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BY DAVE MAIRS

NOT many people know it, but Ramsgate can boast the UK’s largest outdoor art gallery – and now the man behind it has unveiled plans for a new, even more ambitious, project

The Great Wall of Ramsgate was the brainchild of Gerry O’Donnell and, like many such ventures, grew from small beginnings to the point where it now hosts 102 paintings by 94 artists, with another 18 being painted.

The works have been placed on hoardings around the Royal Sands development, a complex of apartments being built on the site of the former Pleasurama arcade by Cardy Construction.

The saga of the derelict site has been contentious for years, and the Great Wall has given a flourish to what has been a problematic area.

And now Mr O’Donnell has set his sights on The Great Light Sculptures of Ramsgate.

“Having achieved the success of the Great Wall, I thought what could be 
our next project – I love the arts, I love doing things.

“I was looking at Ramsgate harbour and remember the rows of fairy lights – now, that isn’t going to happen again, I know, but I did think there was something we could do.”

The first image that came to Mr O’Donnell’s mind was a shining, one-dimensional, sailing ship and then, as ever, the ambition expanded.

“The objective is to put two or three light sculptures around the harbour and pier yard which people would see as they came down Royal Parade. They would be at least 15ft high and the sailing ship would be 45ft.

“I would also like to see the lights on Royal Parade itself restored – there’s a few missing and it makes the town looks run-down and tatty.”

The materials for the planned sculptures has yet to be decided – “it’s fluid,” said Mr O’Donnell – but early thoughts lean towards stainless-steel structures set in concrete plinths.

Planning permission and other such intricacies aside, there is, of course, the small matter of financing the project.

Mr O’Donnell has a “best guesstimate” of £500,000 and accepts that such a figure represents a considerably greater challenge than that posed by the Great Wall project, where money was raised solely through voluntary effort.

With the sculptures, there might need to be recourse to (cash-strapped) local authorities, but Mr O’Donnell is confident that the record of the Great Wall committee stands for itself.

“We’ve shown that we deliver what we promise,” he said. “The principle of raising money is always the same – you’ve just got to be a bit bigger in your minds.”

* If you would like to contribute to or get involved in the new project, which will be developed under the aegis of The Great Wall of Ramsgate, phone 07884 277898 or email greatwalloframsgate@bt.connect.com.

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