See Monster - Where your tax money went

Matt.GC

TS Member
Not expecting anyone to be interested in this, but you did all pay for this with your taxes and I'm probably the only one who's visited this thing so I thought I'd quickly share what it was like.

As some of you will know, the Festival of the UK was unveiled in 2018 as a celebration of UK creativity. Basically, the government spent £120m of your money on art projects. Local (thankfully not too local, his constituency is nearby) comedic villain Jacob Reese-Mogg labeled it the "Festival of Brexit" which basically just pissed everyone off. Since then, following outrage from some of the artists and people who have worked on the projects, it's been branded as the "Unboxed" festival.

The controversy doesn't end there. The biggest and most prominent of these is the 'See Monster', a disused oil rig platform that has been built in my home town of Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset. It's build overran massively and didn't open until after the summer holidays ended, opening early September. Both locally and nationally, this has made it somewhat the butt of many jokes about the whole project. Despite it being free to enter and living just 4 miles away from it, I haven't visited until today.

I was originally going to take my daughter to Scarefest today. My partner is working all week so we couldn't do the usual stay over and my 2 youngest kids are different heights which meant I'd have to take them separately. So I drove the 3 hours up and 3 hours back taking my 12 year old on Tuesday and was due to take my 8 year old daughter today. I had such a bad experience on Tuesday (the worst I've ever had at a Scarefest that I've done) that I just couldn't stomach driving all the way back up there for such a lame event to stand in 2 hour queues for rides that don't even thrill her much anyone. Since riding Taron, FLY and Baron 1898 earlier in the year, she's just desperately waiting to be 1.4mtrs tall now and there's not alot at Towers now that can keep her entertained. As soon as she was 0.9 and barely walking I've had her on coasters (she bawled her eyes out on Scorpion Express as a baby, does that make me a bad father?) and now there's nothing she won't ride. So popping into town for the day was the consolation and I'll probably end up taking her to Blackpool in November instead.

First was 3 hours on Weston's famous Grand Pier to get some rides done. She had a great time and I'm only mentioning it for 2 reasons. 1. The total amount of roaming actors I saw at Scarefest on Tuesday was nil. The amount of roaming actors I saw on a local seaside pier was 5! 2. This place really does have a superb Ghost Train. There was even an actor in there, jumping out, following our cage, and poking us. It was fantastic!

One thing to be mentioned about the whole evening was the weather. I didn't fancy climbing up an oil rig on a windy seafront in late October but it was like a summers evening. No wind other than a gentle breeze, beautiful sunset and 19 degree warmth! I was walking around at 8pm on a sea front after dark on October 27th in a T shirt. There were people paddling in the sea and kids in shorts playing football on the beach (at 8pm!).

Anyway, @rob666 wanted a timed throughput for See Monster...... well it was a 35 mins queue. No Fast Track or RAP either. The installation is located in the Tropicana on W-s-M sea front. Those older members may remember that the Tropicana (not the orange juice) used to be an outdoor water park before it closed a couple of decades ago. The whole place is a local scandal that's been mentioned for years in the local rags since it closed but some of you may know it as both the place that hosted Banksy's Dismaland and the summer fun fare Funland.

From a distance, it kind of looks a bit like Wickerman..... if Wickerman was an oil rig. Big structure lit up in yellow and orange, looks like it's on fire and has mist bellowing out of it. From the bottom once inside it looks like an oil rig with a waterfall coming from it.

You kind of walk in and they've built a shallow pool on which the oil rig sits. From the second deck, a waterfall flows down into the pool below. For some reason, there's a porta cabin sitting opposite the structure with a temporary BBC radio Bristol studio broadcasting from within it. No idea why.

You climb up the first floor and there's nothing to see other than the back of the waterfall. It just looks like an oil rig. The next floor, again nothing other than more stairs and a deck. The next floor, there's a huge mist ring bellowing out quite a substantial amount of mist. Go up again and the next deck has some pretty lighting and the bottom of a slide with groups of parents waiting for their kids to come down. Walking up to the next deck however and you walk up a ramp to the front of the structure and see small pieces of metal blowing in the wind which are supposed to be the monsters "scales" which gives the structure its unique look at night (almost like fire) with the orange light reflecting off of them.

The top couple of decks are quite pretty. It's covered in plants, trees and foliage and theres somewhere to sit and take in the view. A view which is excellent on a clear warm night like this, looking over Weston bay to see the lights of Cardiff bay in the distance across the water. There's a slide that you can ride down to a lower deck.

I'm glad I went, it was a nice thing to visit. But with a lot of "art" I don't get it? It's a pretty oil rig that opened extremely late and cost a fortune to build. There were speakers playing what sounded like the shipping forecast, what the hell is that all about? The website says:

SEE MONSTER is a retired rig from the North Sea, transformed into one of the UK’s largest public art installations to inspire global conversations about reuse, renewables and the great British weather.

