Being a member of the public in The Public

If you are wondering what to do with children over the school holidays – as the heavens open and the downpour continues – then make your way to West Bromwich and visit The Public.

The Public shopThis innovative, interesting, architecturally-arresting box of fun provides hours of amusement for children and adults alike. And it’s free to enter.

Admittedly, the journey to West Bromwich is not necessarily one which would be easily associated with the word ‘holiday’ – but it’s worth it for The Public.

Opened in 2008 amid controversy surrounding cost over-runs, business plans and much criticism from pundits – see here  and here – The Public has now found its feet and its place within the arts community of Sandwell.

There is currently an art exhibition running which features work by local artists and photographers who might struggle to find a place for their work to be exhibited. Yet the quality is very high.

I had a look round The Public this morning and was impressed by the interactive electronics, the ambience of the place and the obvious enjoyment being shown by a cheerful gaggle of visiting schoolchildren.

There’s a theatre – where Al Murray appeared last night and Alexi Sayle is appearing soon – conference rooms for hire, meeting rooms, business spaces where creative types can get together, there are buttons to press, noises to make – one of my favourites was a ping-pong table that made noises as the ball hits the surface – and very pleasant café with reasonable prices for a cup of coffee.

The Public July 2012It’s soon to be overshadowed by the largest Tesco store in Europe and that might detract from external views of the building; but it’s what goes on inside that matters. That looks set to impress long into the future and well after all the controversy of its birth has been forgotten.

We’ll certainly be making a return visit over the summer.

More details from their website here