Kenneth Armitage Centenary Sculpture Exhibition

Kenneth Armitage Centenary Sculpture Exhibition


Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery celebrates the work of Kenneth Armitage (1916-2002), in a new exhibition which will run from 10 September – 27 November 2016. 

Kenneth Armitage is an artist intimately connected with Bath, and this exhibition will mark the centenary of his birth. 

This major retrospective exhibition is being staged exclusively in Bath and will feature over 65 works – sculptures in bronze and plaster of single figures, figure groups, arms, legs and trees (some on a monumental scale), together with paintings and drawings from all phases of Armitage’s career.

People in the Wind, 1950 (bronze)

People in the Wind, 1950 (bronze) by Kenneth Armitage, (1916-2002) © Victoria Art Gallery

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Bath & North East Somerset Council, which runs the gallery, said: “Kenneth Armitage played an important part in Bath’s artistic history and we’re delighted to be hosting this retrospective exhibition. Admission to see this renowned artists is free for local residents who have a Discovery Card.”

Armitage sought through his work to achieve an understanding of the underlying structures of living things. He studied at Leeds College of Art followed by the Slade School of Fine Art, London. After serving in the army from 1939-46, he became Head of Sculpture at Bath Academy of Art, based at Corsham Court, nine miles east of Bath, where he remained for 10 years.

In 1952 he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale, exhibiting alongside the sculptors Lynn Chadwick, Bernard Meadows, Reg Butler and Eduardo Paolozzi. The group were described by critic Herbert Read as the ‘Geometry of Fear’ school because of their use of sharp angular forms in metal. The show sealed Armitage’s reputation as a member of the new generation of post-war British sculptors. 

The exhibition has been made possible by the Kenneth Armitage Foundation and a grant from the Henry Moore Foundation. It will feature loans from the Government Art Collection, Tate, the British Council, the Royal Academy and other prestigious public institutions.

There will be lunchtime exhibition tours every Thursday, 15 September to 10 November inclusive, 12.30pm to 1pm.

The Gallery is open daily 10.30am to 5pm and offers free admission to the city’s public art collection, which spans 1600 to the present day and is displayed in the first floor galleries. Tickets for the Kenneth Armitage exhibition cost £4 (free for local Discovery Card holders).

A new book, ‘Kenneth Armitage, Sculptor: A Centenary Celebration’, will be published by Samson and Co to coincide with the show.




Colonnades plan gets go-ahead

Colonnades plan gets go-ahead

Bath and North East Somerset Council has granted planning permission and Listed Building Consent for Nash Partnership’s proposals on behalf of BANES, as landowner, to bring circa 9,000 sq. ft. of long unused undercrofts and 18th-century vaults beside the world famous Pulteney Bridge into restaurant and possible museum use.


How the re-opened Colonnades might look like from across the River Avon.


The scheme represents the first phase in the Council’s ambitions to maintain and develop the social, cultural and economic significance of the historic Guildhall block, which contains the Authority’s important civic facilities, archives, former Law Courts and the Victoria Art Gallery, alongside governance offices and a work hub.

The areas now to be opened up all lie beneath Grand Parade, the public road between the river and the Guildhall block and former Empire Hotel.  They are currently wholly hidden from view behind a high screen wall and the colonnades built in the 1930s that now flanks Pulteney Bridge on this side of the river.


A way down from Grand Parade to the Colonnades

One of the Council’s major ambitions in bringing this scheme forward is to highlight at the heart of the World Heritage City the regeneration of Bath’s river frontages which the Enterprise Area downstream is bringing about.

Another is to allow the city’s residents and tourist visitors to use and understand more of how the Roman and Medieval areas of Bath accessed the river before Robert Adam’s famous Pulteney Bridge, built in the mid-18th century, did away with the need for one of the city’s former ferry crossings.  Then the Colonnades frontage was one of Bath’s main landing points for river traffic.


What a restaurant in the Colonnades might look like.

Two paths linked the area, known then as the Boat Stall, with the Roman and Medieval city, known as Boat Stall Lane and Slippery Lane.  The scheme provides for both to be re-opened, below present street levels, for pedestrian use, subject to agreement with an adjoining landowner in Slippery Lane.  One of the few remnants of the pre-18th century city wall is visible at Boat Stall Lane, where the arch and gate hinges of the old East Gate are still open to view.

