Oh no. It’s The Public in West Bromwich again - they just won’t stop fiddling with it and making this disastrous project even worse. The gallery’s backers have always insisted in throwing good money after bad, and this time they’ve incorporated a conference suite into the “techogallery”/old time dance hall/music venue /knitting club and whatever other incarnation it takes on dependent on what they need to sling in it...
The wacky “digital artworks” this building was erected to house have taken something of a backseat since the general public were allowed to view them (finally, after endless false starts due to ‘technical
difficulties’). The reception was not good, but then you can forgive the people of Sandwell a few expletives when the were told that what looked like an arcade was now expected to be the main attraction of their borough and, what’s more, it had cost them £72 million.
Since then organisers have packed the schedule and the vast, vacant spaces with samba nights, football kit designing classes (?!), performances by bands and dancers, film screenings and endless exhibitions. In short, it’s like any community arts space. It’s a community hall. Not quite a church hall, certainly a good few grades up from that but NOT a £72m internationally renowned, all-singing all-dancing area-regenerating tourist-attracting ground-breaking mega-gallery. No.
So because of The Public’s new, slightly wobbly community hall status (incidentally, what it was conceived to be at the very very beginning of the adventure) it clearly isn’t bringing in the revenue it needs to. After all, charging £1 for a tea dance is a nice gesture but there are big bills to pay, so the bods in charge have decided to fashion this conference suite at a cost of £800,000. Bargain.
With the suites hiring at £30 for the first hour and £20 thereafter this facility is unlikely to pay for itself for a good long while and is – as many have suggested – completely in contrast the activities and ethos of the rest of the building. This might smell like desperation but that scent is a familiar one at The Public and unfortunately amongst the residents of Sandwell who would’ve loved to see a leisure facility in their area for a fraction of the cost.
When the Arts Council grant has evaporated the local authority really will have to reassess their position because taxpayers can’t afford to waste any more on this lost cause.