The future of a troubled community arts centre in West Bromwich has been secured after the Arts Council agreed to pump in much-needed funding of £3 million.
The cash will now enable Sandwell Council to get The Public in West Bromwich fully open for business by the end of the summer.
Arts Council England yesterday accepted a revised business plan prepared by the local authority with Sandwell Leisure Trust to unlock the grant.
The £63 million iconic venue, which opened two years late last June, was taken over completely by Sandwell Council in January.
A joint team comprising the council and Sandwell Leisure Trust was subsequently established and charged with operating the building as a successful community and arts centre as well as a regional and national events venue
Sandwell’s cabinet member for regeneration, Coun Bob Badham, said news of the Arts Council funding was marvellous.
He said: “This is recognition of the good things we are already doing and it means we can now press ahead and build on the success we’ve begun here.
“We have worked very hard to show a realistic vision for this unique building which has so much to offer.
“Since opening a year ago, more than 35,000 people have already enjoyed art, music, theatre, films, community events and conferences.
“We can really start to build on that success now and it’s very exciting.”
Coun Badham added: “When we took on this project in January we decided everything was up for review as part of our business planning.
“We felt very strongly that the building should be all one single experience – so the gallery will be free to visit and will be very much linked to learning and community activity. We plan to open as a whole to the public for preview visits over the August Bank Holiday to coincide with the Sandwell Show.”
The Cabinet member said they were grateful to the Arts Council for its support in the preparation of the business plan, and in keeping faith with the project.
A new company, to be called Sandwell Arts Trust, will run The Public from next month on behalf of Sandwell Council. The arts centre is seen as a massive asset at the heart of West Bromwich capable of delivering a wide-ranging programme of cultural and other events, and supporting the delivery of education, training and enterprise.
It is also intended as a major focal point for the ongoing regeneration of West Bromwich, which received a massive boost last month when Sandwell College’s plans for a new £80 million campus was approved by the Learning and Skills Council.
The new business plan for The Public will focus on maximising its use by local people, with regular comedy and reggae nights and film screenings, and a community arts day aimed at showcasing work by local groups.
Sandwell Council has also seconded its head of libraries, Linda Saunders, as interim general manager.