalion The Buffs and 80 bronze sculptures of Iraqi soldiers in Basra who were killed in the Iran-Iraq war, the sculpture will link with other figures along the coast, including Frederick T Callcott’s Surfboat Memorial and Antony Gormley’s Another Time.

How the sculpture will look on Margate seafront. Picture: White Wall Company

In a statement, artist Mr Rakowitz says when the British Army took control of Basra, the 80 statues were removed from the corniche, their pedestals left empty.

"For my project, I propose reconstructing one of these monuments to scale and placing it on the shores of Margate," he said.

"However, instead of simply rebuilding one of the 80 original sculptures, I am introducing an 81st, modelled on the likeness of Daniel Taylor, who served with the Royal Artillery in Basra during the 2003 invasion and, through this sculpture, literally stands in solidarity with the Iraqi people.

"The original 80 soldiers depicted in the Basra memorial point across the Shatt al-Arab, toward Iran, where they fell.

"In Margate, the figure points north-west toward the Houses of Parliament and the Foreign Office where the decision to go to war with Iraq was made, where many veterans feel a lie was perpetuated that led to their complicity in an unjust war; the site where they fell."

The base of the statue will be accompanied by a plaque bearing a quote from poet Siegfried Sassoon, who served in the First World War and became a pacifist, stating: "I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers.

"I believe that this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest."

Director of Turner Contemporary Victoria Pomery. Picture: Joel Knight

Victoria Pomery OBE, director of Turner Contemporary, says the gallery is delighted to be leading the innovative Creative Coast project across Kent, Essex and East Sussex.

"As we approach our 10th anniversary year in 2021, Turner Contemporary has demonstrated that art plays a vital role in driving social and economic regeneration," she said.

"This major cultural tourism project spans a large geographical area, connecting people and places through a series of ambitious public art commissions.

"Through collaborations with artists, galleries, arts organisations and tourism providers, England’s Creative Coast celebrates the cultural richness of the South East and the importance of creativity, which is vital for developing skills, tourism and the economy as a whole."

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