Nash Partnership handled the architectural, heritage asset value and planning aspects of the applications.  In such a sensitive area of the city, 25 options for accessing these areas had to be explored, visualised and tested through the pre-application process.

A multitude of interests of other highway users, adjoining landowners’ needs and the operational demands of servicing, ventilation, flood risk, deliveries, waste and recycling all had to be handled with care in such a densely used part of the historic city centre.

The Vegmead plot!

The Vegmead plot!

The people who maintain the Vegmead Community Garden in Hedgemead Park have announced they’ve got to find a new home for the organic food they have been growing.


The Vegmead Community Garden plot!

In an article on Facebook they say: ‘Sad to announce that Bath Parks have decided, with no consultation, to take back Vegmead as they feel it’s not a suitable location.

We thoroughly disagree with this assessment and feel that public facing organic food growing in parks is a 21st-century challenge to an unsustainable industrialised food system that is bad for the planet and bad for our health.

We’ve been offered the opportunity to move to other sites and will look over these options but these seem to be less visible and away from Hedgemead Park where we are building community interest.’

The group say they are considering their options. You can look up their Twitter account via @vegmead.

I’ll ask the Council for comment.

Community Awards launch.

Community Awards launch.

The Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Councillor Alan Hale, has launched his Community Awards. 

Last year, there were 106 nominations for the awards, which recognise volunteers, community leaders, community organisations, carers and local businesses and the positive impact they make on others and the wider community.

Chairman's Community Awards

Picture caption: (L-R) Mike Plows, Volunteer Centre Bath and beyond; Vanessa Collier, Curo; Sara Banks, Bath & North East Somerset Council; Cllr Alan Hale, Council Chairman; Anna Boneham, University of Bath Students Union; Jenny Dean, Student Community Partnership; Clive Bassett, Sirona Care and Health.

The Awards are organised annually in partnership with the Volunteer Centre Bath and beyond; social housing provider Curo; the Student Community Partnership, involving the University of Bath and Bath Spa University students unions; and Sirona care & health.

Cllr Hale said: “The Community Awards have become a prestigious annual celebration, recognising individuals and organisations that are dedicated and committed to helping others.  Volunteers are selfless people – they care a great deal and do so much for our local community.  The Awards are an opportunity for us to say thank you to all our volunteers across Bath and North East Somerset.”

Mike Plows, Manager of the Volunteer Centre Bath and beyond, said: “Volunteering is more than just time. It is a rewarding experience that enriches the lives of so many people.  Being a part of the Awards is a great honour and I am excited to find out more about the amazing people in our community.”

Dusty Walker, Vice-Chair for Sirona care & health, said: “Sirona exists to benefit the community we serve by providing high-quality specialist health and adult social care but we know that we cannot do it alone. Our work depends on working in partnership with volunteers, carers, community leaders, community organisations and local businesses. These awards give us an opportunity to say thank you to those selfless and dedicated people who help us to make a difference every day of the year and ensure they are recognised by the communities of Bath and North East Somerset.”

Vanessa Collier, Community Engagement Manager at Curo, said “The Community Awards have become recognised as a fantastic way for groups and organisations to nominate local people who are volunteering in our communities and doing extraordinary things by regularly helping and supporting others. Each nomination is truly inspiring and makes me proud to work for Curo alongside some of these amazing groups and individuals.”

Rob Armstrong-Haworth, Chair of the Student Community Partnership, said: “The Chairman’s Awards give each of us something to be proud of, and hopefully inspire others to contribute to their local community. The recipients are an inspiration to the whole of Bath and North East Somerset. The Partnership is proud to be associated with this excellent initiative and we look forward to the announcement of the 2016/17 winners.”


The award categories are:

Category 1 – Volunteering Awards

Volunteer of the Year / Young Volunteer of the Year

Volunteer Leader of the Year / Young Volunteer Leader of the Year

Volunteer Team or Organisation of the Year/ Young Volunteer Team or Organisation of the Year

Good Neighbour of the Year / Neighbourhood Team of the Year

Carer of the Year / Young Carer of the Year

The Peter Duppa-Miller Lifetime Achievement


Category 2 – Business in the Community Award

This award will recognise a socially responsible business which actively supports its local community in positive activities. 

