Thousands flock to watch Verity's lights switch-on
THOUSANDS of revellers packed Ilfracombe Pier to see Damien Hirst's Verity statue lit up for the first time last Friday.
A cheer went up at the Party On The Pier as lights for the 25-ton bronze sculpture were switched on by Ilfracombe residents Charmain Lovett, Carol Turner and Glenn and Karen Borthwick – all of whom supported plans for the statue through a Facebook group.
As Verity basked in her newly lit glory, spectators enjoyed a firework display which was paid for by contributions from local businesses and charitable organisations.
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Heart FM provided music for the occasion while younger spectators enjoyed fairground rides from David Rowland's Funfair.
Charmain Lovett, who waved a St George's flag to signal the switch-on, said: "There were rumours flying around that Robbie Williams would be turning on the lights and I was a bit worried people might have been disappointed when they realised I was the mystery guest.
"I was prepared to start a sing-a-long to Angels but luckily no one gave me a microphone.
"Verity is going to be so important to Ilfracombe and I'm really happy to say I had a hand in it, however small.
"The thousands of people who turned up tonight just prove what a great addition she is to our town and how pleased people are to have her here."
Pat Glover from Ilfracombe said the event had brought out the best of Ilfracombe.
She said: "It's been great to see so many families and friends enjoying the atmosphere and the fireworks were world class.
"Verity looks gorgeous in her new light, especially under the moonlight."
Steve Pugsley, who owns three shops on the quay, said Verity was going to be great for business whether people liked it or not.
He said: "The shops have been very busy tonight.
"I've kept my shops open into November which I don't usually do. Almost all the extra customers we've had have said they are here to see Verity."
Town and district councillor Philip Webb headed up the organising committee for the event and said he was delighted with the turnout.
He said: "You can always rely on the people of Ilfracombe and tonight they have exceeded our expectations.
"This is the first time I've seen Verity lit up and she looks amazing."
Damien Hirst has paid for the lights to be installed while North Devon Council will pay for the electricity.
Mr Webb said: "The lights are all LED so they are extremely energy efficient.
"The extra parking tickets sold because of Verity will easily cover the cost of electricity for the first year.
"It's a small price to pay for such a huge economic boost."
To watch Ilfracombe marketing group's official video of the event visit www.thisisnorth devon.co.uk