Earth, wind and fire. Not just the name of a successful American band from the 1970’s but some of the elements traditionally brought together by the blacksmith in the forging process. It’s one of the oldest known metalworking processes and is where heat is used to soften metal and a hammer welded to shape it.
Look around the city landscape of Bath and you’ll find plenty of examples of how ironwork has helped dress the architectural fabric – whether it’s as fencing, encasing street lamps or ornamental park gates.
In June, blacksmiths from around the country will be coming to Bath to help celebrate their art and give local people a chance to appreciate it too.
The BathIRON Festival will be running from June 14th to the 17th and the focal point will be the live creation of a brand new balustrade for the bandstand in Parade Gardens.
The balustrade will be picked out with part of a musical score from the winner of a competition – run through Bath Spa University The winning piece was a composition called Hammer & Anvil by Jake Garratt (listen here), and work has already begun on forging the notes for the score.
The park will also house forging tents with demonstrations of the blacksmith’s art and even ‘have-a-go’ sessions for adults and children.
There’s music by the Bath Folk Festival, an ironwork trail around Bath and a series of talks at the Guildhall on promoting the survival of this threatened part of our heritage.
Do visit wwww.bathiron.org.uk to find out more about the event. It’s organised by the National Heritage Ironwork Group in association with the British Artist Blacksmiths Association and the Institute of Conservation.
The NHIG Secretary is Andy Thearle – who has his own local business ‘Ironart’ at Larkhall in Bath – and l asked him to tell me first about the transformation planned for the Parade Garden’s bandstand.
The eight master blacksmiths involved in the bandstand project are Brian Russell, Sam Pearce, Shona Johnson, David James, Pete Clutterbuck, Andrew Hall, Andy Rowe and Gerard Loughran.
Andy mentioned the Larkhall Festival – over this coming weekend – which will feature his forge at Ironart. Visit larkhall-festival.org.uk for more information.
He also found me a useful article about that business regarding Queen Victoria’s mourning for Prince Albert and black railings! It’s at http://www.countrylife.co.uk/property/london-property/queen-victoria-and-the-myth-of-black-railings-14015
Next week Andy is going to be addressing councillors at B&NES about the importance of creating a Heritage Centre in the city so that artisan skills like smithying can be acknowledged and preserved.