Serendipity in the West Midlands
The discovery of art in the provinces is my 2005 ambition. Fuelled by finding a gallery devoted to GF Watts in a small Surrey village, I’ve started looking elsewhere for small-town galleries. So I went to Walsall.

Women called me ‘love’ which I liked, although I called them ‘mate’ back. In a caf’ I asked if the vegetable curry was vegetarian. The woman sized me up and said, “no it’s got a donkey in it, love.” Walsall also has a funky bus station full of glass and a podlike canopy. I gave the leather museum a miss.

The art gallery is four years old and purpose built to house a permanent collection. That collection is built around 40 sculptures and paintings from Jacob Epstein, augmented by a lovely Modigliani and hundreds of woodcuts and antiquities. Space is set aside for temporary shows, but the floorplan on these upper levels is too open and the canvases looked timid and out of proportion. The roof terrace confirmed my first impression of Walsall as a bleak industrial town.