The Chairman may also identify one or more individuals or groups from the nominations received to present a ‘Special Award’.

Time to take Bath back.

Time to take Bath back.

It’s good to be able to cycle along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath again after grant money has been spent on improving the surface between the George Inn at Bathampton and the first tunnel into Sydney Gardens.

I join this safer route into Bath after turning off the dreadful London Road and across Grosvenor Bridge above the River Avon. Then its just a case of going through a rail tunnel and up the incline.


The only ‘cloud’ in my ‘blue sky’ enjoyment of this countryside trail into the city is the amount of new graffiti l am seeing on the stonework of the rail bridge.

It may be a giggle to defy authority and make your mark in a public space  – and the excitement of doing it quickly while while no one is watching –  but you are using materials that are difficult to remove and which desecrate something that was part of an engineering miracle – created by the sweat and blood of hundreds of ordinary men.


Elsewhere in the city – according to photographs l have been sent – another despoiler/vandal  has daubed a spray paint slogan on a Victorian structure that has only just been restored after a renovation costing millions of pounds.

How ironic is it that they have sprayed the word ‘respect’ too!?

My first instinct is to show you the damage but then isn’t that what these people want?  Public indignation fuels the ‘kicks’ they get out of this.

It’s so easy to contaminate someone else’s work in such a crude fashion. There is no talent – no creativity on display – just an idiot’s contempt for something that truly was produced by the mind of someone who had plenty of both.

So,  l am not showing the image. At least for now. However, l am asking the people of Bath to consider how best to deal with this – and it is OUR problem. Am l so old-fashioned in attempting to reinvigorate a sense of pride and community?

Yes, there are not enough police and yes more CCTV at certain points might act as a deterrent – but isn’t the most effective way of looking after what we should most value in the hands and eyes of all of us?

Take back Bath, Bathonians. It’s your city. With school holidays now upon us there is an additional risk of more graffiti damage in the city. I am not saying all youngsters are hell-bent on defacing their surroundings but l still remember how ‘peer pressure’ felt.

Of course, there is a bigger issue here. Bath is often referred to as a ‘living museum’ but that doesn’t mean much to youngsters more concerned about flexing growing muscles and wanting to ‘make their mark’ amongst friends and competitors.


Somewhere in all this, young people have to be encouraged to understand how important and valuable the heritage they will one day inherit is. It’s a savings account that mustn’t be whittled away or debased.

Hopefully, some of our young people will go on to be architects, town planners, councillors, engineers, historians, etc and create some new urban history of their own.

Bath should be promoting education and inspiration. It should be encouraging a return to community and friendly neighbourhoods.

There is evidence out there that people do care. Give them the means of taking back their local environment and looking after it.Every local councillor should be out there fostering just such an attitude.

What do others think?


How Frankenstein came to Bath

How Frankenstein came to Bath

One thing Bath isn’t short of – at this time of the year – and that’s groups of guided tours circulating around the busy streets of the city.

Whether it’s a Blue Badger – or a member of the Mayor’s Corps of Honorary Guides –  showing the way, there’s no shortage of places to admire and stories to recount about the personalities and characters who helped lay down local history.

On top of the conventional, there are other tours offering ghost walks, a comedy circuit of the city, a water colouring walk and even a photographic trail where you also get help on improving your camera technique.

I am a Mayor’s Honorary Guide myself – an organisation that has offered FREE tours of historical ‘hot-spots’ for over 80 years – and one of the things we point out are the bronze plaques marking houses where people of note may have lived or  at least visited.

However  – having joined a relatively new and very unusual guided tour this week – l have now been made aware of a location where a bronze plaque is sadly lacking.


One that ought to be marking the time Mary Shelley – second wife of romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley – and more importantly the author of Frankenstein – spent in Bath.

She completed her first draft  of her gothic horror story  – about a science student who brought to life a grotesque creature  he’ d built out of corpses – in 1816 and while in the city.

Now Show of Strength – a theatre company based in Bristol and who have been producing exciting new work since 1986 – have decided to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein’s birth with an ‘atmospheric, theatrical walking tour of Bath’ in which the city’s role in shaping Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece is revealed.


