Dream statue unveiled (add your comments)

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St Helens' Dream statue has been officially unveiled.

The imposing 20m-high Dream statue, which portrays the image of a girl with her eyes closed, finally became a reality when the final piece was carefully lowered into place.

The striking pre-cast concrete sculpture, which overlooks the busy M62 motorway from its siting at the former Sutton Manor colliery and weighs in at more than 370 tonnes, was designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

And speaking at yesterday's launch, he hit back at critics who've branded the Dream a giant and extremely expensive doll's head.

He said: "Normally with a commission like this it's always about love and hate. When people are negative it's quite normal, but all opinions are right. However, unveiling Dream in one of the worse economic periods doesn't reflect that this project started three years ago. Art is about the future."

And he told how the sculpture of a girl's head with her eyes closed was inspired by his conversations with former miners at the Sutton Manor site.

He said: "I learnt a lot through talking with the miners. All they spoke about was darkness and I wanted something to reflect the light. Light become a dream when you're working in darkness.

"I am very happy with Dream because I have created a special place for people to be. The site at Sutton Manor is a high point with amazing views all around and I would like people to use the steps around the sculpture as a place to sit and enjoy looking at the landscape. I hope that it will be a very relaxing and inspiring place and that people say to one another 'Let's meet at Dream'. That's when I will know it is a success."

It is hoped that Dream - dubbed St Helens' answer to The Angel of the North - will be enjoyed by the millions of motorists who travel between Liverpool and Manchester every year.

But critics have pointed out that the sculpture is only clearly visible for a few fleeting moments before being completely obscured by trees.

Dream was commissioned by ex-miners and St Helens Council as part of

Channel 4's Big Art Project - an ambitious public art initiative supported by Arts Council England, the national development agency for the arts, and The Art Fund charity.

A host of public bodies - included the Forestry Commission and a European tourism fund - have also ploughed cash into the project.

The sculpture was commissioned following conversations with the ex-miners group and members of the local community, who reportedly opted for 'a forward-looking piece that would provide a beautiful, inspiring, contemplative space for generations to come'.

Gary Conley, a former Sutton Manor miner, said: "I never envisaged that on top of this former colliery spoil heap we would have something of such beauty. In the years I worked at Sutton Manor Colliery seeing the hustle and bustle, along with the dirt, smoke, steam and coal produced on that very spot, I would never have guessed that years later it would become somewhere peaceful and serene, where families would want to visit to admire Dream and its panoramic surroundings.

"I often have to pinch myself to realise I'm not in a dream! I feel proud and honoured to have been part of this project."

The journey leading up to the unveiling of Dream, along with seven other Big Art Project sites across the UK, has been filmed for Big Art, a major four-part Channel 4 series, which starts on Sunday, May 10.