The Public arts centre triples visitors over three years

The number of visitors to West Bromwich arts centre The Public has more than tripled over the last three years, latest figures show.

West Brom aerial

More than three times as many people visited the £72 million gallery in the last financial year than three years ago.

Bosses have said they are delighted at the success of the centre which has been blighted by controversy.

Figures show that in the 2009/10 financial year there were 80,939 visitors. This rose to 157,601 in 2010/11 while last year there were 263,501 visitors.

Managing director Linda Saunders said: “More Sandwell people are taking the building to their hearts. We have got a lot of really loyal visitors at the building now. We have got more content and activity going on in the building and we have tried to build things up steadily.

“We are fairly confident that visitors numbers will be high again this year and I am sure once the West Bromwich regeneration is finished there are going to be a lot more people in the town.”

The project was hit by criticism after it ran tens of millions of pounds over budget and opened a year later than initially expected. The pink and black building, which was designed by architect Will Alsop, was funded at various stages by the government, Sandwell Council, Arts Council England, European Regional Development

Fund, the New Deal for Communities Fun and the doomed regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.

Last year the Arts Council was accused of funding a building that was “not fit for purpose” in a damning report into the organisation’s role in building the centre.

The report by Anthony Blackstock, which was commissioned by Arts Council England in response to a critical parliamentary report by MPs, issued the damning verdict on the role the Arts Council played as the project’s principal capital financier.

Events at the venue include a regular monthly comedy show called The Laughing Sole, whilst big names due to appear include Liverpudlian comic, Alexei Sayle, who will head to the centre as part of his first stand-up tour in 16 years on October 17 test driving new material.

Earlier this year the venue also announced it would be axing space for workshops in order to increase office capacity by 25 per cent.

The 2,000 sq ft room on the first floor of the centre was previously used for a variety of purposes including music and Information Technology classes.