Documentary, Social History, Fact or Folly?

The Public West BromwichI don’t consider myself a social commentator, I’ve always felt that my comprehensive education and working class background didn’t afford me the luxury of judging society’s flaws. But as I’ve wondered (not lonely as a cloud) through life, I’ve found illogical situations created by my elders and supposed betters.

One such situation revolves around an arts complex called The Public in my home town of West Bromwich. After years of controversy about whether or not the building should actually exist at all, The Public is now at the centre of a new row. The local Sandwell Council have announced, without any apparent consultation, to close the burgeoning arts and theatre venue and turn it into a sixth form college.

After moaning for many years that the 73 million pounds of ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) or anagram for someone else’s money) could have been better spent, this latest refit will cost a further 20 million pounds. Not a huge amount of cash by today’s standards but unusual as there are already two other empty schools within a 5 minute walk and….well….schools…..not…..art centres.

Now, I hope the people of West Bromwich will forgive me when I say, the town centre needs a lot of tlc. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the high street looks like it was tidied up by Darth Vader and a few blaster-happy storm troopers. I, and I believe most locals would agree that 20 million could be used to far better effect in renovating a town, which is now only getting a second look because of the very thing the Council wish to close down.

Ironically, a few years ago this same argument raged during the planning and building of The Public. I wonder what those people who opposed the project are saying now?

As a filmmaker, I felt I had to reach out to Linda Saunders and the dedicated team at The Public and offer to record some of the genuine feelings of the locals. I was forced to edit a lot of footage from the Tea Dance as some of the comments by the elderly attendees were…lets say ’18 rated’.

It’s a simple and honest video – well worth 5 minutes of your valuable time.

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About in mi experience

I've been creating videos film and media for almost 30 years. View all posts by in mi experience

3 responses to “Documentary, Social History, Fact or Folly?

  • thelearnedkat

    £72 million pounds a few years ago would have or could’ve saved the town centre and regenerated it into a more thriving community perhaps?

    • in mi experience

      I’m not sure of the limitations on the ERDF funding. What I’m sure about is, the presence of The Public has obviously helped attract Tesco and the cinema complex. I must admit I was surprised to find that the venue and the arts side are two separate entities. So I believe The Public, as a venue, will live on after money is wasted turning part of it into a sixth form college. Thanks for taking the time to comment learnedkat.

      • thelearnedkat

        Not sure about The Public attracting Tesco. They are always on the look out to expand their business and profit. anyway. Their smaller store within the precinct is shoddy, and with the shopping mall under plans to be refurbished or regenerated, they had to move and do something to increase attract new customers, footfall and profits. The cinema is a leisure complex the community has been wanting for years…can’t think of anyone within West Bromwich asking for an Arts centre which only panders to the select few. The original costing of the Public was approx. £50-55m. It increased over the years. so having the added extra funds did nothing to establish the centre as a major venue for entertainment, arts, drama etc. It was good for those who managed to earn high salaries through wasted spaces and opportunities..

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