See Monster to be scrapped and recycled as questions raised over 'Brexit festival' costs

World's first decommissioned gas platform art installation attracted 500,000 visitors

The See Monster art installation will be recycled after attracting 500,000 visitors. Photo: PA
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The world's first decommissioned gas platform to be transformed into an art installation will be recycled after attracting more than 500,000 visitors to the UK's Brexit Festival initiative.

The See Monster attraction, which closed on Sunday, was intended to highlight climate change and the use of renewables around the theme of the British weather.

The North Sea rig arrived in Weston-Super-Mare in July on a barge the size of a football pitch and was one of 10 projects in the Brexit Festival celebration of the arts as part of the Unboxed initiative.

The £120 million Unboxed scheme has drawn controversy over its costs and the National Audit Office is expected to publish a report into whether it has been value for money.

The scheme faces criticism after failing to meet its target of 66 million visitors, attracting only 2.8 million people to live events.

Unboxed, a government programme of live and digital events funded by taxpayers’ money, was held in 107 towns and villages throughout the UK.

Its director, Phil Batty, said 18 million people took part in online and in-person events that were held from March to October — the majority participated digitally, by watching online broadcasts or through virtual reality.

He defended the project, which he said had been "very successful".

The team at See Monster said it had "surpassed previous attendance for any art and cultural project in the local community and has provided a major economic boost for the region".

As well as 500,000 visitors to the site, it engaged more than 12 million people on Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

The gas rig will now enter the dismantling stage and return to its decommissioning cycle. It will be recycled with parts of it donated to local projects.

The creators of the installation described it as an "engineering achievement".

"The transformation of an inherited structure into a public art installation is an unprecedented design and engineering achievement," said Patrick O'Mahony, founder and creative director of Newsubstance.

"Having been the first in the world to reuse a gas platform in this way, we hope to have created a blueprint for future global reuse projects, inspiring conversations that inform positive actions.

"From acquiring a platform and transporting it to the UK by sea, through to the monster's transformation and reimagining of design-led renewables that it showcased, See Monster demonstrates what can be achieved from cross-sector collaboration."

Dr Ella Gilbert, a scientist at the British Antarctic Survey and climate science adviser to See Monster, hopes similar projects can take place in the future.

“I am proud to have been part of such a transformative project that has used out-of-the-box thinking from its inception," she said.

"See Monser has started conversations about how we can redesign these relics of our industrial past and make them fit for the future. I am excited to see how we can continue repurposing these structures and how we can change the world for the better.”

The series of Unboxed events was originally unveiled in 2018 as Festival UK 2022 by prime minister Theresa May and was planned as a nationwide celebration of creativity after the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who later held the government post of Brexit secretary, nicknamed it the Festival of Brexit but it was rebranded as Unboxed under Boris Johnson’s leadership.

The spending watchdog is investigating whether the eight-month festival provided value for money.

Updated: November 23, 2022, 1:31 PM