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At the January B&NES Council Meeting, I was given the opportunity to set out my views and concerns about the lack of arts and cultural representation in the B&NES One Shared Vision consultation, and the stories included therein. It is good to be offered another platform through Bath Bridge to share these views more widely, and to know that these views are shared by the Bridge itself, as a local community interest company. For those who live, work and enjoy their leisure time here, although we find ourselves immersed in this truly wonderful city, one within which every Georgian stone is steeped in history, the arts and culture, we face the tragedy of a city being starved of these very things.

Ever since the decimation of the Arts Development department and scathing cuts by the previous administration; arts and culture in Bath has lacked a unified voice within the city. Through the hard work and commitment of Bath Bridge itself, together with the Council, Bath Spa University, University of Bath, Cultural Forum, The Guild and Creative Bath, we have a Cultural and Creative Strategy, which sadly has remained on a shelf somewhere gathering dust – yet when we apply for funding, we’re told we should be referencing it. The city needs a collective vision for the arts and an updated and future-looking cultural and creative strategy which reflects the city today. Why is there no publicly stated aim nor commitment to build on the good work and contributions from these dynamic organisations, that help to make the city what it is, all of which have so much to offer to help bring our arts and culture to life?

Throughout lockdown, artists from all art forms have kept people entertained with live streams of music, theatre, comedy, poetry, storytelling, dance… the list is endless. Artists have done this although many of them have fallen through the Government’s emergency funding gaps. We watched, as overnight our careers were ripped away. We were told to retrain. To get proper jobs.

I don’t need to prove the economic benefits of the arts – the point has been proven time and time again. But, if Bath’s arts and cultural scene thrives so do the many businesses that surround them and the night-time offer to tourists is greatly enhanced.

How many people’s mental health benefited from exposure to the arts during lockdown? The benefits of arts and culture on people’s health and wellbeing is well-documented and widely known.

In Bath we’re very good at looking at the past. At our heritage. But what is often ignored is the part that arts and culture played in our history. From performances in the Roman theatre (believed to be somewhere underneath the Mineral Water Hospital). To the mystery and morality plays that were performed in St Michaels Without. The travelling players that visited here, including Shakespeare’s company (although perhaps not Shakespeare himself). To the many different theatres and performance venues that thrived in the time of Beau Nash. The famous bands that toured here in the sixties and seventies. The many street performers and buskers. All the amateur theatre companies, comedians, musicians, poets, storytellers and dancers who live and work here today. And then all of our brilliant festivals and events.

So why, in a post-covid vision of Bath, is there no mention of arts and culture?

B&NES has declared a climate emergency – well I’m declaring an arts and culture emergency. Arts and culture should be at the heart of any vision for the city going forwards.

A vision of Bath that ignores all of this, is a vision of a city which is a shadow of its former self. A city without a heart.

I know that you cannot help the arts financially, but going forward as I speak with confidence on behalf of Bath Bridge and the many partners involved in recognising the importance of a Cultural and Creative strategy for this city, I can only urge you to include these critical areas in economic regeneration plans for the city. Arts and culture’s value cannot be defined only in monetary terms but for the enrichment of life it brings to thousands of residents and cultural tourists each year.

Luke John Emmett, Freelance Arts Professional

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In the absence of cinemas in which we could run our annual film festival (30th Anniversary in 2020), FilmBath decided to get creative and hold a series of screenings at Green Park station.

When the suggestion for screening films there was first made, there were a lot of doubts expressed, and with good reason.

How much was it going to cost to provide sufficiently good equipment for the experience to be attractive? And who would provide it? Could we socially distance the audience? Would people come at that time of year? And would we be able to screen films that people wanted to see?

The answer to last question was made a lot easier when we were allowed to screen Chloe Zhao’s stupendous award-winning Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand. This film, which will by rights be a major Oscar contender, was screened twice on the opening night, and sold out on both occasions. At the other end of the five day event, we showed Supernova with Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a gay couple facing an unbearable challenge. This also proved hugely popular.

In between we screened a number of excellent films, which managed to forefront the issue of being a young woman growing in a world where being young and female is not easy; and in the case of Miss Juneteenth, being Black as well. In short, the programme was an outstanding success, and we are hugely grateful to all the distributors who enabled us to show their films.

This terrific programme did indeed attract a very good audience, who came prepared to put up with wintry weather, and stayed to enjoy themselves unreservedly. The feedback, both at the time, and subsequently, was captured beautifully in the following question: “Can you do you it again?” Almost accidentally, we have stumbled across the perfect recipe for outdoor cinema - big screen, top projection, radio headphones and a roof in case of rain. Plus food and drink right behind you. All we need to do is move it earlier in the year so that audiences don’t have to wear three sweaters and long johns!

It took a great deal of hard work from very many people, mainly volunteers, but FilmBath is blessed with an amazing group of volunteers, who remain endlessly willing and eager to support our aims.

This event was as close to a cinema experience as the audience had had in a year, and the fact of it being outdoors was - apart from the Big Chill - one of the main reasons people enjoyed it. It was communal, it was unusual and it worked.

Philip Raby, Creative Director, Bath Film Festival

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Updated: Jan 28

Following the recent appointment of Stephen Taylor as the new Chair of Bath Bridge, the current Directors are also pleased to welcome two new Directors to its Board.

Stephen Taylor takes over as Chair having been a Director for several years. As a longstanding Bath resident, passionate about the city and helping find ways to fulfil its potential as a city within which to live and work, he brings over 30 years experience of working with large public and private sector organisations to create high performance cultures. He is also a Trustee of Bath Festivals and of Dorothy House.

Robin Kerr and Sarah Williment join former Chair, Philip Raby, Steve Fuller, Adam Powell and Van DuBose in the Bridge's endeavours for 2021 and beyond.

Robin Kerr, a longstanding Bath resident for over 50 years, will be known to many having chaired the Lansdown Crescent Association (LCA) for seven years, and the Federation of Bath Residents’ Associations for six (preceded by five years as its Secretary). He remains a Trustee of the LCA. He brings a wealth of experience from his 32 years of working life in a wide variety of posts in the Royal Navy: at sea, in research and development and in Royal Dockyards. On retirement he joined Lockheed Martin where he was NW Europe Naval representative for eight and a half years.

Sarah Williment has worked with Bath Bridge since November 2019, when she took on the role of Programme Director for the Bath Future Talent Programme replacing Dr Tracey Stead, former Programme Director for the previous three years. She works for the University of Bath as Deputy Head of the Skills Centre, where she has been for ten years. Sarah brings 30 years experience of fulfilling a number of leadership and management roles in adult and higher education, including in the areas of programme and project management, skills development, educational policy, marketing and communications, learning technology and e-learning development. She is also a workplace Coach and Mentor.

Find out more about our Board of Directors and connect with us.

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About Bath Bridge

We are a community interest company focused on supporting Bath to continually declare and maintain its aspirational identity, and fulfil its potential as a beautifully inventive city.

We do this by:

  • connecting people and organisations across the city

  • convening meetings and facilitating conversations with like-minded people

  • encouraging and promoting new and creative initiatives

  • accelerating the city's potential by investing in, and developing, its future leaders

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The Bath Bridge CIC is a private community interest company, limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales. Company number 08881959

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