Commerce and culture – doing battle in Bath?

We are constantly reminded by our politicians that we are lucky to live in the ‘Free World’ but what exactly does that mean? I do not want to have a general debate on that but focus instead on only one particular thing we are not ‘free’ from.

Abbey Church Yard
Abbey Church Yard

That is the constant and often subtle – cerebral drip, drip, drip of  promotional advertising which keeps the heat turned up on our consumer society. A society in which joy and happiness – we are told – comes only with shopping and showering money on consumables. There is no other sense of achievement in Western democracy beyond making money and spending it.

Could this work in Bath?
Could this work in Bath?

Within this commercial utopia, the High Street has become a battle ground in which advertising agencies fall over themselves to come up with ‘must have’ campaigns that outdo and outshine all others.

Or this?
Or this?

Any trawl of the Net will produce images of how this is being done. The examples  -illustrated here – being anything but subtle.

How well would this sort of roadside presence   fit into Bath? Also bear in mind this is bordering on ‘street art’.

Before we continue, don’t forget Bath is the birthplace of the advertising hoarding.

Ralph Allen put his quarry money into building a mansion – out of the very material he mined – which proudly – and very obviously – grabbed all the attention as it crowned a hillside.

Prior Park College  © Wikipedia
Prior Park College
© Wikipedia

Prior Park – now a school of course – was meant to proclaim to all that Bath stone is best for building your big classical recreations. Just look what you can do with it!

Walk around the city today and you can still see evidence of more modest and familiar late 19th and 20th century street-side promotions by local traders.

Victorian street advertising in Bath.
Victorian street advertising in Bath.

There are many examples in Bath of old advertisements – now faded or buried behind more recent paint – and only revealed during renovation work. This was – it seems – a straight-forward matter of getting in a sign writer with no fear of heights and not having to worry about permissions.

Today it’s not cakes or butter or ironmongery that brings in the big bucks. Our Roman remains and Georgian heritage – gilded with Bath’s central World Heritage status – generate tourism and crucial income. abbey churchyardThere isn’t another UK local authority who can boast having ancient roman baths and a Georgian Pump Room to help balance the rates!

We are a small but lively and slightly quirky community – more than 80,000 strong – where young educational sunrises dawn and – for the more mature – the glow of retirement is set.

We have two universities and a college injecting youthful energy into our marketplace and more than a million day visitors a year adding even more to shop coffers.

Primark is coming!
Primark is coming!

Commerce has to sit with culture in Bath but how easily is that achieved. I am not here to argue any particular point but to hopefully open up the issue for debate.

Many believe history and heritage has to earn its keep. Certainly that is true of the Roman Baths and Pump Room.

Many are pleased to hear Primark is opening a store in July. It will not be the first retail company on this Stall Street site and is obviously keen to announce its forthcoming presence – but how easily does this sort of large-scale promotion site with the World Heritage architecture that adjoins it.

Isn't this just street graffiti ?
Isn’t this just street graffiti ?

Should city festivals really be parking the pavements to announce its presence. Isn’t this graffiti in anyone else’s language?

Banner over Milsom Street
Banner over Milsom Street

What do we think about half-hearted and low-slung banners – promoting very worthy causes – but stretched out across one of our premier ‘up-town – shopping streets?

A boards
A boards

Hopefully – for all Bath’s multitude of independent traders – the economy is on the turn. They are keen to shout ‘here l am’ to all potential customers but many complain about A boards blocking side streets – for push and wheel chairs especially.

Does Bath merit special attention or should we be a bit more daring and inventive with advertising. Do let me know what you think.