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INDEX

Creative Report # 4 | October 18, 2010 | investigating regeneration


through art

1. What are you thinking?* p. 2 Monika Vykoukal p. 17 interviews


some thoughts on reasons for and limits
of interviews by Monika Vykoukal

2. Activities Overview p. 3 What’s


happened in September and October,
including people met, information gathered,
places seen.

3. Further investigations and


findings: Anna Francis p. 4 the
second and final instalment of her interviews
with stall holders

Michelle Letowska p. 7 survey of


planner’s attitudes

Colophon: Photos and other images: Courtesy the


contributors.
Editor: Monika Vykoukal
Contributors to this issue: Anna Francis,
Michelle Letowska.
Contact: Monika Vykoukal, t 07967230880,
e m.vykoukal@wlv.ac.uk.
Graphic Design: Jens Strandberg and Pål Bylund.


What are you thinking?
some thoughts on reasons for and limits of interviews by Monika Vykoukal

This is the fourth newsletter of the investigation phase of the two-year arts project ‘Black Country cre-
ative advantage’. The project is an investigation into ‘regeneration’ and focused on the centre of West
Bromwich. As curator, I am working with a lose group of artists and researchers to try and find ways to
explore the processes that come together in regeneration. This report is here to make our activities
public and to invite further contributions.

As I write this, the investigation phase of the project is ending. I am moving out of Stall 42 this com-
ing Monday. We’ve not managed to keep to the original plan. There are two more newsletters to be
compiled between now and March 2011. Many of the questions asked by passers-bye remain to be an-
swered, and some of the art work is still being finished. All of this will still happen, just from another
place, with some distance to think about the last months.

This issue of our newsletter is focused on the perspectives of those involved in the life of the town
and the regeneration processes, including Anna Francis’ interviews with several traders in the Market
Hall1 and Michelle Letowska’s photo-essay based on her time in the Planning Department of Sandwell
Borough Council. There are also some interviews I did during the summer in an attempt to under-
stand more about how different people see the developments and their roles in them.

I started this investigation into regeneration in the town centre here from the perspective of look-
ing at the relationship of the various types of information available in an attempt to learn more and
understand better what regeneration processes are and how they take place. I have tried to trace the
connections between institutions, individuals, policy documents, and actual events. This also meant
an attempt to figure out how what we say relates to what we do, and what potential our actions have in
the situations we find ourselves in.

Efforts at understanding of this kind, and perhaps this one especially, are, necessarily, fragmented
and incomplete. Now, with this project ending, the information we managed to gather and share, is,
in many specifics, superseded by new developments2. As one of the characters, a young security guard
at a factory in China, in the novel For the Win puts it, ‘...By the time he reached home -...- he knew
that the magical city was just a pile of concrete and a mountain of workers’ sweat and that it had all
the permanence of a dream’3.

-Monika Vykoukal

(1) See Creative Report # 3 for the first part of Anna’s interviews and her diary.
(2) Such as the recent cuts of Advantage West Midlands’ All Saints Development scheme as, for example, reported
in the Birmingham Post on 7 October.
(3) Cory Doctorow. For the Win. Harper Collins, London 2010, p. 101.


