There as been much written and much said this past week on our new arts centre here in West Brom, THE PUBLIC. It is on record that I am a great supporter of this project but at this point in time it would appear to be doomed. The Arts Council who originally funded it have given Sandwell a £3M parting gift and told them to find another use for it. Biggest issue seems to be the interactive gallery known as The Public Gallery which should have contained state of the art interactive activities and the only paying part from the general public’s point of view. The electronic exhibits have never been completed despite the rest of the building being open to for about nine months. I don’t understand why, none of it is rocket science and now because of the delays it is not even state of the art. If you listen to Sandwell’s Chief exec and the boss of THE PUBLIC this is good news and they have what they wanted to finish the project. I don’t now believe them. Sadly I think the Tory doom and gloomer’s have won to the detriment of art and culture here in Sandwell. Our local evening newspaper did a straw pole of opinion on what the public wanted the money spent on. Only 3% of those polled wanted to see it used for its original purpose as an arts centre. This was certainly not a scientific pole but I suppose in many ways it does reflect what has been happening in the local press which along with Tories have been against it from the beginning.
My real sadness though if it does close is the loss to our borough to raise its intellectual profile. With the amount of uncertainty surrounding this project it is no wonder potential users of the building are reluctant to commit. The building is part of a much larger development project for the area which is running late. The facility itself is probably 10yrs to early because when the new shops and other facilities are surrounding it the new town square will be a vibrant place. The recession is also affecting its potential and I believe development.
Despite the bad news, the redundancies and the rest I still believe this project must be allowed to succeed. The management of the building though need to take a long hard look at how they are operating because my experiences of trying to deal with them have not been good. We hear talk that management of the project is being passed to Sandwell Leisure Trust. This in my opinion would be the worst possible scenario. They can’t run our swimming pools and leisure centres well so how they will get on with this. If this is true then the project is surely doomed.
I don’t mind being within the 3% minority. Lets hear it for art and culture but give management of it to someone with drive and creative flair.