A CAMPAIGN to keep a giant steel sculpture of First World War soldier in a town is gaining momentum with thousands of pounds raised toward its £85,000 price tag.

Artist Ray Lonsdale of South Hetton, has had two offers to buy the statue called Eleven "O" One, but has rejected them as he hopes it can remain in Seaham, where it has won the hearts of residents.

David Stewart, who chairs a committee of fans to keep the statue, said : “The response to the appeal has been overwhelming.

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“We now have just shy of £40,000 in fundraising, including a £20,000 injection from Seaham Town Council, which we hope to use as a deposit to retain the statue .

“But we need to raise the remainder within nine weeks to ensure it stays in the town. We have got a lot of new fundraising ideas.

He added: “The people of Seaham have really taken Tommy to heart and want to keep it in Seaham for generations to come. About 2,000 people came to see it at the weekend.”

The statue, affectionately named Tommy, is over 9ft high and weighs 1.2 tonnes.

The group Mission 1101 is being helped by the County Durham Foundation to set up a charitable trust and is urging supporters to donate through Just Giving to ensure that gift aid can be claimed.

The East Durham Area Action Partnership has also pledged to potentially help out.

For further details visit www.mission1101.co.uk or Facebook page Mission1101.

Donations can also be made by texting TOMI70 £(insert amount) and send to 70070.