Activities Overview
Meetings, research, discussions

20 August Meeting with Angela Swan, 27 September Actor and writer Suzan
Sandwell Arts in Queens Square Spence working on audio-
Coordinator recording, meeting with
23 August Meeting with Mel Glasby, Thomas Bratzke and Paul
Centre Manager, Queens Barlow
Square Shopping Centre 30 September Meeting with Dr. Dew
23 to 27 August Harrison and Andy Hewitt,
/ Wolverhampton
30 August to 2 September 1 October Manu Luksch workshop with
Michelle Letowska research students at Sandwell College,
visit hosted by Ray Truby
26 August Cody Lee Barbour research 2 October Zast Real Estate opens at
visit, meeting with artist Fred Stall 42, New Market Hall,
Barnfield and Michelle Letowska Kings Square
29 August The Sandwell Show 4 October Volunteering for Time2Trade,
31 August Meeting with artist Annie distributing leaflets for
Redfern, Wolverhampton Tantany Tenants & Residents
1 September Meeting with artist Sid Turner Association
10 September Meeting with Tim Pritchard, 6 October Collect models from
Urban Design Manager, Sandwell College, Smethwick
Sandwell Borough Council Campus
10 September Manu Luksch research visit, MY 8 October Leo Singer research visit
West Bromwich workshop 9 October ‘Working Together’
15 September Meeting with artist Paul Barlow, conference (see forthcoming
17 September Cody Lee Barbour research visit newsletter # 5 for details)
18 September Meeting with photographer Sat
Sehmbey, Wolverhampton The Research Centre is now
20 September Leo Singer research visit closed.
22 September Visit by artist Joanna Duncombe
and pupils from
Wolverhampton, Cody Lee
Barbour research visit
23 September conference call together with
Dr. Dew Harrison to Roddy
Gauld, Arts Council England/
Meeting with artist Andy
Britain
25 September Meeting with Chloe Brown
from Multistory to purchase
tools and materials for Zast
Real Estate West Bromwich


Further investigations and findings:
The second and final instalment of Anna’s interviews
By: Anna Francis

Interview with Ashok Kumar, of Mr. Kumar: The town used is difficult to see where you
T. Kumar, Stall 63, New Market to be really busy – now there should walk, you would not
Hall, West Bromwich. are no facilities for young want to bring an elderly rela-
StallLocation:N52˚31.005 people. Things have really tive across here – it is just too
W001˚59.569 gone down – people don’t difficult to cross, and add to
seem enthusiastic, especially that the bad smell at the back
Anna: So Mr. Kumar, how those who should be running of the market – it really is not
long have you been open? things. a nice place to be.
Mr. Kumar: With this stall Anna: What is your top tip Anna: Who are your main
for 3 years, we used to run a for running a business? customers?
children’s baby-wear stall for Mr. Kumar: Make it afford- Mr. Kumar: We used to have
12 years, then when I became able! Here we create a rela- a lot of younger customers,
redundant my wife decided tionship with the customer but because the town has
to buy this stall. This had – all of our regular custom- a declining population of
been a very established stall, ers are very good – we always young people they are going
so we took it over. know what our customers like to other towns. This town has
Anna: What do you sell? and want. The customers will no sitting and eating areas for
Mr. Kumar: Mostly we sell tell us what they want, and we young people. There are only
ladies fashion and jeans – yes, will cater for that – this keeps cheap takeaways, no recre-
jeans are our main attraction, them happy, and keeps us in ational space to attract the
as well as tops. business. youngsters. Also since the
Anna: Is your stuff mainly ca- Anna: So the service is al- recession there is a lack of
sual or more dressy? most bespoke? parking. There is a blackmail-
Mr. Kumar: Both, people of Mr. Kumar: Exactly. ing attitude to parking here,
West Bromwich like things Anna: How do you find run- people are forced to pay high
which are flexible, they can ning a market stall? prices to park, and this puts
be dressed up or down – you Mr. Kumar: The area is con- them off coming to the mar-
can wear them in the daytime gested – there is not really ket. The Metro is there, but
and then dress them up for an any easy way to enter; there it’s hard for the elderly as
evening out. People like flex- are no clear entry points to there are no escalators.
ibility, casual and outgoing in get to the market by road. Anna: Do you have any ideas
one item. We mix and match It would be good to have an about how to improve things
to the needs of the people escalator tunnel to allow here?
which works really well – that people to enter. This town is Mr. Kumar: We need to
is our main concern rather not for pedestrians – so peo- modernise the high street to
than our own profit, it’s im- ple don’t feel safe walking attract the young back into
portant to understand the around – cars are in charge the town, otherwise they get
customer’s needs. Flexibility – it’s like a law of the jungle. bored, and it becomes like
in style is important. It’s hard to get to the Mar- a ghost town. There are too
Anna: What’s it like, run- ket from the back – there are many financial buildings and
ning a business in West just too many cars, and this banks – and not enough sit-
Bromwich? makes it really dangerous, it ting down areas.


