The Public

Why did The Public matter to people?







We set out to establish a creative place, inspiring arts, changing lives in the 10th most deprived local authority area in the country. This meant that we had to take a radical and inclusive approach that was democratic and above all respectful to everyone who wanted to be part of The Public. We called this being the “generous host” and it was this approach that won support, use and, in the end love for the building over the four years that it was open.


How important this was to people can be seen in the comments below, all submitted as part of the campaign to save The Public – over 5000 people signed a petition and there were many other comments on facebook and twitter.


What did The Public matter to me?


“Because they were brave enough to do what was right and not what was acceptable.”


“It makes me smile.”


“It makes me happy.”


“It’s ours for the people.”


“Dreams are made and realised right here.”


“It represents an aspirational and happier Sandwell.”


“It’s a drop of cool water in a cultural desert.”


Something for everyone – bringing people together


“I love The Public. I go to Zumba there on Thursdays and often go to the burlesque shows, comedy nights or gigs there. I also had my wedding reception there! It is such a lovely, versatile building and used for such a wide range of things.”


“I have seen some great photography there. It respects/promotes local culture. Great cakes at realistic/reasonable prices!!”


“I’m a regular visitor to The Public and enjoy the exhibitions and events (I currently have tickets for three upcoming shows in the theatre). My granddaughter enjoys the school holiday workshops, and loves to play on all the free facilities. Then there is the delicious and reasonably priced food in the Pink Tank Café and the friendly, helpful staff. It is also a great venue for impromptu meetings and holding special events. The building holds such a variety of offers that there is always something for everyone who visits to enjoy.”


“The Public is a wonderful space that is so much more than an art gallery. The Public has so many different types of events that there really is something for everyone, with many events and workshops suitable for the very young right up to events tailored to cater for the elderly……In the last 12 months TV stars such as John Challis, Isy Suttie, and Alun Cochrane have performed live shows here, and its reputation is growing. The Public has become a real centre for the community. A place where everyone can come, and be made to feel welcome, and really be a part of the local community. If The Public closes then the events will either be lost, or moved to new homes, and a pace for people to meet, for generation gaps to be bridged, and for a genuine centre of community spirit will have gone.”


“Fascinating place for me and my 2 year old son. A society needs places like this, what is a place without culture?”


“West Brom finally has a bit of culture. Fab building and exhibitions and a decent cup of coffee.”


“We meet for coffee and chat. I use it over Easter for church stuff. I like to bring the kids here. They love it.”


“The Public brings the community together and allows people to celebrate what West Bromwich has to offer.”


“A venue that promotes community cohesion on a daily basis.”


“A fabulous place to come as a family.”


“I love The Public, it’s a wonderful, crazy looking, beautiful building that houses lots of relevant art and installations, not to mention the value to the local area/region. And it’s my preferred venue for giving blood!”


 “I have attended The Public for work conferences and as an entertainment venue. This is such a unique venue which after a shaky start has now found its direction offering something for all ages and cultures. It should remain a building for the whole community.”


“After a bad start it has finally turned a corner with a good programme of events, very good event space and café. West Brom has nothing even close, we don’t have another theatre. Also this is going to the heart of the new shopping centre along with all the opportunities that presents. I didn’t support The Public at the beginning but now it’s here it’s done good.”


“A magical, exciting, colourful box in the heart of the Black Country. What can the Council be thinking? The Public has grown in popularity and reputation. It brings together so many, many people to do so many different things and has been used by all members of my family for so many different things. This really is the place where people can be proud to be a resident of Sandwell. It would be a huge loss to the reputation of the Borough. We’re a passionate people and this is a great facility for all residents. Please don’t turn it into something that will only touch a small proportion of Sandwell people.”


 “I go to The Public every day in my lunch break. I go to the Pink Tank where I receive a very warm welcome, order a drink and sometimes food and read or chat to people as they pass by. I have also been to various events there such as the cinema club with the children, the comedy club with the girls from work. I have taken my children to workshops during the school holidays and also I have taken part in the Zumba classes on Thursday evenings. My mother in law goes to the tea dance on Wednesday afternoon. She is 79 years old and I know she and the other tea dancers would miss this. The Public has always been the centre of controversy in West Bromwich but I think its made its mark now….”


