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   Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday September 25, 2006

Lottery Winners

John Radford and Alf Cole
Lottery winners - John Radford and Alf Cole

John Radford and Alf Cole were two brickies from the Black Country, building houses and flats across the West Midlands.

But that all changed three years ago when they won over £5 million on the Lottery.

Ashley Blake catches up with the two of them to see how the money has changed their lives.

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Millennium Point

Millennium Point
Millennium Point - state of the art but struggling

Birmingham's Millennium Point is the size of six international football stadiums, has a state of the art science museum, the only IMAX in the West Midlands, and a planetarium.

But five years on, it's struggling to survive on loans and is failing to pull in the punters.

Adrian Goldberg went on the hunt for paying visitors, and asks was it value for money or just another Millennium Dome?

Read your comments on Millennium Point below.

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Tenerife Teens

Teenage adventure - the Tenerife experience

This summer a group of teenager with learning difficulties from Sandwell College in West Bromwich were given the chance to go to Tenerife.

The trip was billed as a spiritual adventure, full of new age experiences and the opportunity to commune with nature.

But it didn't quite work out like that.

Inside Out follows Gareth Rowley on the trip to Tenerife and looks at how he adapts to his new surroundings.

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Readers' Comments - Millennium Point

Your article on Millennium Point can be summed up easily - what is the point?

I and my family have only been the once and have never been in a hurry for a revisit. I liked the old science museum - you knew what it was about and being by the canal kind of linked it well to history as well as offering further enjoyment, but to be quite honest, MP is ugly and in the middle of nowhere. It's more off putting than inviting and that's just the outside.

Unless it's radically changed from our visit, we couldn't find it at first - the entrance/attrium was just a huge empty space with a couple of empty escalators going about their business. Why? Talk about a waste of space! Once upstairs we were looking forward to the IMAX (I'd been to the one in Bradford photo&film museum-excellent) but it was shut "until further notice".

So what else did Millennium Point offer once coughing up what seemed to be a lot of cash (over £50 by the end of it all)? There seemed to be quite a few "hands on" exhibits but a lot of them were grubby and looked like they needed replacing, or at least cleaning, that's if they were working properly. Even then the signs were a bit of lined A4 paper with some apology written in biro (from the obligatory gift shop no doubt).

This sounds like moaning about a small point but I believe it summed the whole experince -"Make do. They've paid their money. We don`t care if they like it or not."

There seemed to be a lot of "coming attraction/exhibit" signs in some large empty spaces which got us thinking "What are we exactly paying for here?" It just wasn't good enough. I mean the price wasn't reduced for any of this emptiness.

There was one part which looked good and it was an interactive LEGO exhibition/display but we weren't allowed in. It had to be prebooked! Funny there was no information about this small detail on the way into this hole. Still, there was a "creepy crawly" talk which by virtue of being underbooked, were allowed to join. This, I will say was very good. I just hope the man who did it has found a better place to work in.

Eventually, we made our way to the exhibitions that were from the original science museum. Thank god they were there. As, apart from the insect talk, this was the only thing worth looking at. But this had us asking the question why couldn't they (the council) just left it where it was and invested into it?

Millennium Point has the phrase "money for old rope" written all over it. At least the old museum was free-donations accepted and would gladly pay.

On the way out we looked inside the gift shop but was totally uninspired after the whole affair to buy anything to remind us.
Needless to say we wrote to Millennium Point to complain about our "experience". The reply was predictable - sorry it didn't meet your expectations (!!) etc etc. You must have visited just as exhibitions were changing over etc etc (!!!). Displays are constantly maintained and the fact that some were out of order demonstrates their popularity (!!!!) etc etc.

At the end of this glossing over, they offered a free day out at Millennium Point which we have never took up. Our money back would have been nice, an addmission that they knew it was dire but were determined to do something about it would have been better.

After watching, with a lot of interest your feature tonight I'm glad we never have returned - the energy used and the creation of even more green house gasses for such an unworthy cause would have left us feeling guilty. The interview with B`ham council was a typical response - "You wait and see how good it's all going to be" - well they've had enough time already. But they can't admit that it's gone pear shaped, can they really? They need to be seen holding up and supporting something they've helped create no matter how unpopular or how much a waste of money people now it is. A bit like that other millennium white elephant - The Dome. Jon Gill, Brierley Hill

I was really annoyed at your negative comment regarding the Think Tank in Birmingham - I have taken my grand children who are now seven, five times over the past three years and each time they have thoroughly enjoyed it, constantly learning about new technology and have found something interesting everytime, even though the subject matter is repeated. I think the learning curve has a wide range for all ages as I myself used to visit the old science museum with my younger brothers and I still find some of the old displays and equipment are still there. I really feel some promotion and positve thought would help as opposed to hinder. Pauline Molloy, Birmingham

One of the points that might have been raised was that whilst the old Science Museum contained a large number of the exhibits ThinkTank now displays, there was no entrance fee. I do not know what the current entrance fee is but near its opening it was charging £15 per adult!

