Heroes rise from Yarmouth sands

A £1m sand sculpture festival at Yarmouth is guaranteed to become one of the most popular of Norfolk attractions this summer.

Three weeks ago Yarmouth's central beach was flat. But that was before 4,000 tonnes of Dutch river sand was shipped in and dumped on top of it. One-and-a-half weeks ago came the second invasion, 60 internationally-renowned sculptors from around the world, who immediately set to work moulding Norfolk's latest big-money attraction.

And today, June 17, that attraction opens to the first of a projected 200,000 people who are expected to come from all over Britain to see the 36 giant sand sculptures now rearing up from the beach.

The sculptors came from all around the world with one vision - to raise ancient Greek legends from their resting place.

And while it might not quite be the eighth wonder of the world, the £1m sand sculpture festival is guaranteed to become one of the most popular of Norfolk attractions this summer.

Yesterday sculptors were putting finishing touches to their work, and will continue to do so until Sunday, demonstrating their skills and answering questions from visitors over the weekend.

After 11 nine-hour days of intensive work, each looked exhausted, but also spoke of their great pride at their part in bringing such an ambitious project to Yarmouth.

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Joost Fluitsma, 29, who created the 9m-high Trojan Horse centrepiece with Jeroen Advocaat, said he was looking forward to hearing what the public made of it.

“We must have spent at least 90 hours each working on this,” he said. “We're a good team and we're proud of what we've achieved.

“It's got the right perspective, it's got a lot of little details in it and it looks quite realistic - but we still have a lot to do and it won't be completely finished until Sunday.

“It's a privilege to work on a project like this, I'm now looking forward to hearing what people think of the work. Everyone always asks whether it's really just river sand and water. I just wish there was a sign saying, yes, it really is!”

Mr Advocaat added: “I think the whole site looks fantastic, there's a lot of cohesion, a lot of detail. The quality everywhere is very high, I think people will love it.”

Out of the 60 sculptors, only one - 30-year-old Tim Handford - is English. Yesterday he said: “Sand sculpture festivals are big all around the world, only Britain seems to have missed out. But with Brighton last year and now Yarmouth too it looks like it might now catch on.

“It's been great fun working on these sculptures in Yarmouth, the sun's been shining and it all looks fantastic. People won't know what to expect but I've got a feeling they'll be delighted with what they find.”

Along with the Trojan Horse are many other illustrations of Greek mythology - Jason and the Argonauts, Pandora's Box, Achilles' heel, Theseus and the minatour, Aphrodite and Hades to name but a few.

Artistic director Anique Kuizenga said she thought the theme would be extremely popular with visitors to the seaside resort.

“It's all gone pretty well,” she said. “It's really nice to see all the statues coming together over the last 11 days and I'm extremely happy with how they now look.

“Now we just await people's response. It's a new thing for Yarmouth but I think people will be happy with what we've done.”

Already beaming are officials at the town's tourist authority, who expect people to come from as far as Scotland to see the sculptures and describe the snaring of the festival for Yarmouth as a “huge coup”.

Yesterday, tourism director Alan Carr said: “There's already been a massive amount of interest, we're hoping to attract 200,000 people over the summer but it could well be far more than that. This is very different to anything we've ever done before. A lot of our fame is to do with our beaches but no-one could imagine having something like this on them.”

t About 10,000 visitors are expected for the first weekend, with 2,000 able to come on to the 10,000 square metre site at any one time.

t The festival is open from 11am to 6pm every day until September 10. Tickets cost £6 adults, £5 concessions, £4 under 12s and under fours go free. For more information or group bookings, phone 01493 332200.

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