“I have been attending the Zumba classes which are held at The Public every Thursday evening with Maggie Palmer, for over two years now and I absolutely enjoy these classes very much…..I have also attended other events at The Public, such as shows, the theatre, burlesque workshops, etc which I probably would not have done if it was not for Zumba at The Public.”


“The Public has been one of the best things to happen to West Bromwich in the 22 years I have lived here, in my opinion. It brings so much to me and my family and friends in the way of entertainment, whether it be comedy evenings, dancing (which I would never have done otherwise), tribute acts, weird and wonderful arts to the simple but pleasant things like a safe place to have lunch and free access to wifi.


Great art for everyone


“A brilliant example of how art is for everyone – amazing exhibitions for all ages, both about the place itself and great contemporary art. Hands on, interactive, and a great place to spend an afternoon getting lost. Even better when there’s a music festival on.”


“Art is for everyone – not just for those who can own it or travel.”


“It brings art to audiences and audiences to art.”


“An arts centre that serves an art starved community and reaches out to people who would not otherwise benefit from the arts. A building that supports arts organisations ad recognises their essential work and value.”


“Brilliant artistic programme. Cultural institution that is properly engaged.”


“It’s the only place in Birmingham/Sandwell where I can feel the soul of modern art and its engagement with local people to do something more than just sitting in the pub.”


“The Public is a great art exhibition space which is accessible to all sorts of people of any age. The exhibits are amazing and the activities for kids really inspiring and imaginative.”


“The Public is one of the most diverse and imaginative buildings in the area. It is important to me because it provides so many people from so many age groups and backgrounds, cultures and areas opportunity to experience the arts in a way I had never seen before.”


“A unique and inspirational venue for young people to participate in the arts, with the potential to put Sandwell on the international map for artistic innovation in our community. The arts matter, and The Public matters to the arts.”


“It’s a visible statement that the arts matter in Sandwell – art matters to me and I live here, we shouldn’t lose it. I’ve seen exhibitions I would never have seen without it.”


“After all, where are you going to get the likes of David Shrigley, Martin Parr, Tracy Emin and Will Alsop in such an accessible and informal space?”


“I’m a digital artist originally from the Midlands. I have never seen such a collection of fantastic quality digital art in any building, let alone this part of the country. The Public is an inspiration and breaks the common stereotype of the Black Country.”


Open to all, enhancing well being


“The cultural life of any town is vital to its well being.”


“Doctor’s orders for exercise and social pleasure.”


“It matters to me because the place is fun – and is a place to come when I feel low.”


“We come to a wonderful dance here and would really miss it.”


“The Public is my salvation and saviour.”


“Because, unlike other places, it makes me happy.”


“My sanity and genius”


“My Nan came to the tea dance and fell in love.”


“Why would you close it when you’ve got 150 people here dancing? Keeping fit and reducing the medical costs of old people.”


“It’s friendly and inclusive – parts of Sandwell can be quite unfriendly, we need a place where we can be safe.”


“The Public is a lifeline for many able, lonely people especially women who do not want to go into the pub but want to meet and greet somewhere safe.”


“Accessible for the deaf community and the deaf youth theatre is unique.”


“Great for visually impaired – interactive and bold”


“Easy disabled access and near to disabled car park for carer to bring me for a trip out.”


“Brilliant space to meet with space for pushchairs in the café.”


“Only place to take my child who has a disability”


“I work in this area and I meet the people I support in the café.”


“It has become a local meeting point for my friends and me. I also attend some of the classes that are held here. My daughter has learning disabilities and enjoys the openness and freedom the building affords her too.”


“I come here with my mum in a wheelchair. She knits and meets friends and then we look at the gallery.”


“I have 2 children, one of whom is disabled and The Public is one of the very few places we can go and all enjoy what’s on offer. The kids workshops are fantastic, the facilities very convenient and the whole place has a warm and welcoming vibe that Sandwell should be proud of. It’s a valuable, flexible resource for a diverse community and it should be celebrated as such.”