In order to bring back young people and elderly Anna: Is that the customers or the other traders?
people we need good, clear entry points, and Sonia: Both, but the vtraders have been so wel-
recreational activities for young people. Also coming and helpful.
navigation around the town is very confusing Anna: What is your top tip for running a busi-
for pedestrians, something needs to be done ness?
about this. Sonia: Talk sweet – never get irritated, some
Anna: Any final thoughts on West Bromwich? people just want to have a look, and that is
Mr. Kumar: Before, you could breathe West free!
Bromwich, you could smell West Bromwich, Anna: What’s it like here in the market?
but now… West Bromwich will not be West Sonia: People think things in the market are
Bromwich until people call it that, until people just cheap things, but it’s not like that actually.
believe in that! We have good stuff, quality stuff here! Like in
other shops in town. Some people don’t realise
that there are really nice things in the market
– this makes it hard to get new customers to
come in, if they knew the quality that we were
selling here, they would come.

Interview with Sonia, Genius, Stall Number 50.


New Market Hall, West Bromwich.
Stall Location: N52˚31.010 W001˚59.575

Anna: How long have you been open?


Sonia: Well, actually this is my second day Interview with Tina, Mastertackle Ltd. New Market
working here, the stall is new, but we have a Hall, West Bromwich.
shop just by the entrance and it has been open Stall Location: N52˚30.999 W001˚59.594
for 5 or 6 years. The shop belongs to my Auntie
and is called Jeune Diable. Anna: How long have you been open?
Anna: What do you sell? Tina: I think it’s about 7 years now.
Sonia: Well, at this stall it is clothes for mature Anna: What do you sell?
ladies – English Clothes. Tina: We sell fishing tackle, bait, anything to
Anna: What’s it like running a business in West do with fishing really.
Bromwich? Anna: What’s it like running a business in West
Sonia: It’s nice, people are really nice here. Bromwich?
Really lovely. They talk to you nicely, all of the Tina: It’s not my business – I just work here, but
people in the market are so helpful and friendly. it’s hard now. When we first started things were


easier – it has got harder the last few years. Anna: Wow! What’s it like running a busi-
Anna: What is your top tip for running a ness in West Bromwich?
business? Valerie: It’s be alright if it was busy in West
Tina: Treat people the way you want to be Bromwich
treated, that’s all. Anna: What is your top tip for running a busi-
Anna: How do you feel about the developments ness?
that are taking place in West Brom? Valerie: Be obliging to customers – try to
Tina: Well, I’m not really worried. Opening a please them – remember that the customer
Tesco wouldn’t really affect me, unless Tesco is the priority, and be friendly.
open a fish shop! Really, I am a specialist so it At this point the owner takes over.
won’t affect me. I have very regular customers Anna: So what’s it like here in the market?
– some come back weekly, others come daily! Owner: Well, it could all do with regenerating,
Some just stop for a chat whenever they are it’s be a lot better if we got some help from the
passing. council.
Anna: What sort of help?
Owner: Well, the cleanliness of the building
for one thing – keep it cleaner! Also, why not
advertise this place in the town? Show people
where we are…at the moment there are no
signs telling people how to get here, and what
is actually here.

We worry that this could end up being a dead


end. There are some real issues, for example
there is no parking anymore – what was our
parking is now being turned into the college,
this has really affected footfall, and it doesn’t
help that there are traffic wardens everywhere!

Interview with Valerie. J.L Thomas and Sons. New


Market Hall, West Bromwich.
Stall Location: N52˚30.994 W001˚59.586

Anna: How long have you been open?


Valerie: Well, actually I just work here, and it’s
my birthday today!
Anna: Oh, happy birthday Valerie, and how
long have you worked here?
Valerie: I’ve been here twice, but this time
it’s four years, but J.L Tmonas has been here
since the market opened, but before that we
were in the old market on Paradise Street – so
J.L Thomas has been running for at least 60
years!


Michelle Letowska
Survey of planner’s attitudes

The workplace isn’t what it used to be.


