The ‘fat slag’ that’s dividing opinion: How a 1,300ft high waste heap sculpture of a rotund woman has split the North East

The 'fat slag' that's dividing opinion: How a 1,300ft high waste heap sculpture of a rotund woman has split the North East

This huge 1,300ft naked woman made out of slag heaps has got her neighbours in Northumberland talking, dividing opinion between the lovers and the haters.

The reclining female figure formed out of grassy mounds a quarter of a mile long and weighing an estimated 1.5million tons has been moulded from a slag heap and laid on her back on the Blagdon Estate, near Cramlington.

Officially, she was named ‘Northumberlandia’ by creators the Banks Mining Group, Viscount Matthew Ridley and landscape architect Charles Jencks. But critics of the curvy creation, which cost £3million to build and is the world’s largest human landform, have been less than complimentary – instead referring to her as the ‘fat slag’.

Her impressive vital statistics -1,300ft long, 830ft wide, and 112ft high at her tallest point – can be seen clearly by commuters on the Edinburgh train, and those travelling along the A1 can also look at her ample attributes. She will be officially opened by Princess Anne on September 3, when the public will be able to walk all over her.

When the idea was first touted to create the impressive beauty from 1.5m tonnes from the nearby Shotton coal mine in 2006, Northumberland County Council blocked plans after it received 2,500 objections.

Among the detractors was councillor Wayne Daley who described the idea ‘ridiculous’ and added: ‘If we wanted something like this why didn’t we just ask Jordan to open a theme park?’.

Locals in nearby Cramlington also seem to be a bit baffled. Michele Gray, 50, told the Sunday Times, ‘It’s a bit wacky. It seems a bit of daft thing to do. I can see what they’re trying to get at nature, and all that. Personally I’d rather have real countryside, not so messed about with by man.’

Broadcaster Melvyn Bragg has also admitted that the idea of walking over a reclining woman might not be to ‘everyone’s tastes’. And at the time of building Bob Downer, chief executive of the Blagdon Estate, admitted there had been ‘a few complaints’.

He added: ‘Some people think it’s wrong to have a female figure, and others think she’s some sort of pagan symbol, even though Mother Earth is part of cultures all over the world.’

But it is hoped the privately funded sculpture will earn more than £1m for the local economy each year, and attract around 200,000 extra visitors annually.

James Berresford, chief executive of Visit England, said the sculpture had a ‘warmth, serenity, and mystical quality’ adding that it reminded him of his mother in her youth. It is not the first public sculpture to attract controversy.

Anish Kapoor’s Olympics tower, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, has become the butt of some jokes, earning nicknames such as ‘Eyeful Tower’ and has been likened to a ‘roller coaster caught up in a spaghetti junction’.

When the Angel of the North was first unveiled in 1998, it also sparked controversy and at one time a campaign was launched to stop its construction.

Northumberlandia, whose breasts are 100ft high, was designed by landscape architect Charles Jencks. When work began in 2010, Jencks was forced to deny it was offensive to women and was a celebration of the human form.

‘I don’t believe it is demeaning to women, men or the human species as a whole, in fact it celebrates all of that,’ he said. It won’t be offensive because people will always see it with more than one meaning. People have every right to question it, because it is art, but I promise you they will be won over to its existence. I profoundly believe that, given time, people will not find any offence in this, and will grow to love her. I think the people of Northumberland will rather like the idea that their county and countryside is given identity like this. I don’t think there is an issue here with her sex, or her breasts or anything like that.’


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