The Frankenstein walk starts here at Rebecca’s Fountain by Bath Abbey

Show of Strength’s website – – explains:

‘The summer of 1816 was extraordinary for many reasons, not least the sequence of events that unfolded while Mary Shelley completed her first draft of FRANKENSTEIN – in Bath. Revealing the dramas and scandals underlying the creation of the novel, the tour takes visitors on an adventure, retracing Mary Shelley’s footsteps and exploring the extraordinary and unmarked locations where she lived – and wrote her story.


Actress Kristy Cox was our guide and narrator.

Revealing the dramas and scandals underlying the creation of the novel, the tour takes visitors on an adventure, retracing Mary Shelley’s footsteps and exploring the extraordinary and unmarked locations where she lived – and wrote her story.

Running nightly from the 16th June to the 30th September, brave explorers will delve into a series of real life disasters that unfolded during Mary’s time in the city. Discover the real reason Mary Shelley came to Bath, and the secrets she and her infamous companions were desperate to hide.’


Another stopping point in Abbey Church Yard

The tour has been researched, written and produced by Sheila Hannon who takes it in turn to play the  costumed narrator role herself – along with Annette Chown – but guiding us around on my tour was actress Kirsty Cox.

Its a nice touch that her book of Mary Shelley ‘knowledge’ is covered in fake patches of hide – stitched together like the monster’s hideous assorted skins.

No holds are barred in exploring the seedy side of Regency society. There’s bigamy, illegitimate children and suicides galore in amongst all the characters surrounding this young woman of 18  about to achieve literary immortality in imagining a situation where the dead are used to bring a creature to life.


There are frequent stops but most of the route is flat.

Tragedy and triumph, romance and despair are all woven into a street performance that was both informative and  – please forgive the pun –  even shocking in its revelations.

There’s even a bit of humour to lighten parts of this dark story in which you will discover why Mary came to Bath and why she stayed so long.


Kirsty reading from a book of notes, facts, excerpts from letters – and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel – which is covered in a fake stitched patchwork of ‘human skin’ and the pages ‘bolted’ into place.

The whole experience lasted about an hour and a half and we walked about a mile – on the flat – with frequent pauses.

Show of Strength will no doubt move on to do other exciting productions elsewhere but l know the Company is really hoping someone will pick up on a campaign to get a plaque erected to honour the time Mary Shelley spent in the city writing a book that was to become a monster hit!

  • Tours nightly: 16th June – 30th September 7.30 pm
  • The Walk: Starts and Ends at Rebecca’s Fountain, Bath Abbey
  • Tickets: £8 cash only. No advance booking


Making Bath roads work.

Making Bath roads work.

A recent meeting of the full B&NES Council found plenty of opposition groups vying for attention outside the Guildhall. One of them was a group of cyclists concerned that trader pressure for additional loading bay spaces was going to rob those on two wheels from a cycle track which provided them with some protection from the dangerous London Road.


Protestors gathered outside Bath Guildhall.

Within the city is an organisation called CycleBath – a community of bike riders who campaign for making space for cyclists so that – according to their online website – ‘cycling – a truly democratic form of transport as well as exercise, sport and leisure – can be enjoyed by anyone, from 8 to 80+.’

cyclebath adam reynolds

Adam Reynolds who is Chair of CycleBath.

The Chair of the organisation is Adam Reynolds who has kindly written a piece for Bath Newseum in which he states his concerns for the provision of cycling space, expensive and ineffective proposals to ease congestion and what he thinks is a lack of enthusiasm for doing anything new and invigorating on the transport scene.

His article can be read below. I am sure he would welcome your comments.


As Chair of CycleBath, you would think that I spend most of my time campaigning for cycle infrastructure and addressing cycling related issues. These days it’s more about fighting for segregated space for the most vulnerable road users. That means campaigning for separate space within schemes for walking, for cycling, and for driving. You do not share.

Spending years trying to understand this area has lead me to learning how you design road space within urban and rural environments to deliver good ‘livable’ streets that create cohesive, good community spaces. Primarily it’s keeping up with what does or does not work around the world and applying it to “what if” scenarios, primarily to the City of Bath.