Planners give people what they want.


When I’m planning a place, I’m always thinking ‘What would I like it to be like?’.


What we do here isn’t the RTPI definition of town planning. 1

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You’ve got to ask, what is the Black Country character?

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A good planner’s got to be sociable, a communicator, good at creating networks and negotiating conflict.

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You say what you think but you do what you’re told.

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Investment from central government came under the proviso that areas of the council be privatised.

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To get to know the places they plan, planners need to walk.

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I spent two weeks in the spatial planning department of Sandwell Metropolitan Council, talking to
planners about their working lives, their relationship to the area and their attitudes to planning. I was
introduced to their various roles, taken on site visits, given planning documents to study and work
space in the office. During my second week, I drew on various comments from my conversations with
the planners and fed these back to the rest of the department via a survey board which I set up in the
corridor. The planners were invited to comment on the opinions and attitudes of their colleagues by
adding their own responses to the board.

The survey board is ongoing in my absence and the results will be further discussed at
the conference.

(1) The Royal Town Planning Institute defines planning as follows: “Planning involves twin activities - the
management of the competing uses for space, and the making of places that are valued and have identity. These
activities focus on the location and quality of social, economic and environmental change. In setting out its vision
for planning, RTPI uses the term spatial planning to encompass these.”
http://www.rtpi.org.uk/what_planning_does/ [accessed 16 October 2010]

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Monika Vykoukal
Interviews with Annette Welch, Friends of Dartmouth Park; Graham Peet, The Public, Ram, Local Resident; and
Gerry Ritchie, Town Centre and Market Manager.

I decided to interview some individuals and the park. Once it is refurbished people will
people from the range of organisations I had spend more time in the park. We want to see
come across in my research and who seemed to that the project is completed and maintained
me to be central to regeneration in West Brom- properly.
wich and in some cases beyond.
Monika: What is the biiggest challenge for the
I then emailed them a set of questions, and gave next few years?
them the option to answer the questions in writ- Annette Welch: The recession. The council
ing, over the phone or in a face to face conver- does not have a lot of money. How will the
sation. I did not persist in calling or contacting council cope with a 25% cut, what will be the
those who did not respond immediately. Ram, a impact on the park and on the region?
local resident, stopped by the market one day,
and was keen to share his views. The interview Monika: What is in your view the legacy of the
with Graham Peet will appear in the next Cre- last 10 years of regeneration?
ative Report. Annette Welch: Compared to e.g. Dartmouth
Park, the regeneration of the town has not
progressed at all. In regeneration in general,
for many years now the focus has been on big-
Telephone conversation with Annette ger supermarkets, but they take trade from the
Welch, Treasurer, Friends of Dartmouth High Street.
Park, July 2010.

For more information on Friend of Dartmouth Park Ram, Local Resident, The Public, 6 August
see www.friendsofdartmouthpark.org.uk, or con- 2010:
tact them at Friends of Dartmouth Park, New Street
Lodge, Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich, B71 4AS. Ram has lived in West Bromwich all his life, the fam-
ily settled here in the 1960s. He likes that so much
is going on, but this used to be a working class town
Monika: What is your role in regeneration? with a lot of industry, people who are educated and
Annette Welch: The Council would not have have a better income want to move away.
gotten money without the friends’ group: Heri-
tage Lottery Money criteria to consult with the
community. Monika: Did you feel the regeneration was
Monika: How do you define ‘regeneration’? something quite new that started, or was this
Annette Welch: Restoring the park to its for- kind of work and talk around since you can re-
mer glory. member?
Ram: The regeneration started quite suddenly
Monika: What is most important for the next and then dragged out. Lots of talk about new
few years? things coming, which did not materialize as
Annette Welch: Because there are currently fast as hoped for. With The Public there were
no facilities, people will not stay very long in huge expectations that did not materialize.

