Saturday, 1 March 2014

Spend A Costly Penny?

£28m Firstsite Gallery 'only used by people to spend a penny'

Some have labelled the controversial Colchester gallery as the "most expensive public toilet in the world"

A £28m art gallery has been condemned as a waste of public money amid claims more than half of its visitors only entered to use the lavatory.

The Firstsite art gallery in Colchester, Essex, first opened its doors to the public in September 2011 with the aim of attracting 150,000 visitors every year.

But the attraction - which aims to make "contemporary art relevant to everyone" - has now come under the spotlight amid claims the majority of people were leaving within two minutes of coming through the doors.

Instead of coming to see the artworks - which have been described by some critics as a "out touch with ordinary people" - it is thought many members of the public are just using the free-to-enter gallery as a convenient place to go to the lavatory.

The gallery has claimed everyone who walks through the doors is enjoying a "cultural experience" no matter how long they spend inside, because there are artworks in the foyer area.

But Colchester's MP, Sir Bob Russell has said the gallery is a waste of taxpayers' money.

He said: "Those popping in to use the toilet are not even spending a penny - it is free.

"But it is boosting numbers of people going through the door as those behind this vanity project desperately try to justify not only the massive capital cost but also the annual subsidy of about £1 million from the public purse.

"Clearly those in charge of the so-called arts are flush with money."

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