“I have visited The Public on many occasions and also exhibited in the Open Exhibition. My sister has epilepsy and behavioural problems and can find galleries quite intimidating. But the layout of The Public and the versatility of the exhibitions allows her to experience and connect with different forms of art. On every visit we have eaten well in the café. Lastly, I probably would not have visited West Bromwich if it hadn’t been for The Public but we also visited the market during our day and purchased some shoes for my daughter.”


Nurturing talent, creating opportunities


“Small venues promote local talent”


“The Public matters to me because the apprenticeship scheme I’m attending there is a gateway for myself and other apprentices to work towards qualifications and eventually employment. Turning The Public into a sixth form will take away the opportunities that we have been given and take away our hopes of contributing to society.”


“It inspires me to believe what can be achieved by the lay man, the normal, the public.”


“The Public is the forest providing oxygen for creativity in the Black Country.”


“Educational establishments are indeed important, but accessible and welcoming arts venues such as The Public should be treasured. It’s places like this that schools/colleges/people of all ages go to visit – learning things there too.”


“The Public offers a fantastic arts programme for West Bromwich and the wider Midlands region, with great events, projects and activities, all within one of the most creative art spaces in the country. The Now We Are Weekender is one of the best examples of an arts organisation supporting young, local talent, and is beneficial to the cultural growth of the region and beyond! This is a really exciting time for regeneration in West Brom and The Public is at the forefront of this development.”


“It’s the only arts venue in West Bromwich. Local artists need a place to help them develop and grow.”


“It’s my venue! Home to my show and we need it to grow our business.”


“It inspires me.”


“A great central facility for community arts groups.”


“We need to nurture and cultivate the poets, artists, sculptors and film makers of tomorrow in Sandwell.”


“When I visit The Public as a self representing artist from Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire areas, I see a fantastic and imaginative venue that brings not only myself and other artists to West Bromwich, who would not normally visit (bringing money to the area), but also gives local people chance to participate in something connected to the wider world.”


“It provides creative minds with a place to display their works. It matters because it is a beacon of change. It matters because it stands for determination, risk, nerve and good intentions. It matters as a place that is the heart of Sandwell that is overcoming doubt through making a difference.”


“As a young person from the Midlands trying to pursue a career in the arts it gives me hope.”


“I performed stand up comedy at The Public after winning the #Hashtag Funny competition 2013. They booked me again straight away to be on the bill alongside a Perrier Award nominee and the BBC New Act of the Year. This was a fairly big thing for me to be able to put down on my comedy CV.”


“As an educator in the subject of Interactive Media Design, The Public is extremely important to me. Though I live in Scotland, I visit when I can both as a professional and with my family. This exceptional forum for this important type of expressive work is needed in this country and it is unclear where it would be if it was not here.”


“There is a community of artists in West Bromwich centred round The Public -  the loss of this public space would mean the loss of that community. This is a serious loss in terms of creative parnerships, collaboration and inspiring others.”


“It is a place for experimentation and creativity.”


Supporting local businesses


“Great place to work. Full of creativity.”


“Great place for the community and, as a small business, great working space.”


“I was a sceptic, but now I am a convert, because I have had the privilege to work/meet with tenants based at The Public and have been inspired by the passion that drives these people to do the fantastic work they do in/for the community at large. For The Public is not just an arts centre, it’s also an Ideas Factory. It’s a hive of creativity, where ideas are forged to become tomorrow’s reality. The Public helps attract organisations and creative to West Bromwich, giving them a base to work from and reach out and spread their tentacles into the wider community, providing opportunities and employment, especially to the most vulnerable and disenfranchised members of our community by empowering them to develop new skills relevant to the 21st century, in a professional, dynamic environment. “


“I work in West Bromwich and find that The Public is a really fantastic venue to meet with clients and friends.”


Building pride in the area


“I often take my grandchildren, my children go to events and my neighbours attend tea dancing. My other neighbour is learning photography and my family from out of the region love visiting and are amazed that we have such a fantastic place right in the middle of the Black Country.”


