A CONTROVERSIAL art structure - long-delayed and criticised for 'squandering' taxpayer cash - finally closed its doors to the public last week.

Organisers claim it 'exceeded all expectations', but was it really worth the hype?

What was See Monster?

First designed to 'redefine conversations on climate change', the three-storey decommissioned North Sea platform, turned environmental vanguard, had initially hoped to attract more than 200,000 unique visitors to Weston in the summer. 

It was one of ten major free-to-enter events for the Unboxed: Creativity in the UK festival held across the country - a project now at the heart of a National Audit Office (NAO) probe - to 'show off' British ingenuity following Brexit. 

Weston Mercury: See Monster. See Monster. (Image: NSC)

The attraction was opened by creative studio New Substance on September 24 - Westonians were allowed a sneak peek one day before - and was due to close on November 5, but then pushed back to November 20.

There was an agreement with Natural England to begin dismantling the structure earlier this month but following consultation, the agency agreed See Monster will have 'no adverse effect on waterbirds' but deconstruction should be paused if there is a prolonged spell of severe cold weather.

READ MORE: See Monster to open in Weston after delays

The 33-metre tall exhibition, held at the Tropicana, boasted a solar tree, wind turbines, a 10-metre waterfall, scales and a planted garden.

For three days beginning on the August bank holiday, tens of thousands of people lined the seafront to watch a short 10-minute drone show where organisers explained its purpose. Local businesses later revealed they had seen a huge boost in trade.

Weston Mercury: See Monster delivered by barge on Weston seafront. See Monster delivered by barge on Weston seafront. (Image: stevepoulsomphotography.com)

Jack Mansion, aged 36, travelled to Weston from Bath with his family last week. He said 'although See Monster was big and cool to look at, I didn't really come back thinking it delivered on what was promised'.

"I've no doubt it helped Weston at a time of year when visitors normally dwindle but apart from the views at the top and a few trees, I don't think that I, or my kids, learned a lot from it all.

"After about 10 or 15 minutes, you've done everything you can. It's not somewhere you can take plenty of time to really discover what it's all about or understand why it was made in the first place."

North Somerset Council's executive member for placemaking and economy, Cllr Mark Canniford, claimed it was 'up to private businesses' to ensure they saw an uptick in trade while See Monster was open. 

READ MORE: See Monster in Weston: What to expect?

He said: "People counters prove there has been an uplift of around 10 per cent extra visitors to The Sovereign during the last eight weeks.

"This is clearly very welcome during the closed season and the town's businesses have benefited.

"See Monster has played its part in getting Weston on the national and international news and has had a significant benefit to our economy."

However, its primary purpose was not to boost trade in Weston, but rather, as New Substance founder Patrick O'Mahony said: "See Monster is about reuse, renewable energy and to start conversations on climate change - I wanted people to smile and be inspired by the scale of it, the ambition of it."


Months of setbacks saw the attraction delayed to the winter months, this sparked fears local traders could miss out on the hundreds of thousands of visitors as promised.

Controversy first engulfed the art exhibition when the Mercury reported its initial delay was caused by a failure to acquire licenses to ship the platform from the Netherlands.

READ MORE: Fears Weston will be UK 'laughing stock' if See Monster delayed until September

Due to this hold up, a further delay was then forced by 'hot weather' during construction so its arrival was pushed back again from July to late September. 

Weston Mercury: See Monster under construction. See Monster under construction. (Image: Charlie Williams)

Unboxed has refused to release a breakdown of visitor numbers but claims more than half a million people 'engaged' with See Monster - this includes people attending drone shows and viewing the structure on a walk. 

Nationally, just three million people visited the £120million festival in person, but 18million have 'engaged' with the events, despite an original target of 66million. 

This comes after the festival's chief, Martin Green, said 'engagement' could also mean learning of the events on television and media coverage. 

In August, an investigation by political magazine The House found the project had at that time seen just 0.36 per cent of expected total visitors.

Weston Mercury: The solar tree on See Monster.The solar tree on See Monster. (Image: Charlie Williams)

Before See Monster opened to the public, organisers also declared more than 200,000 people had already visited the attraction because they 'saw it from the street'.

This would cast doubt on how many of the remaining 300,000 people visited in person or indeed learned from its eco-messaging. 

A spokesperson for Unboxed said: "We are very proud of achieving an audience of 18million for the festival and half a million for See Monster.

"We set out to be as democratic and inclusive as possible - this is why we devised a programme that incorporated live events and innovative content.

READ MORE: See Monster drone show: The good, bad and the ugly

"No one would begrudge Strictly Come Dancing, for example, of counting their viewing audience or expect them to only report the numbers of those in the studio.

"See Monster itself was designed to be experienced from ground level too, often with added spectacle through lights, drones or fireworks, as well as onboard."

Due to its delay, a series of cultural events intended to be shaped around the exhibition this summer passed with low visitor numbers.

Weston Mercury: See Monster's planted garden.See Monster's planted garden. (Image: Charlie Williams)

In October, it was confirmed a spending watchdog will investigate the festival after MPs accused it of 'squandering' taxpayer cash in an 'unfortunate monumental waste of money'.

READ MORE: Icescape: UK's largest indoor ice rink CANCELLED in Weston

Further such criticism emerged when Icescape, the UK's largest and hugely popular indoor ice rink, abandoned plans to open at the Tropicana after it was forced to find an alternative venue due to See Monster's extended stay as energy costs soared.

It has now opened at Clark's Village, in Street. 


See Monster's 'planted garden' will move to Beach Lawns in a new community space modelled to imitate the helideck where it once lived. 

There will also be a boules area to play the sport and raised flower beds made of sleepers. 

Weston Mercury: The new community garden to be featured on Beach Lawns. The new community garden to be featured on Beach Lawns. (Image: NSC)

Weston Mercury: An artist's impression of the Beach Lawns garden. An artist's impression of the Beach Lawns garden. (Image: NSC)

North Somerset Council also says more than 6,000 people helped with community 'think tank' groups to shape the exhibition throughout its tenure. 

According to Unboxed, more than 70,000 school children and young people took part in educational events and experiments focussed on how to combat climate breakdown. 

Unboxed executive director, Phil Batty, said: "This extraordinary installation has captured the imaginations of local people and visitors to Weston, extending the season and boosting the economy of this great seaside town."

Organisers say See Monster's exact costs will be made available to the public in due course, and a full environmental and economic impact assessment will be conducted. 

It is due to be dismantled on site and transported by road.