diamond geezer

 Friday, October 09, 2020

It's not what you expect to find on the Regent's Canal. Four sharks.

I should have been expecting them, I'd seen them in the media, but it was still a shock to see the toothy quartet rising from the water. This is Haggerston, not Disneyworld, close to the Queensbridge Road bridge. It's also the stretch of water alongside an eco-centre called the Antepavilion who commission an art project annually backed by a £25,000 prize. The yellow bubble is 2018's winner, a floating inflatable theatre, and the sharks are the contribution for 2020.

These fibreglass predators are Jaimie Shorten's idea, and he intended there to be five, not four. If they look like a choir that's because the intention was they'd sing and talk, giving musical performances to be enjoyed by anyone standing on the towpath opposite or delivering lectures on topics such as architecture and urbanism. Alas, social distancing put an end to that, so their gaping mouths remain silent.

But the true enemy turned out to be Hackney council who in mid-August decreed that the sharks breached planning permission and obtained a High Court injunction against them. Four were already in the water at that time, and remain, while the fifth languishes unseen elsewhere. The injunction would also seem to dampen the possibility of a 2021 commission, placing a blanket prohibition on the display of unofficial art installations either on the land or in the water. The law, it seems, bites harder than a fibreglass shark.

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