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Alexander Pushkin

Minds have been changed in the towerblocks too. Eva Mullen lives in the one nearest to the hill, in a flat looking down on it from the fifth floor. Meanwhile the sculpture has steamed on through its council votes like a heavy-plated dreadnought, under fire but apparently unsinkable. Every criticism, from messed-up local television reception down, has been deflected with official surveys, Angel education programmes and slightly exasperated denials.

Yet the bigger uncertainty remains: the Angel will probably be built, but to what effect? White talks about pounds , of business for local concerns which need it - perhaps for Swan Hunter, ship-building symbol of the region's regenerative capabilities, and favourites to win the fabrication contract. For the longer term, Gateshead civic centre bursts inspiringly with wall plans and promises of a town rescued by art - a riverside flour mill made into Europe's best contemporary art gallery, economic talent lured north from London by the cultural buzz, the Angel greeting them.

Angel of the North: 20 years, 20 facts - CBBC Newsround

It's a brave notion: the exchange is usually taken to happen the other way round. And Gateshead may not have its sculpture as a unique selling point for long, with David Mach building a massive Brick Train for Darlington down the road and County Durham planning a mega-statue, twice the height of the Angel, based on a mythical local monster called the Sockburn Worm. The whole public-art craze in the North-east could just be Labour councillors, entrenched in power and far from Westminster, having a bit of fun.

But then, as they say in Gateshead, "You've come to write about us, haven't you? The usefulness of the Angel controversy to the town has not been entirely accidental. Northern Arts has been discreetly giving journalists Kathy King's phone number since the beginning. Of course, it all threatened to get out of hand for a while, they say, when everyone started to believe her, but now the council will get its sculpture anyway, set higher on a pedestal of publicity.

Gormley may not feel quite as sanguine. The press, he says, have been "quite wicked". He has learnt to be less bombastic about the Angel, though. His idea about "confrontation" has softened into a vision of the sculpture "negotiating" with its public: a glance from a mother taking her kids to school, a thought sparked in a passing tourist. There'll certainly be people who want to climb it - why shouldn't they?

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You don't have a notice on every tree in the landscape saying, 'Do Not Climb'. Statues do have a rough time in the North-east. Jackie Milburn recently had his football removed in Newcastle town centre; Robbie Burns fled from park to park as limbs disappeared; someone even tried to steal Goldsworthy's Cone from Gateshead - while it was being put up.

The Angel will be different, says the council, even "impregnable" as it stares proudly south from its hilltop. Affection may be harder to secure. Ron Mitchell will have to look up at the Angel from his garden.

But he has a prediction: "Dogs are going to be urinating on the legs. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Start your Independent Premium subscription today. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more.

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