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Personally, I feel very posi- Monika: What do you think facturing. The main thing
tive, there is change here about the Tesco develop- that is needed is just more
and development unlike in ment, also in relation to The jobs, that is the basis of ev-
other areas elsewhere. Com- Public? erything, getting the econ-
munity life has become a lit- Ram: Who is to say Tesco omy running. Then there
tle impersonal, but opportu- is putting as much in as this will be more stuff to do. The
nities need to be provided. building? The Public was not question is what kind of sec-
The plan of The Public was understood. The older popu- tors there will be? Manufac-
to bring people to the cen- lation are former foundry turing has moved to the East.
tre. They have really good workers and do not under- The town is now like a blank
visitor numbers. We need stand the arts, they are not canvas. The town needs good
more communal places that embracing this. I was on The retail, leisure and arts sector
you can go and visit rather Culture Show, being inter- that can attract bigger cor-
than necessarily community viewed about my views of The porations.
activity. Personally, I volun- Public before it was built.
teer, but many have a lot of Tesco could cause huge dif- Tesco is a big name and a
pressure in work and family. ficulties, potentially, there consistent employer, but we
Given the right opportunity will be a lot of change. I have also need to keep small shop
people would be more ac- no negative reaction to that owners, they have a personal
tive. at all, it will create jobs and touch. I believe the Eastern
be cheaper, create a commu- Gateway will provide for this.
Monika: The reason for the nal centre like Asda did for The town could be revived
negative perception of The Great Bridge, but this, The and attract people with mon-
Public? Public, holds a different level ey to spend. The new col-
Ram: We are a pessimistic of importance. lege will probably bring this
society, people don’t like about. Maybe there should be
change, they want to keep People are overcoming the more night-life again, but not
things as they are. As far as I negative and starting to come as it tends to happen, with a
am concerned a community here now. I got in touch with culture of excessive drink-
art centre is exactly what the The Public because they ing replacing other forms
town needed. originally wanted me to open of entertainment. A cinema
the coffee shop in here, and or similar venue would be
Monika: What do you hope with hindsight and more ex- good, as would a new library
will happen to change this? perience I would have done and leisure centre. We need
Ram: It was, for instance, it. People with money tend to encourage entertainment
a good idea to screen the to leave. For poorer young where drinking is not need-
Worldcup in The Public. Foot- people this is a cheap place ed to have a good time. The
ball is the one thing when to live, it’s great for them. swimming baths have been a
the country comes together. But people tend to go shop- real loss,we need to rebuild
It’s strong and about English ping in Birmingham, there is them. We need good sports
identity, with all the flags ev- a better selection. facilities. As far as I know
erywhere. Newcomers devel- nobody was asked before the
op the same unity and loyalty Monika: What kind of legacy Gala Baths were demolished.
to the system. They are big to you hope the regeneration
on community. Yes, The Pub- will leave? Monika: What would be the
lic cost money, but personal- Ram: I would like to see this worst and best case scenarios
ly I think it is worth it. There as an active working town. for the (near) future?
have been mistakes because a Things have gotten worse for Ram: It can’t be any worse
business project was put into towns like West Bromwich than it’s already been, things
the hands of artists. because of the loss of manu- can only get better. The worst

