Brighton’s “last beach fisherman” is being told to take down the collection of flint statues he’s built on the beach over health and safety fears.
Rory McCormack started creating the mystical figures out of flint and other bits and pieces he found on the beach about two years ago, in his fisherman’s store next to the Volk’s Railway
The statues are now clearly visible from the railway and the promenade as they look out to sea.
But their days may be numbered as council officials say they are a safety risk – and nearly all are so large they could not be moved and so would have to be demolished.
Mr McCormack said: “Two years ago, it was a particularly bad winter and I just started pottering about and it went from there. I was building it for two years, it’s out in the open, virtually in the middle of the beach.
“Members of the public come up and show an interest – at couple to two dozen people a day. I’m sure there’s people who think it looks terrible, but I haven’t had a single negative comment made in all that time.
“I worked out the beach patrol has driven past about 2,500 times and said nothing. But then I got a message passed on by a fairly friendly beach officer, who said I’m passing on a message from someone in the office. It was a two minute conversation and I haven’t heard anything since.
“The fence is 7ft high. Only one person has managed to climb over it. It’s all tucked away in an enclosure and the only time anyone come here is at my invitation while I’m here.”
The statues, which have been described as examples of outsider art, are inspired by bronze and iron age art. The most recent additions, still being finished, are a Venus of Willendorf and a Sumerian goddess cradling a child. Both these have been made smaller than the others so that, if necessary, they can be moved.
Although the statues are only a couple of years old, the store has been there for much longer. Mr McCormack, who moved to Brighton 55 years ago when he was five, has been fishing on the beach since he was 16.
He put the fencing up about 15 years ago, after night time beach patrols stopped and fishing gear became vulnerable to repeated vandalism.
He said: “I had to fence if off to look after my fishing gear. I live in a first floor flat so I couldn’t store it there. It’s been like that for about 15 years, and the council hasn’t said anything about it.
“The fishermen’s stores have all been demolished. There’s a handful about 600 yards along but they’re not standing any more. The council’s made a point of demolishing everything as soon as it goes out of use for a few months.
“I’m the last beach fisherman standing in Brighton. The only reason I’ve managed to do that is because I put a fence up.”
However, the council said that it was intending to take action. A spokesman said: “We have real concerns over these structures because some are more than six foot high and have been built on council land without consent so we have to take action before somebody is seriously injured.”