West Brom’s £72 million arts centre The Public to close in November

The Public in West Bromwich
by -

The Public arts centre in West Bromwich has confirmed it will close in November, after the local council said it could not afford to continue to fund the venue.

As reported by The Stage last month, Sandwell council is investigating the possibility of turning the space into a sixth form college and is in discussions about the future of the £72 million arts centre, which was part-funded by Arts Council England and only opened in 2009. The site, which includes a 250-seat theatre, two galleries and commercial spaces, was deemed a “gross waste of public money” in a 2011 report by the government's culture, media and sport select committee.

A statement issued by Sandwell Council leader Councillor Darren Cooper said that the council could not continue to run the venue as an arts centre and the organisation currently running The Public would be handing the building back to the local authority on November 30.

He said:  “We rescued The Public after the project went into administration some years ago, setting up Sandwell Arts Trust to make sure the building was finished and to run activities there. The arts trust has done a great job and has contributed to the regeneration of West Bromwich.

“It’s not been an easy decision to make. But the fact of the matter is the council can’t continue to subsidise The Public. The overall cost to the council is currently about £30,000 a week. That’s nearly £1.6 million a year. That money is council taxpayers’ money. In the face of the cuts the council is facing from central government, this can’t carry on.”

Cooper added: "I applaud the work Sandwell Arts Trust has done – and would like to thank all staff at The Public for all their efforts. We have listened to people who’ve campaigned to keep The Public as an arts centre. And in the talks we are having, we are looking at keeping some arts provision there, as well as looking for alternative venues in West Bromwich for entertainment."

Paul Slater, chief executive of Sandwell Arts Trust, said the trust was "very disappointed" by the decision. He added: “I thank all our employees for their hard work and dedication over the last few years, and all our visitors and tenants for their support.”