The Political Void Bath suffers

With every, and I do mean EVERY successful scheme, it comes down to one thing. A political leader with a vision to push hard, really hard, against what people are comfortable with. A political leader supported by other politicians, able to push for what they want within the Council’s senior officers.

We live in a fantastic city. A city that is world renowned for its beautiful Georgian architecture, the fabulous Roman Baths, horrendous traffic, and poor air quality. A city dominated by, what can only be described as, a plague of cars.

A city measured by its Outstanding Universal Value that must be protected to retain its world heritage site status. A city that has been threatened with losing its world heritage status as the OUV degrades due to congestion. A city that needs a strong political class with a vision for what the city should be and prepared to protect and increase the OUV.

Yet, politically, the decisions we make are not for the city of Bath. They are made for Bath and North East Somerset, and of more concern, decisions about the city, the decisions that should protect and enhance the OUV of the city, are made by a council cabinet, where only one member lives within the city.

At a fundamental level we have a city, where decisions are made that cannot impact external wards negatively. A city that operates within a political void where the OUV of the city is sacrificed at the altar of votes.

So when 8 different working groups at the recent Transport consultation day proposed congestion charging, something proven worldwide to reduce congestion, we have a Council who will not act upon this proposal as this has a negative effect on external wards while increasing the OUV of the city.

London Road

London Road

They can, however, propose a £10million park and ride that would at most reduce the number of cars driving down London Road by 1 per minute. Politically that works with the rural wards but fails miserably for the city. In fact, it will reduce the OUV of the city.

We have a cabinet member for Transport living in Colerne stating that he wants to make it easier for cars to travel north to south through the city of Bath, something that would reduce the OUV of the city. A policy that encourages car use. 

Something that is known in transport as “Induced Demand” where you end up with more congestion at the end of the day. Sustainable cities around the world are making it harder not easier, to get around cities by car. That’s not to say they make it impossible.

A cabinet member that has instructed council officers to consider walking and cycling a key part of schemes. Then cancels a pedestrian crossing 14 years in the making on Bathwick Hill, connecting Combe Down to the University, despite every objection being countered by officers stating how the large numbers pedestrians and cyclists showed the need for the crossing. A decision where car traffic flow was prioritised over walking and cycling. A decision that reduced the OUV of the city.

A decision where car traffic flow was prioritised over walking and cycling. A decision that reduced the OUV of the city.

We truly have a city with a political void. Where decisions are made that do not negatively impact wards outside of the city to preserve the power base of the Conservatives.

So how do we fix Bath politically? How do we move forward into a place where brave decisions can be made about Bath, and only Bath, without interference from councillors who need to pander to their wards outside of Bath. A decision process focused on increasing the OUV of the city.

The only way I can see this happening is to have each community forum have transport decisions devolved down to them, with ward councillors from each community heavily involved in the decision making. 

Fixing Bath’s problems in other counties

A council likes playing in its own backyard. It’s known as Localism. It keeps things simple. So during the Transport consultation, many people proposed the idea of small satellite park and ride sites near to places like Corsham using existing bus services. 

The advantages to this approach are that it significantly reducing road miles by discouraging people driving to the edge of the city. It’s also very cost effective and very quick to implement. In fact, it can be simply a case of identifying an existing underused car park/wasteland area and creating a new bus stop with special ticket prices.

B&NES is quite happy opening up Saltford train station, but a more effective station to open would be Corsham.

Talk to the council about any of these and the response is, “Oh but that is Wiltshire”.

Suggest sorting out the Gorse Lane/Freezing Hill dog leg with two mini-roundabouts, with better signage up by the M4 to direct people to the Lansdown Park and Ride.

Talk to the council about doing this,  “Oh but that is South Glos. We don’t give money away”.

Bath has many transport issues, but let’s be clear, a hell of a lot of the problems are solved in other counties. A council unable to see beyond this because of a pigheaded “We only play in B&NES” attitude will never get to grips with Bath’s transport problems. This results in proposals like the East Park and Ride. A sub-par solution that negatively impacts the OUV of the city. Let’s not forget it’s also a vote winner with external wards.

Focusing on real congestion solutions

It’s all well and good me criticising but you should also be prepared to offer solutions.

