Stuart Burroughs – Director of the Museum of Bath at Work – is going to be an extra-ordinarily busy man over the next 18 months.
That’s how long he says it will take him to catalogue and prepare a very special exhibition of all that’s left of what was going to be the most extensive canvas-based tribute to this city.
Back in 1983 locally-based artist Roger Hallett – who had been born down the road in Bristol – started work on a 200 foot long circular panorama of Bath that would take him fours years to complete – working 12 hour days, seven days a week, in a disused Fuller’s Earth factory on the outskirts of the city.
It was based on hundreds of photographs he had taken of the landscape beneath him while hundreds of feet up in a tethered hot air balloon.
Roger’s dream was for the city to provide the means of putting it on permanent display but instead the canvas ended up being displayed in a specially-designed rotunda on London’s Southbank – where the London Eye stands now.
Painted canvas and its purpose built circular gallery ending up costing £200,000.
After that it moved down river to the Thames Barrier Museum and then into storage.
Roger died last year in South West France aged 89. He had not lived to see any of his work coming back to the city he had lived and worked in for so many years.
His business partner and good friend Douglas Pike – who lives in East Anglia – had kept hold of much of what was left of the project. Unfortunately years of storage and penetrating damp were not kind to the canvas which is now reduced to salvaged giant strips.
Originally the canvas was hung in the round with three dimensional figures and a built landscape in the middle. Spectators would climb to a viewing platform and see the city panorama as Roger had done from his balloon point of view.
I was there to witness Douglas arriving in Bath and even helped him and Stuart carry in some of the artefacts.
It was a bit of a homecoming for all that remained of a once grand project. I asked Roger how he felt now that at least some of the Bath panorama was returning to the city.
Apart from the rolls of canvas there were boxes and boxes of archive material to unload and put into storage.
Museum of Bath at Work Director Stuart Burroughs and his colleagues have a job on their hands but it is hoped that eventually some of those canvases can be hung in the museum.
You can view more on the Bath Panorama and hear interviews with Roger Hallett via the following Youtube websites.