The Bath Challenge Project

What is The Bath Challenge Project?

The creative ecology in Bath has previously been described as ‘fragmented’, ‘undervalued’, and ‘lacking a cohesive narrative.’ But in the not too distant past, Bath was recognised as equal to Bristol in the energy and diversity of its cultural offer, articulated through festivals and events driven by different parts of the community. Whereas creativity has grown to become central to the narrative of Bristol as a successful city, it has begun to retreat in Bath, being replaced by a dominant focus on heritage as both the city’s cultural offer and the mainstay of its tourist economy.

As a consequence of the pandemic, Bath and North East Somerset Council have recognised the need to diversify the economy away from its reliance on heritage, tourism, and retail; the sectors amongst those most impacted.

The AHRC-funded Bristol + Bath Creative R+D are conducting a research project to establish a clearer shared narrative for the city’s industries.

The role of the researcher

In establishing this narrative, the project explores barriers to collaboration and connectivity in Bath’s creative industries. What sort of role can the creative industries play in Bath’s post-pandemic recovery? How can these industries and creative practitioners have long lasting community impact? How does the city engage with, contribute to, and make the most of regional activity? How does the city position itself regionally?

In response to these questions I will be having informal conversations with industry partners and those external to the creative industries who support their value, performance and long-term goals, as well as exploring the literature – reports, articles, stats and documents relevant to both Bath and the national picture. I will be looking at examples of proposed strategies for other cities in the UK, as well as exploring international examples of innovative initiatives. As my research practice focuses on people’s relationship to place, I will also be conducting formal walking interviews in Bath, seeing how the place itself might inform responses.

As an accompaniment to the project, I will be publishing autoethnographic segments, discussing terms and themes, and navigating my own relationship to Bath and to the research – SEE BELOW.

If you would like to contribute to the research, please email: eldridge.bathchallenge@gmail.com

The team

This project is being overseen by Dr Natasha Kidd (she/her), an artist and Subject Lead at Bath School of Art. Natasha is Deputy Director of the Centre for Cultural and Creative Industries and Co-Investigator on B+B Creative R+D.

Stephen Hilton (he/him) is Founder and Director of City Global Futures, works with industry, academia  and local government, and has recently acted as a consultant to BANES in developing their 2030 vision and strategy, see: https://newsroom.bathnes.gov.uk/news/fairer-greener-more-creative-more-connected-long-term-vision-bath-north-east-somerset

Abigail Branagan (she/her) is The Studio Manager who’s responsible for developing the community of creativity technology Residents based there.  Abigail is supporting the role in a Producer capacity and will be able to assist the artist in terms of access to facilities and networks within the space. https://thestudioinbath.co.uk/

Jamie Eastman (he/him) is an Independent Consultant and Project Director based in the West of England; advising creatives across a variety of contexts with specialisms in strategic support for cultural organisations and creative industries. Current roles/projects include B +B Creative R+D, CAMERA Creative Network Associate.

Jonathan Eldridge (he/him) is an interdisciplinary writer and creative researcher exploring ecologically conscious ways of thinking about, valuing, and interacting with urban places and spaces. His work addresses the intersecting issues of place-consciousness, identity, environmental degradation, and climate change. Jonathan is currently a creative media resident at EMERGE, resident at The Studio, Palace Yard Mews, and works as a freelance researcher on The Bath Challenge Project.

Fancy coming on a walk and contributing to the research in the process?

As part of the Bath Challenge Project I will be conducting walking interviews with participants throughout November. Want to sign-up for a walk? Just follow this link https://calendly.com/eldridge-bathchallenge/walking-interview. The interviews will be in-depth, semi-structured, and will give you a chance to talk about your creative practice, organisation or business, your relationship with Bath and your vision for the city.

An Autoetnography of The Bath Challenge Project

  • Compost for the dream city
    This will be a journey of leaps, of steppingstones. It might be best interpreted as a way of thinking, a model which might imprint odd images onto the general structures that help us see the world. Ready? The graveyard of ambition. Where dreams go to die. These sayings stick in some people’s minds when they […]
  • Connection, experience, value…then lunch
    I bite my nails. I try to be surreptitious when I do this in public but holed up for months under lockdown there was no need to disguise my bad habits. I wrote my dissertation partly about this experience. Much of it was concerned with the identity of places and people. I felt like I […]
  • Closer, but further away
    I do not live in Bath, though I am resident of two studio spaces: EMERGE at Sion Hill and The Studio at Palace Yard Mews, Bath Spa’s Enterprise & Innovation Hub. People work and interact within these studios temporarily, occupying spaces, coming and going. The organisational and spatial structures of these studios encourage an interrupted […]
  • Patterns, everywhere
    Place is a pattern of rhythms. I wrote the start of this on a train. I write this part at the desk in my bedroom. I work from the morning up until lunchtime. Sometimes I work downstairs at the kitchen table. The house is south facing, so the light that comes in through the windows […]