Commenting on our recent post suggesting local authorities should get more power over regeneration cash, Snapper from West Brom reckoned they'd simply waste it: "Witness the nationally lambasted 'arts centre' known as tHE pUBLIC. £50 million so far and rising".
I made a mental note to investigate said arts centre (pic above). But as it happens, the S Times has saved me the trouble:
"AN arts centre nicknamed the “pink elephant” – a black box with curly pink window frames that has already swallowed almost £60m of public money – has admitted no paying visitors since it opened as its main gallery does not work.
The gallery of interactive digital displays that was supposed to attract queues of people to The Public in West Bromwich, has had to be roped off because of electrical problems. Even free concerts and other events held at the centre have attracted few visitors. One performance, by the soul singer Aisha, drew an audience of just 17 people...
With the centre producing almost no income so far, except from hiring out space for business events, Sandwell council, which owns and runs the building has been forced to give it an extra £3m. This comes on top of the £14m already provided and £500,000 a year in running costs.
A further £13m has been provided by the European Development Fund and Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency."
Blimey. This ticks almost all known money wasting boxes - arts hand outs, unfit for purpose, post-modern neo-Stalinist state architecture that will need demolition in 20 years (or earlier), EU hand outs, Regional Development Agency hand outs... the centre only needs an equal opportunities buttock clenching zone and they'll have the full set.
And just check out the attractions posted on its website. For example, this very weekend artist Michael Pinchbeck will present (?) his "four year live art project called The Long and Winding Road. He packed a car with the belongings of his brother and drove to Liverpool where his brother died in 1998. The car tours to galleries and festivals until 2008 when Pinchbeck will drive the car into the River Mersey. Admission will be on a first-come-first-served basis."
Don't all rush at once.
In recent years, these tax-funded art centres/galleries have sprung up all over the country. We've blogged quite a few on BOM, both the huge amounts that have been spent on them, and the ludicrous things they put on (including those outstanding photos of "a man holding his penis" at the Baltic Centre Gateshead - all that was left after the police seized the other exhibits on child porn grounds).
So why've we got to have them? The claim is generally that they help regenerate all those frightful Northern places Policy Exchange wants to close down. But as we blogged here, there is absolutely zip evidence they succeed in that. Plus, many of these centres have been built in places that don't need regeneration - like just down the road from the Major and I.
The truth is that they are the product of the top-down arts and regeneration industries. With Whitehall funding, local councils figure they might as well go along with the whole nonsense - what harm can it do? Only later do they work out they're left holding the maintenance and upkeep baby.
And as for local residents, they don't get any say at all. Often, they have no idea the thing is being built until it starts taking shape. So it's hardly surprising they don't flock to events.
Unwanted, unsupported, and a long-term burden on local council tax payers.
It makes you want to scream.
PS Is Pinchbeck's car journey art? Well, like the man said, if he says it's art, it must be art. I just don't see why I should pay for it, that's all.