It was a sad shock to hear that THE pUBLIC is going into administration. This one time peripatetic community arts organisation has scaled itself up to an amazing extent. It has got astonishingly and agonisingly close to opening a Will Alsop designed HQ in the centre of West Bromwich, reportedly costing £50,000,000.
We first had contact with them when they were Jubliee Arts. They commissioned Space Station from us for the West Midlands Metro Line. At that time we were vaguely aware Jubliee Arts had given birth to C-plex, the organisation that was live in this amazing building when it was built. From the outside it was fascinating to watch the small parent company grappling with the phenomenal growth of its child. By the time we teamed up again to make HoHoHo, parent and child had fused in a metaphor defying way to become THE pUBLIC. Their large, open plan office was now swarming with activity. They seemed to be recruiting at an amazing rate. People we knew from other areas of our work started cropping up as staff members. Everyone looked busy, driven and vaguely perplexed by the ride they were on.
If administration doesn’t sort things out for THE pUBLIC it will be a sad day. Theirs is a great vision, a bold statement for the arts as a galvanising social force on a grand scale. It will be a victory for the cynics and the cautious, the doom mongers and foot draggers – it won’t prove them right, for their inertia will have contributed to this downfall. There are many great, talented and committed people working for THE pUBLIC, it will be unjust reward for their endeavours if this thing does not fly. Surely it will be a sad day for West Bromwich too, there must be hundreds like me whose only cause to visit the town has been events promoted by THE pUBLIC.
No matter what the outcome, whether this is a glitch or a crash, whether the building becomes the creative heart of the region or suffers the ignominy of conversion to a car showroom, it has been an amazing journey. Last night I became captivated by the startling vision of this whole extraordinary story being told as a feature film directed by Werner Herzog. I couldn’t shift from my mind the vision of THE pUBLIC’s energetic visionary leader Sylvia King played by Klaus Kinsky at full throttle?