The title of Bath’s Transport Strategy “Getting around Bath” implies making it easier to travel around Bath for all modes of transport. We are at peak car. Nothing we can do to our road system will help get more cars around Bath without paving over the river.

Even the proposed A36/A46 bypass completely ignores the big congestion issues on the western side of Bath, particularly, the A4 to A36 city through traffic.

Bath’s Transport Strategy should be renamed “Getting Bath Active” with a focus on walking, cycling and public transport. A focus on reducing car use in the city and reduction of through traffic. A focus on protecting and increasing the OUV of the city. A strategy that sets targets. A strategy that asks of the council “What type of city do we want to live in?”

The current focus within the council chambers and council departments is around managing the current volumes of traffic and making the roads more efficient. They are trying to build dams inch by inch while the flood waters rise foot by foot.

We should be open to solutions that have worked around the world and adopt them. When you look around the world at what has truly worked at reducing congestion, there are really only three ideas that make significant in-roads into congestion.

Parking control.

When Bristol introduces the RPZ in Clifton, P&R use shot up 20%. Nottingham is using the Workplace Parking Levy to deliver its £9m tram system. Zurich set a legal cap on car parking in the city, then built underground car parks, forcing the removal of much of the on-street parking in central districts.

A radical solution would be to introduce Bath wide parking control with 90% discounted resident permits, commuter permits, and use of the workplace parking levy. Providing a phone app to enable residents to police their own roads and summon a parking officer as needed. This recognises the inherent value of on-street parking and encourages people to use park and ride facilities.

London Road cycleway

A distant van blocks the very poor cycleway provision on the London Road

Congestion Charging

A A36/A46 bypass would reduce traffic on London Road by about 30% and cost £90m. The introduction of congestion charging in London, reduced congestion by 20%. Introducing congestion charging in Bath could reduce congestion by similar levels. This may not sound much, but consider that the school run is considered to be 23% of rush hour traffic. A more intelligent approach to congestion charging, say by only implementing a “congestion through charge” could also be considered where driving through the city in under an hour would result in a charge.

Making a city livable

When we look at a city, we need to understand how we make it more livable. How we tame the streets. How we remove the dominance of the car on our streets. This is why Lower Borough Walls works so well, but Seven Dials fails so miserably. LBW uses filtered priority (bollards) to restrict car access while Seven Dials is a through road. Businesses on LBW objected to the filtered priority during the consultation process, now they complain if the bollards are down. Making a city livable is profitable.

Closing residential roads using bollards can completely and utterly change a community. Many of these roads are rat runs. Many are roads where parents do not let their kids play. By making access to homes more convoluted for vehicles, it changes the space into “living streets”. It makes it a quiet street. A place where children can play safely. A place where walking in the road is possible. Where popping over the road to chat with your neighbour feels like running the gauntlet.

Show me the money

As with anything done within the council, it comes down to money. Congestion charging and parking control are profitable. By ring-fencing money generated to transport, in particular supporting better cheaper public transport links, we encourage people to switch from car to public transport. Even making streets liveable is indirectly profitable. 


During the recent transport consultation, 8 different working groups proposed the same solution to Bath’s traffic. A congestion charge to discount public transport and deliver more walking and cycling infrastructure. It’s cheap and immediately effective and provides a revenue stream that enables the council to deliver better transport solutions.

london road 2

Rush hour traffic coming into Bath on the London Road

However, a Cabinet of councillors mostly living in wards external to Bath will never act in the best interests of the city of Bath. It would impact their voter base too much. Bath operates within a political void where the residents are not in control of their own destiny. Where decisions are made to try and increase the conservative vote in the city while preserving the votes in the external wards.

We have senior council officers who will not consider what’s best for the city if it means paying another council to deliver the solution. Officers wed to the principles of maximising traffic flow when the evidence backed solutions from other cities around the world are focused on modal equality (providing segregated walking, cycling and driving space) and reducing traffic flow in cities).
We need a Bathxit. We need devolved decision makers that can make the brave decisions that will deliver a sustainable, beautiful city, and not the car-choked city it currently is. Decisions that are politically hard but are proven to work. We need to protect and increase the Outstanding Universal Value that makes this city a world-renowned heritage site.

We need to protect and increase the Outstanding Universal Value that makes this city a world-renowned heritage site.