The idea that London's Museums are for the nation and therefore should be free whilst the rest of the country should pay for the privilege to visit some of their Museums cannot be right.

The ratio of the amount of Lottery funding to Lottery tickets bought in an area is skewed favourably when it comes to London.
Ivan Ratschkewycz, Birmingham

The Point is a white elephant, or rather a large ugly elephant, uninviting brutal cheap architecture, high minded vision of the public interest has been totally miscalculated, in a way which bulls up the figures to gain funds for the project, and wages for those involved in its inception and running. We visited on a Sunday afternoon, the car park was closed, the entrance was totally uninviting and anonymous.

Layouts were confusing and mind numbing. All in all an experience that lacked value for money, atmosphere and enjoyment.
The Point was built to free up valuable city land in the centre of town, £50 million of the funds were procured from the Lottery, seemingly by incorrect and unrealistic business plans. The old science museum was honest and true to its name, the Millennium Point relies on out dated displays sponsored by business that are quickly becoming out of date. For goodness sake go back to basics, look at the Black Country Museum, learn from honesty of purpose and not project the bullshit that has a short life and can be seen through by the child and the adult alike.
Smudge, hagley

As a family we spent many a happy Sunday afternoon at the old Science Museum. I have only been to the Think Tank twice, once with a pack of cubs and one on my own. Both times I was disappointed with the whole 'museum' experience. First we had to pay extortionate prices to get in to see rooms that we empty (those for science in the future) and our favourite pieces from the old museum were greatly reduced, with not even the train moving as the room wasn't built correctly. What is wrong with the Think Tank is simple, it's trying to be something it's not. We want value for money, when before we used to go nearly every week to the old site no way can a family afford it on a regular basis now. Plus we want our old favourite items back in place, not sent into storage or 'loaned out' to other museums around the country. People see it only as a place to go to once - plus it looks like a grey concrete block!
Sarah, Birmingham

You ask for comments regarding Millennium Point. As a Brummie born and bred I much preferred the old Science Museum. OK, it was limited for space, but that space was used to good effect in displaying the exhibits and it was free to enter because those exhibits were paid for by the Birmingham Populace. Now those same items are on display at Millennium Point but you have to pay to go and view them. That is why I, like the majority of brummies, won't go there. Also the other attraction of the place, the IMEX cinema has suffered major problems which is another minus point. After watching the item on Inside Out this evening I've formed the opinion that the project, like so many others in the city that need money spending on it, has been abandoned somewhat by our council.
Colin J Higginson, Birmingham

I first visited thinktank 18 months ago, taking my daughter there for a day trip. I revisited just two weeks ago and I must say that despite poor attendance figures, they seem to be doing very little to address the situation.

There were quite a lot of interactive displays and features that are now missing and some of the current ones leave a lot to be desired with bits missing and bits not working.

I do not intend on visiting again... not unless I read about improvements. There is far less to do there than there was 18 months ago and to be honest it was not impressive then. It looks to me like it is dying and nobody is doing anything about it.

If i was manager of that place, it would be in a far better condition - and somebody needs to give it some love and attention as it is potentially a great attraction. I don't really agree with the locals on tv saying it should be nearer the city centre. It doesnt stop people visiting other attractions. I is quite sad to see this place go down the dumper.
Ray Riley, Coventry

I have enjoyed your programme this evening on thinktank and millennium point. I briefly worked for them and have to say I have never worked in such an overpowering, unfriendly atmosphere in my life, and that being the reason I left. I have also worked in the past for another top tourist attraction - Cadbury World. The problem thinktank is not doing any good is the managers there have no idea how to run a tourist attraction and have never had experience in working at a tourist attraction - most of them came from retail jobs. They could'nt run a booze up in a brewery. I was told that thinktank had to charge £5.95 because they did not receive any money from the council. Your programme tonight has shown different.
mrs evans


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