Today the Express and Star excitedly declared: Sandwell college to take over the Public. The headline was inaccurate of course, these are just proposals. You get that in the first line with “Sandwell College chiefs want to take over…” but hey, I guess that’s how you get people reading stories.
Anyway, I just wanted to throw in some thoughts because I realise I may have more experience than some of this place. Let’s ignore the history for a moment, the promises of what it was going to be, and the flack it’s got ever since. I’d just like to tell the story of what it is now. And why it would be a shame of we lost this.
After the venue opened to the public, in October 2009, I visited with my son, who at the time was just learning to crawl. He might not have understood the art, but he loved the gently sloping ‘art ramp’ – he really got up quite a bit of speed on all fours. The space was great for him to explore, and even in that state, quite a sensory experience.
I’ve visited with him and our second son since, and we’ve played with the permanent exhibits each time, and the temporary ones too. In fact with each visit I think they’ve remembered the permanent ones and looked forward to exploring them again each time. Look, here he is almost exactly a year apart (2009/2010) getting the hang of the flying pad thingies. A learning experience you say? Oh ok, if you insist.
I’ve also regularly taken note of kid’s events and comedy and gigs going on there. They’re often not times I can make but that’s my own fault for being busy. But the opportunities are there. And for those who say the events they put on and feature ‘aren’t for them’ or are too artsy, take a look at this page. Have a nose around, go on, just for five minutes. I bet there’s something there that’s surprised you, something you’d be interested in.
Finally, my more recent, regular experience has been going to West Bromwich Writer’s Group. Let me put this into perspective. I’ve been doing creative writing for a good few years now, but had never been to a writer’s group, or not until last year anyway. But writing in isolation is a problem, because it’s the easy way out, and you don’t get much critical feedback. Putting stuff online isn’t the same. So I googled for local writer’s groups, to get myself out there.
The Public offers a room for free every fortnight, for our group to happen. In fact, the group nearly disbanded when they were no longer able to use the library, so it’s great the Public were able to support this, and there’s always fresh water and glasses put out for us when we arrive. It’s a perfect location in central West Bromwich, with nearby parking, and it’s a great neutral ground for everyone to focus on the group activities, reading, etc. More than anything, it’s really helped me gain confidence and develop as a writer, and I know the others who attend would agree – there’s probably around fifteen people on and off who come along. Graham Peet at the Public recently had the group involved in doing some work and exhibiting it on the displays in the building, and there may be more of this to come too (watch this space). This kind of encouragement really helps – a brief is always a good thing to work to.
One last thing. Every time I go the meetings, I’m reminded of the other things going on there. A brass band practices in the cafe as I walk past, and there’s zumba going on at the other end. some might say it’s noisy and disruptive, but I like the fact it’s used for these things, like a proper community centre. As I walk past the meeting room doors and to our group, I see names and times of other meetings taking place around the buildings, all the various people who use it. More than anything, it makes me realise I’m not the only person who would be sad to see it go.