Letter: Churlish view of city's public art

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The Independent Online
Sir: I must respond to Chris Arnot's churlish and ill-researched piece (Architecture, 11 August) about Birmingham's public art programme.

Local opinion, well documented by the regional media, is generally far more positively disposed to the programme than Mr Arnot's article admits. The remarkable family of sculptures in Victoria Square may have earned light-hearted nicknames, but they are nicknames of affection, not derision. The large numbers of people lingering in the square reconfirm its popularity every day.

An extremely important development, wholly ignored by Mr Arnot, is the extent to which local people have themselves been involved in the creation of some of the works. Many of the projects have arisen after residencies by professional artists working among local communities or with local schoolchildren.

However, the main point is the contribution Birmingham's public art programme has made to raising the level of popular debate - not among professionals, but among local residents - about the visual environment in which they live. It is precisely the lack of that debate in Britain over the last 40 years that has given our towns and cities some of the most undistinguished post-war architecture and urban design in Western Europe.

The energy of that debate in Birmingham is now very striking, and the critical self-confidence of Birmingham people can be seen and heard growing day by day. All thanks to the City Council's initiatives, confidently planned and consistently implemented.

Yours faithfully,



Arts, Culture and

Economy Sub-Committee

Birmingham City Council


12 August