Eh? What? It's a tarted up oil rig. I enjoyed it and glad I went. But it's certainly not succeeding in that statement in my head. I don't get it?

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rob666

TS Member
Nice one mate, cheers for the review.
There are another nine events in the Unboxed series, but nothing else like this one.
Capacity, about 300 per hour, and the popularity has been because it is completely free folks.
The whole £120 million shebang is over in a week.
 

Matt.GC

TS Member
North Somerset Council have taken a leaf out of Merlin's book and have been calling it a "World's First". Decommissioning starts on November 6th which has to happen apparently to protect "wading birds" in the estuary. Even though they usually have roller coasters there all summer long. You can tell I'm no bird expert (still haven't figured the Mrs out yet that's for sure). With a closing date of Nov 5th, sadly that means that Liz Truss lasted longer than a repurposed oil rig by 1 week. They'll be no ice rink in there this year sadly. But at least that paves the way for a possible Funland return next year so @Matt N can finally do his trip, we're famed for welcoming northeners like him around these parts.
 

Plastic Person

TS Member
As a bit of an 'art person', as well as someone with the horn for massive structures, I was hoping to visit this next time I was back in the UK. I like public space works that reuse industrial heritage, I don't think you have to 'get' them from an art perspective or seek out a greater point, it's just enjoyable to interact with history and enjoy a nice view.

I had no idea this was only running for another week. Given the scale of the project and how much tourism presumably needs to recover in the South West post-COVID, that is an absolutely mental decision. 'Festival of Brexit', indeed!
 

James

TS Founding Member
It seems silly not to keep it open for a few more weeks. Weston-super-Mare Carnival on 11th, fireworks on 18th, great opportunity for more exposure!

I'm about an hour down the road so would have visited this, unlikely to within the next week.
 

BarryZola

TS Member
First I've heard about it. Almost certainly too late to go and see it now with it being a 2 & half hour drive (I'd have to plan to do something else whilst down there to make the trip worth it). Interesting write-up though :)
 

rob666

TS Member
But you need to go on the unboxed website Mr Zola...there may be something exciting near you over the last week, a multimedia poetry performance, or a view into the future in English and Welsh.
Possibly.
 

Matt.GC

TS Member
It seems silly not to keep it open for a few more weeks. Weston-super-Mare Carnival on 11th, fireworks on 18th, great opportunity for more exposure!

I'm about an hour down the road so would have visited this, unlikely to within the next week.

Well it looks like I perfectly timed this thread because at 12:15 today they announced that it's been extended now to 20th November with decommissioning starting on the 21st. It's attracting 4000 to 8000 people per day at the moment apparently.

I know it was a slow start due to opening in late September. Most local schools that are run under the biggest local academy trust have been off for 2 weeks now. The others have been off this week (my eldest boys go to secondary school under a different academy trust and they've been off since last Thursday). So I'd imagine if this had opened in August as planned, it might have garnered more interest from the start.

It'll be in place through W-s-M carnival and fireworks at least.
 

James

TS Founding Member
Managed to pop a visit to Sea Monster on Monday, glad I did.

No queue when we went. It was a rather miserable wet and windy day, went on the pier for a couple of hours after parting with £1 for the pleasure of even stepping on it, had a rather nice chippy then walked back past Sea Monster, which looked rather beautiful in the sunset.

I think it's a shame this couldn't have opened in the summer. It seems a waste, for something that is presumably the most expensive piece of Unboxed and will likely be seen by a far smaller audience than intended. Still, I love large and grand pieces of art. I guess like all art what it means or what message you take from it is open to interpretation. Does it 'inspire global conversations about reuse, renewables and the great British weather', maybe? Unfortunately, most people will look and see an Instagram opportunity.

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Matt.GC

TS Member
Managed to pop a visit to Sea Monster on Monday, glad I did.

No queue when we went. It was a rather miserable wet and windy day, went on the pier for a couple of hours after parting with £1 for the pleasure of even stepping on it, had a rather nice chippy then walked back past Sea Monster, which looked rather beautiful in the sunset.

I think it's a shame this couldn't have opened in the summer. It seems a waste, for something that is presumably the most expensive piece of Unboxed and will likely be seen by a far smaller audience than intended. Still, I love large and grand pieces of art. I guess like all art what it means or what message you take from it is open to interpretation. Does it 'inspire global conversations about reuse, renewables and the great British weather', maybe? Unfortunately, most people will look and see an Instagram opportunity.

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Quite a pretty sunset on Monday there I see. I should've leant you my council tax bill, North Somerset residents get on the pier for free after some local controversy a few years ago when they brought the £1 charge in.
 
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