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It's a Rocky Road for Riff-Raff

Waikaito Times

25 February 2004

Sick or sensational?
Hamilton City Council votes tonight on whether to earmark $25,000 for a Weta Workshops statue of a cult musical transvestite in the city's main street.

Rocky Horror Show's Riff Raff, played by the film's writer former Hamiltonian Richard O'Brien, is planned on land that was the Embassy Theatre in Victoria St. The site has been chosen because Mr O'Brien once worked in a barbershop next door to the Embassy before he decamped to London.
But like many public art proposals before it, the Riff Raff statue is highly controversial, and councillors are tight-lipped on how they will vote. The public will be excluded from tonight's discussion, although it is understood
Mayor David Braithwaite and Councillor Roger Hennebry are among those opposed to the statue.

Mr Braithwaite said the issue would be discussed behind closed doors because sponsors wished to keep the matter private and confidential.

This is despite it already having been made public that the Perry Foundation has pledged $100,000 of the $125,000 total cost.

Meanwhile, councillor Jocelyn Marshall remains vehemently opposed to the statue. She was "very disappointed" Riff Raff was the first piece of public art to be considered under the new Art in Public Places policy she strongly endorsed.

"I think people are frightened they will be regarded as a fuddy-duddy if they say no. I am not frightened to say no."

However, social and community committee chair Pippa Mahood said she expected the statue would make it through tonight's proceedings.

Arts Waikato chief executive Hilary Falconer said one of the good things about the statue was that it was "very controversial".

"It probably wouldn't be my choice, but it is a very exciting piece of public art for the community...we are very lucky to get the sponsorship." Hamilton Community Arts Council manager Tracey Wood said the council supported public art for the city.

"It's very positive. It is designed to make people think, be controversial and spark debate. That can only be a good thing for Hamilton."

Waikato Society of Arts president Garth O'Brien said the statue would be a talking point for years to come.

And the talking has already started. Since the Waikato Times revealed the Riff Raff plan yesterday, it has received numerous letters, phone calls and emails about the statue, the majority in favour.

Ruth Fink-Winter, US editor of a Rocky Horror fan magazine Crazed Imaginations, believed fans from all over the world would travel to Hamilton to see the statue

The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996