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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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.

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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+.’

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Conclusion

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.

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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.

Saw Close squeeze on traffic.

Saw Close squeeze on traffic.

As part of Bath & North East Somerset Council’s plans to remove obstacles for walking and cycling and reduce the dominance of motor vehicles in the city centre, the Council proposes to make improvements to Saw Close to  re-establish the area as a key social space and a focal point for Bath’s entertainment quarter.

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Saw Close experiences low vehicle traffic but is a busy pedestrian area that is largely occupied by carriageway. It is proposed to see the road narrowed to slow traffic and encourage pedestrians to make more use of the entire area.

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The plans will be on display on Monday, 11 July, from 1pm to 6pm in the Brunswick Room on the ground floor of the Guildhall in Bath, where locals will be able to give their views on the proposals. Council officers will also be present to answer any questions.

Councillor Anthony Clarke (Conservative, Lansdown), Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “The Council is committed to making it easier for residents, businesses and visitors to get around Bath.

As part of this, we want Saw Close to become an area which is seen as a destination for cultural events, social activity and nightlife, where walking around will be easier and spending time in the area more pleasant.

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I would encourage residents to attend the exhibition to find out more and to give their views on the proposals so that these can be considered as part of the final design proposals.”

For those unable to make the event on the day, copies of the plans and a feedback questionnaire will be available on the web page www.bathnes.gov.uk/sawclose from Tuesday.

 

Bins or gull-proof bags for all – as B&NES bows to public demand.

Bins or gull-proof bags for all – as B&NES bows to public demand.

Social networking seems to have played its part in helping to fuel a re-think B&NES has announced to improve the effectiveness of its recycling and rubbish service.It will include introducing wheelie bins and gull-proof sacks – over the next year or so – to try and prevent so much street litter. Ratepayers will get what is most suitable for their situation – but collections will be every other week.

Just recently a group of Bath ‘Facebookers’ organised their own ‘Streets of Shame’ page to hi-light the growing problem of mounting piles of poor quality rubbish bags being torn apart and their contents littering street after city street.

 

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The ‘Streets of Shame’ public group on Facebook.

 

These people have not only been taking photos of offending areas but have been happy to contact the occupiers or landlord of the house affected to try and get things cleaned up.

Now the Council is hoping the ‘negative’ aspect of this on-line campaign can be turned to a positive and that those making these postings can now support a city-wide attempt to improve services and clean up the streets.

Today – Tuesday, July 5th – plans to improve recycling rates, keep the streets cleaner and reduce the amount of rubbish being scavenged by birds and animals have been unveiled by Bath & North East Somerset Council as part of a wide-ranging review of its recycling and rubbish collection service.

Recycling leaflet (dragged)

The Council’s Cabinet is to consider a report on 13 July, as part of a drive to increase recycling, tackle the waste problem on the streets and improve efficiency.

The report proposes keeping the existing weekly recycling and food waste collection, and existing garden waste collections every other week, and – in response to public demand – to invest in providing new wheeled bins or gull-proof rubbish sacks for every property within the Bath and North East Somerset area, to be collected every other week. The report proposes that the changes come in from Autumn 2017.

Figures show that locally, the average black plastic bin bag is still being more than half-filled with recyclable items such as food – which is leading to ripped bags spilling waste onto the streets. Providing wheeled bins or gull-proof sacks across the authority will help to reduce the amount of rubbish on the streets – particularly food waste –and will help tackle the scavenger problem.

Meeting the Press this morning, Cllr Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), Cabinet Member for Community Services, said the Council would rather educate the public and get them on-side than punish with fines.

The authority had once led the way in its recycling achievements and they were determined to get B&NES back ‘to being best in class’ and introduced a rollover of the new facilities over the next 12 months which would provide the ‘right service in the right area’.

B&NES will be looking at different ways to ‘engage’ communities – from leaflets to local meetings and even training up ‘street champions’ from residents groups to spread the recycling word and encourage the community to ‘up it’s game’.

The ‘educational’ approach – where the benefits of recycling are talked up – has apparently worked well in many other authorities that B&NES officials have looked at.

As 75% of household waste can be recycled, the actual volume of rubbish being placed in the black bin can be reduced significantly for most local households. The experience of families elsewhere and the Council’s own tests show that the average household which recycles all of their waste would still have space left in their bin by collection day.

Cllr Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “Whilst other authorities across the country are moving to or considering three-weekly bin collections we are committed to keep our weekly collection service for recyclables and providing cleaner wheeled bins or gull-proof sacks for the remaining rubbish collected every other week. We want families to have a first-class collection service and we continue to provide one of the most comprehensive recycling services in the country while dealing with reductions in funding from national government.

“Over the next year we want to work with families to see our recycling rates increase and so we don’t have to pay huge financial penalties. It costs up to £1,000 to dispose of each lorry load of rubbish, whilst every lorry load of recycled waste earns £100 – so reducing the amount being put out as non-recycled waste is essential.  By reducing the waste and increasing recycling we’ll be helping not only to save council taxpayers’ money, which can be used on other essential public services, but keeping our streets cleaner and meeting our promises to tackle the issue of scavenger birds and animals – as part of a co-ordinated approach by the Council.

“We understand that ‘one size does not fit all’, so we intend to be flexible and deal pragmatically to resolve concerns such as families which may have a higher-than-average amount of non-recyclable rubbish or houses of multiple occupation with limited storage. In some sensitive areas – wheeled bins may be inappropriate so we’ll look at other solutions. Over the next 12 months we’ll work with residents and communities to encourage an increase in recycling.”

If approved, there are plans to engage with residents to give them lots of advice and support between now and autumn 2017 – including recycling roadshows and a ‘bin doctor’ who will offer check-ups to aid recycling.Recycling leaflet (dragged) 1

What can you recycle?