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case is that everything is Centre [stall 42, New Mar- a reducing scale over 3 years.
built, but not maintained and ket Hall], 29 July 2010: Then this will become a self-
the town is not able to grow funded post based on mem-
and develop despite all the Gerry Ritchie has been market bership subscriptions of
regeneration activity. Right manager for 11 years, and town town centre businesses. The
now expectations are low. centre manager for 3-4 years in aim is to have this in place for
The worst case is that things addition to his previous role. the end of the year. I will re-
are not delivered. There will The town centre manager is a tain my role part-time as the
be increasing negative and new role, created specifically for new role will not be a coun-
hostile attitudes towards the commercial side, the busi- cil position and will require
planning and the council if ness side, to the regeneration of a liaison with the council.
they don’t deliver and don’t the town. It had become obvious The new person will be em-
attract people. Because peo- to him that this was necessary, ployed by the Chamber of
ple tend to be stuck in their especially with the regeneration, Commerce, but answer to a
mindsets, we need to have so he approached his director board with members of all
outside influence to create at the time, who has since left. organisations in the partner-
change. We can’t have people Ritchie had just finished an ship.
change by themselves, that MBA (about council restructur-
is not how evolution works. ing etc.) at the time. Monika: What is the bound-
Tesco got pots of money. Big- ary of the town centre?
ger corporations are more Gerry Ritchie: There are
powerful and influential than Monika: How the role of various ways to define this.
government organisations. Town Centre Manager was There is the strategic plan-
The government is there to developed: ning view, there are varying
administer. Gerry Ritchie: The market operational delineations
service brings an income of (street cleansing, etc.). Dif-
Organisations like Tesco will ca. £ 400.000 profit for the ferent areas of activity use
have to open their doors. council per year. I proposed different delineations in
If they create a ghost town to my boss, to use part of terms of how resources are
without putting anything this profit to fund the post, deployed. There is also the
back in, that would be scary. providing for one staff, an regional view e.g. in the
There is this metaphor of office and a marketing bud- Black Country Study, which
the archer, were things hap- get to advertise the town is the strategic vision for the
pen by both pulling and re- centre. This was not taken region, there are views on
leasing, I think this is a good on board, but I offered to West Bromwich as a centre.
image for the regeneration establish the function by
process: you need to take taking on the role in ad- The boundaries also shift
actions, but also wait and dition to my other duties depending on scenarios.
let things unfold, directions myself. My vision is that For the role of town centre
develop over time. Not ev- eventually this will lead to a manager the boundary is ini-
erything should be done by full-time post. By now, this tially fluid. This is, for one,
this generation, the future is has evolved into a proposal because there are three dif-
yet to be decided. We don’t for a full-time post in a part- ferent Traders Associations
know what’s around the cor- nership of the Council, the in West Bromwich, one in
ner. Chamber of Commerce and the town centre, pretty much
the Town Centre Partner- from Pizza Hut to the Goose
ship group. Pub, one from Pizza Hut to
Gerry Ritchie, Town Cen- the Motorway Roundabout
tre Manager and Market The proposal is that the coun- on the Birmingham Road;
Manager, the Research cil funds the post initially on and one, the ‘Greets Green’

19
one, down to Carters Green, about from the Monika: What is town-centre regeneration?
Goose down to Clock Tower. Those three as- Gerry Ritchie: The need for it partly stems
sociations have distinct agendas and one of the from competition from other centres, as well
jobs of the town-centre manager will be to try as fundamental changes in shopping habits and
and get them to talk to each other. Historical is- the demographic, leading to a decline of West
sues have been, for example, that Greets Green Bromwich at a sub-regional level. In part, town
had the New Deal for Communities, which centre planning over the last number of years
provided a separate funding stream from those in the UK has been constrained, in my person-
available in the other two areas. With the new al view, by the dominance of larger multiple
post there is also the aim to have radio links for chains. The offer is anchored on a small number
traders, to contact police and other traders. of large retailers such as Tesco.
Partially those already exist, but they are not
functioning well, and we would replace those This has risks as well as opportunities attached.
with a new scheme. Also, they currently only One risk is the size of the retailer, so they are
cover the central area. The new scheme would not just supplying to the local public but a wid-
also initially mainly cover the ring-road area, er area. As a result this is displacing shoppers
but then expand beyond this. from elsewhere and creates a competitive cycle.
For example, West Bromwich and other towns
Monika: What is your role in regeneration? in the region suffered as a result of the Merry
Gerry Ritchie: My role is to generate income Hill Shopping Centre and also of the Bull Ring
through the market service. Initially I was in Birmingham. We are to some extent forced
brought in to address a problem having oc- into playing catch-up. Similar developments
curred under my predecessor, namely financial are ongoing in the USA, and those are going
irregularities, which were however not created too far to create what is called the ‘Doughnut
by that individual. A review of the service by au- Phenomenon.’ Everything is happening outside
ditors led to an action plan and I was then em- town centres in malls. _So, we are partly trying
ployed to carry it out. This was a ‘fix the prob- to catch up with the competition, but we can’t
lem’ job, but I continued in the role beyond go back to the previous model. As assessed by
that. their actions, even if they don’t say so, most
people want larger, one stop shops. We need to
Around this time, the council started regen- respond to this demand of the shopping public
eration projects. As I was running the biggest and to adapt to changes in how people shop and
retail project in West Bromwich at the time, I interact with each other.
became involved in those issues, basically by
default. I also came to advice on some market- Monika: How do you see the role of The Public
related regeneration elsewhere in the Borough, in relation to those developments?
such as the development of Cape Hill in Smeth- Gerry Ritchie: The Public is a victim of timing,
wick as part of the Windmills Shopping devel- vision, and the lack of a champion. With regards
opment. The council wanted to have an indoor to timing, it was built before everything else. It
market, and I was on the steering group, which will have a role in the completed jigsaw. This
was partly created because the council found issue was exacerbated by the lack of a clear vi-
the developer might be inclined to argue that a sion and a champion. The council continues to
market was not financially viable. I also assisted stand behind it, but seems reactive in its com-
with another initiative in Wednesbury, which munication, trying to defuse criticism rather
required the relocation of the market site. Re- than having a proactive PR approach. They have
generation is, however, not necessarily about not managed to turn around perceptions: if
physical regeneration, but about a change in that happens it would fulfil its role more fully
business, about transforming what is happening and achieve its potential as a hub in the town’s
and developing new types of businesses. regeneration.