“I moved from Sandwell a few years ago but still visit to see friends and family. Every time I do, they insist that I go to The Public. I’ve seen my friends’ grandchildren perform, been to the Mayor’s show and have seen my great nephew’s art on display – in the same building as artists who have been around the world. This really is a jewel in the crown for Sandwell – something everyone can find something in and something to be proud of.”


“A highly distinctive, controversial building which lets you know you are in West Bromwich and not any other identikit Tescotown. The people of West Bromwich deserve access to artistic and cultural opportunities as much as anyone else in the land.”


“It’s important as a positive and progressive expression of West Brom’s identity.”


Bringing investment and spend to the area


“I am only in West Bromwich (from London) because of the music festival here. It is bringing money and attention to the area over the weekend.”


“Every time I’ve been they’ve had new and interesting exhibits to which I’ve never seen anything similar elsewhere. It would be such a shame to see this new landmark, which brings tourism to West Bromwich, which is in sore need of urban regeneration, and makes it somewhere people want to visit.”


“Before The Public turned round about 2 years ago we always used to meet friends out of the Borough in Birmingham – there was nothing else to show off. Sandwell lost much of its civic pride years ago with short sighted Councils letting things fall into ruin and not be used as they should.”


“I visit the West Midlands regularly and, being a keen amateur photographer, came to see the photographic exhibition. What a surprise I got! It is an amazing community venue that is fully accessible to all……The staff are amazing, the exhibitions superb and the café prices reasonable…..I have been telling everyone what an excellent place The Public is. We live in Lancashire but would happily travel down to exhibitions, etc. You are so lucky to have such a venue.”


“The Public has become a vital and thriving resource for the people of Sandwell, and it is bringing national visitors and recognition to West Bromwich for its impressive exhibitions programme, it would be a huge shame to abandon it when so much has been achieved these last few years to deliver its original vision.”


“It is a fantastic art gallery. People from all over the country have heard about it. I travelled from London to see it with my kids and we had a fantastic day out. West Bromwich finally has something to be proud of……show the rest of the UK that the Midlands is in fact a cultural hot spot and worth visiting.”


“Without The Public my family and I would never have set foot in West Bromwich.”


“I use and work at conference venues across Europe, and The Public is one of the best – it’s unique and fantastic.”


A beautiful place


“An incredible piece of architecture from a prestigious name, a flexible and useful space for the whole community. Never fails to host the most brilliant events and exhibitions, and best of all it’s FREE!”


“It’s a beautifully designed building and very affecting to the eye.”


“It is a beautiful, quirky building that offers a unique opportunity for local artists and has helped me gain confidence in my own artistic talents.”


“Such a beautiful, creative space in the Black Country – we need more not less of these.”


“In the post industrial urban hell that is Sandwell, it stands proudly above like a giat gift wrapped box full of unexpected delights….that and the loos are epic.”


Value for money


“The main objection about The Public has always been financial. Yes, The Public was expensive. So was every other great arts venue around the world. To those who think it was too expensive for Sandwell, I would ask how much you value our children and young people? Raising the aspirations and inspiring the creativity of Sandwell’s kids is priceless. I believe that The Public is inspiring, and not just for kids.”


“Because it’s transformed West Bromwich and, despite the turbulent start and the scandalous overspend, aspirations have clearly increased and it has become the catalyst for the huge, exciting regeneration that is taking place in the area. The Arts are very important. While we may not see the full benefits of the money spent right now and maybe not for the next few years, what we do see now, I believe, is an indication of what will come in the future.”


“It was built for the community at great cost to the community – keep it!”


“So much money has been injected into this cultural hive, and it has become something special in the Midlands – it would be a crime to lose it, especially after so much time, money and effort has gone into it. Surely some kind of partnership can be made to keep it as a cultural space infused with learning?”


“After a troubled beginning this iconic building and company has excelled in delivering fantastic exhibitions, music, comedy, theatre, dance, workshops and community gatherings! The staff are brilliant, helpful and friendly. After the tax payers have footed the huge bill for this beautiful building, we should be allowed to enjoy it shouldn’t we?”


“Having spent so much tax-payers money building it why waste this iconic resource. 600 extra student places is a poor return on our investment, especially now it is beginning to attract increasing numbers of visitors.”



In loving memory of The Public