The Public making money as a conference venue

West Bromwich arts gallery The Public is generating tens of thousands of pounds as a conference venue.

West Bromwich arts gallery The Public is generating tens of thousands of pounds as a conference venue.

Despite being billed as a community arts centre, in the last three months alone around £40,000 has been generated from renting space - making it the highest earning use for the building.

The £72 million project is running £49m over budget and has been the subject of an audit report which revealed it should be mothballed, decommissioned or even demolished.

But visitor numbers this year are already set to surpass last year's.

From the start of the financial year in April, around 24,000 people have visited the centre. Last year it attracted around 90,000 for the entire year. Managing director Linda Saunders said although it was impossible to pinpoint the most popular areas of The Public, almost three-quarters of visitors went specifically to see the entire building and its exhibitions

She said: "We very broadly know what sorts of things people are coming for, but we don't break it down by locations because we would have to employ head counters and it would be too expensive.

"We know that 65 to 70 per cent come to just drop in and walk round the exhibitions and go to the cafe. The remainder are coming for learning events or conferences or ticketed events." Footfall has also been boosted by recent club nights and screenings of England World Cup matches on a big screen with hundreds turning up to see fixtures.

Visit

She added: "I think the thing people find with The Public is on the one hand it is an art gallery, but it is about regenerating West Bromwich and that is why it was built here rather than anywhere else. Part of the regenerating of West Bromwich is having a place that people can visit.

"We run the evening events so people may think about going out in West Bromwich rather than going to Wolverhampton or Birmingham. Things like showing the football and other community events are all about seeing it as a resource for everybody in Sandwell to use. People should use it and enjoy it for the things that are part of their day to day life and that has always been part of what The Public was created to do. It is so much more than an art gallery."

The venue has also been boosted this week by the arrival of a new tenant. Recruitment consultancy BP Recruitment has moved into one of the 'lily pad' offices.

The Public has been surrounded by controversy after costs spiralled and it failed to open on time. Sandwell Council has taken over the project after the Arts Council walked away last year, handing the authority a final £3m of funding.