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Monika: How does the communication be- Gerry Ritchie: In terms of the job of manager,
tween all the various bodies and individuals in- this needs to evolve to the function being en-
volved in the regeneration work? hanced. Right now this is perhaps too big for
Gerry Ritchie: It’s fragmented in the council, one role, and the market and town centre man-
which is a primary reason that I felt the need for agement should become distinct roles. The
a town-centre manager post. The council has a role of the market manager is potentially very
communications division, which has much im- important in preventing a two-tier town centre
proved, but is still more reactive rather than occurring with the connected loss of social in-
proactive. Much effort is expanded in reacting teraction, street scene and social capital. Mar-
to the local press. Also, PR has been seen as bad kets still provide a meeting place and personal
by local government based on the risk of ap- engagement through individual businesses.
pearing ‘All Spin/No Substance.’ However, the The wider retail environment has moved away
commercial community expands because they from this, but the council could use the mar-
know it is an effective tool. If the issue of com- ket to bring a balance. This would also mean to
munication from the council outwards was ad- invest in the market service not only for busi-
dressed, communication inwards to the coun- ness but also for the sake of its social function.
cil would improve as a result. There is a need to If the market can provide meeting places and
gather perceptions and views to improve com- social interaction and help to prevent the loss
munications. My own role is not full-time and of the high street environment that would be an
also fragmented. I need to deal firstly with any achievement.
crisis and any new initiatives. Sometimes I also
seek information through meetings, question-
naires and so on, as well as through more infor-
mal channels, mainly talking to people I would
consider barometers.

Monika: What, in your view, is the worst and


best case of future developments, say in 5 years?
Gerry Ritchie: The best case is that we get the
buildings that are planned and the retail devel-
opment is completed as proposed, i.e. Tesco as
part of the Shopping Centre, Queens Square is
linked to Tesco, and that is integrated with The
Public and the new square fronting The Public.
There will be a supported full-time town cen-
tre manager with funds, and there will be more
proactive PR. In this scenario, as a result of all
this West Bromwich would fulfil its potential as
an attractive sub-regional shopping centre.
The worst case would be that Tesco build Tesco
and this results in a two-tier town. People go to
Tesco by car and drive away again, while other
parts of the town continue to decline because
of a lack of linkage.

Monika: What is the role of the market in the


town centre?

21
Blazon
Absent shield and tincture Or/transparent. 
An Ostrich feather, above shield, in crest.
To symbolize the legacy of William Legge, withdrawn from context, the feather in the
crest is a symbol of obedience and serenity. Charge to centralized position, content to
enfold around.

22

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