Council funding bid for Ottery’s Coleridge statue project

A perspective drawing of where the statue would be located outside the church. Picture: CHRISTOPHER

A perspective drawing of where the statue would be located outside the church. Picture: CHRISTOPHER WAKEFIELD - Credit: Archant

District councillors are being asked to approve grant funding for the campaign to commemorate Ottery’s most famous son, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with a statue.

Councillors will decide on Tuesday, September 1 whether to support the project, which aims to have the statue in place by October 2022, the 250th anniversary of the Romantic poet’s birth in Ottery.

The total cost of the scheme by the Coleridge Memorial Trust is £80,000.

Having started fundraising in 2017, the trust had saved £30,000 by this summer, and launched a crowdfunding campaign for a further £20,000 to ensure that the first stages of the project can go ahead.

That campaign stood at £13,320 on Wednesday, August 25.

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A report to the community grants panel explains that they could decide to pledge the full outstanding amount of £6,680, or possibly less, if further donations have come in by the time of the meeting.

They could also pledge a smaller amount, leaving the trust to raise the rest of the money by the deadline of Saturday, September 5 – or make no pledge at all.

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The pledge will turn into a grant only if the full £20,000 is raised, including whatever sum the council has agreed upon.

If the money comes in, the countdown to October 2022 will begin.

The Coleridge Memorial Trust already has a sculptor, Nicholas Dimbleby, ready to begin work on the statue, and has secured all the permissions needed to install the statue outside Ottery St Mary Church.

The site will need to be prepared, and plans will begin for a big unveiling event.

Mike Ferguson from the trust said he believes the statue will boost Ottery’s visitor economy.

The town is already known as Coleridge’s birthplace, and his childhood memories of local locations are explored in his poetry, but there is no actual memorial to him there – or anywhere else in the world.

The fundraising campaign for the statue has attracted plenty of community support, with online donations and cheques sent via The Curious Otter bookshop.

However, not everyone is in favour. Comments on social media, in response to the statue’s fundraising appeal, have suggested that the money could be better spent on a literary prize in Coleridge’s memory, or a new community venue named after him.

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