World of Chig   

Closing Time

Yesterday saw the end of an era in the arty/cultural life of Birmingham, and the beginning of an exciting project for those of us who live in the vicinity of Cannon Hill Park. The Midland Arts Centre, fondly known as the mac (lower case, please) shut its doors yesterday, after its final theatre production and film screenings on Saturday. (One projectionist, in his 80s, joked in the Evening Mail last week that he has been forced into early retirement!) The mac, which has built up in a mainly unplanned way since the sixties, with bits added on every now and again, is about to be bulldozed. A new mac is to be built, at a cost of £13 million, with an altogether more sensible design.

Those of us who live near the mac love the institution of the mac, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who loves the building itself, so few tears are being shed at the building disappearing, although I feel sorry for the staff.

There has been an exhibition on for the last few weeks, showing photos and architects' drawings at various stages of the building's life. It was fascinating. There have been many false new dawns, where plans were drawn up, then the money couldn't be found, then the plans were redone and still nothing happened. In the meantime, the building was falling apart, prone to flooding, with the toilets ridiculously inaccessible and a long way from where they should have been. It really was time to go.

One of the plans drawn up in the 1990s showed all the elements of the building as various fruit, veg and nuts. One of the larger places was an aubergine, while smaller monkey nut spaces lay around it, and a theatre space was designed as a flat, open cupped mushroom. Fascinating on the wall, but thank the Lord Lloyd-Webber it was never built.
The new building is scheduled to be finished and open in November 2009. Knowing the way these projects work, I won't hold my breath until about a year after that, but we wish them well. In the meantime, the building site will be on my cycle route, when I'm fit enough to cycle again, as the mac is in Cannon Hill Park, where I often cycle in the Summer, so I will see the progress of the building work. It just means that, for two Summers, the main café in the park won't be there to stop for a drink!

My friend Sarah and I went to the mac eight days ago to say our farewells and have a final coffee (and chips) in the café, which is when these photos were taken.

We'll write again about our favourite local arts centre when it reopens. One thing about that forthcoming piece is already decided. Can you guess which song title we'll be using as the header?

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