pounds 500,000 grant for steel angel

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Arts Correspondent

The fiercely opposed project to erect a 60ft tall steel angel overlooking Gateshead has won more than half a million pounds in lottery funding, Lord Gowrie, the chairman of the Arts Council, will announce today.

He will be in Tyneside this morning to announce a grant of pounds 584,000 - a move which will earn him the cordial dislike, if not opprobrium, of most residents of the town.

The angel is the inspiration of Antony Gormley, who won the Turner Prize for works such as Field, a sea of 40,000 clay figurines, Testing a World View, in which five iron figures were shaped into awkward positions, and a 1988 work, a bed made from 6,000 slices of bread.

His plan to erect the statue, with a wing-span of 150ft, on the site of a former coal mine was put forward in a public art competition run by Labour-controlled Gateshead council.

The cost of the work - originally pounds 250,000, but now more than pounds 800,000 - and its dominating size have aroused the town's ire. More than pounds 150,000 is coming from the European Regional Development Fund and a further pounds 45,000 from Northern Arts in Newcastle.

Last year, 4,000 people signed a petition objecting to it, even though the Arts Council, European sources and Northern Arts, rather than the council, will be paying the bill.

Kathy King, a Liberal councillor, is one of those fighting to get the council to drop the scheme. "Quite frankly, it will be a monument to the stupidity of the council here in Gateshead, and you can quote me every word, pet, because people here do not want that statue," she said yesterday.

Mr Gormley himself says the work will symbolise the spirit of the North- east. It will be visible throughout Tyneside and will be a landmark for anyone driving up from the south on the A1. It is expected it will be finished by March next year.