Bath & North East Somerset Council delivers one of the most comprehensive kerbside recycling services in the UK which includes the following items:

  • All food waste (cooked & raw, including bones and pet food)
  • Plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays
  • Glass (including jars and bottles)
  • Paper and cardboard (including window envelopes)
  • Aluminium and steel cans
  • Aerosols (e.g. deodorant sprays and air fresheners)
  • Foil
  • Tetrapaks (e.g. juice cartons)
  • Textiles (fabric/ clothing)
  • Batteries
  • Small electrical and electronic items
  • Spectacles/mobile phones/used engine oil.

For more information on recycling, visit www.bathnes.gov.uk/recycle.

Independent Retailer Month marks launch point for indie focus by Bath BID

Independent Retailer Month marks launch point for indie focus by Bath BID

 

Bath Business Improvement District (BID) is using Independent Retailer Month (July) as a launch point for a focus on helping the city’s independents to promote themselves.

As Louise Prynne, Chief Executive of Bath BID explains, “Independent retailers are hugely important to Bath. Their variety and individuality is central to ensuring Bath remains an attractive, interesting and vibrant shopping, leisure and business destination. It’s also been proven that more money spent through independents stays in the area, so their importance to the city cannot be overstated.

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“Following liaison with independent retailers across the city, the Bath BID identified a clear need to help independents with a range of promotions and initiatives.

“Recognising the opportunity presented by Independent Retailer Month, we are working with the support of the Federation of Small Businesses, The Bath Chronicle, Total Guide to Bath and Bath Tourism Plus on initiatives to make it easier for independent businesses to work together and to give them a platform to promote themselves. 

“This includes the BID investing in the Bath Chronicle that independents can take advantage of at a special rate. We have also prepared a toolkit that includes downloadable marketing material on the BID website, while Angela MacAusland from the Federation of Small Businesses came up with the great idea that all indies should display red, white and blue balloons outside their premises to draw attention to themselves during Independent Retailer Month.”

Angela MacAusland added, “The FSB is fully behind this BID-led initiative and delighted that it is open to the small independents who are below the threshold for paying the BID levy. It shows a holistic understanding of the importance of all business sectors and sizes to the success of Bath’s retail and leisure community. We encourage all independents to get involved.” 

“This is all about inspiring collaborative thinking,” continued Louise Prynne. “We are engaging with independents through volunteer businesses representing key areas of the city, and underwriting initiatives to make it easy for them to promote themselves.

 “The response and enthusiasm so far shown by independents has been very positive. I hope Independent Retailer Month will be the start of a more strategic approach going forward.”

 

Traders say it with flowers.

Traders say it with flowers.

Seems local traders are providing their own flowers in Kingsmead Square following a pull-out by a cash-strapped B&NES Parks Department. It’s looking good. Just need some sunshine.

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Suspended floral displays in Kingsmead Square.

Elsewhere there is a new floral entrance way to Green Street from the Milsom Street end.

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The new floral entrance to Green Street.

A special mention for Northumberland Place – one of Bath’s famous ‘lanes’ – looking busy and beautiful thanks to its enterprising traders.

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Northumberland Place looking alive and energised – thanks to its enterprising traders.

Elsewhere – in Manver’s Street work has got underway on transforming the office block at number 20.

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What the office block looks like now.

‘This landmark building, offering accommodation from 7,717 – 45,136 sq ft is to be re-modelled and comprehensively refurbished to provide some of the very highest quality office space in Bath’ – according to it’s website http://www.20manversstreet.co.uk/#Introduction

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What the refurbished office block will look like.

Finally, can someone tell me exactly what work is being carried out on the old Empire Hotel which currently looks a bit like a Christo and Jeanne-Claude ‘Reichstag wrap’.

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The old Empire Hotel under wraps.

Stubbs and the Wild

Stubbs and the Wild

It’s no good – the temptation to use the expression ‘roaring success’ to describe the Holburne Museum’s new summer/autumn exhibition is too great a one to resist.

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The fact there’s a lion on the banners outside gives a clue to the pun but also indicates that there are more than a few surprises to what is on show inside.

The exhibition revolves around the works of George Stubbs – an 18th-century artist we tend to know and love for his life-like depictions of magnificent horses and their supporting cast of dogs and humans.

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As it turns out – that’s not the way Georgian art lovers saw him. He ‘entertained’ his gallery audiences with his depictions of wild animals – in paint and print.

The horses were just private commissions for rich landowners with thoroughbreds in their stables.

George was fascinated by animals – not just how they looked but how they were built – and he studied their anatomy tirelessly. His interest came at a time when many exotic new creatures were arriving in Britain from our expanding colonies overseas.

Polite society flocked to see these beasts from the wild. A genteel society with hearts aflutter as they faced a world where Nature was both savage and untamed.

The exhibition – which opens this weekend – includes some of the most charming and fascinating of the animal portraits, grand fantasies and exquisite prints and drawings.

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It’s also offering free audio guides to help guide you through the gallery exhibits and featuring responses to Stubb’s work by animal experts and artists.

Stubbs and the Wild is curated by Amina Wright – who is Senior Curator at the Holburne Museum.

Just before a private viewing of the exhibition,  I asked her why she had chosen Stubbs for the summer show.

The Holburne Museum is pleased to present Stubbs and the Wild, an exhibition of animal portraits, grand fantasies, and exquisite prints and drawings by renowned British wildlife painter George Stubbs (1724-1806), on show from 25 June to 2 October 2016.

Principal Sponsor
Lowell Libson Ltd

The exhibition is supported by The Friends of the Holburne and Bath Spa University.

Admission to the exhibition
£10 (£8.50 without donation | £9 (£7.50 without donation)