Let’s celebrate Bath’s beautiful arts and music venues
Electrifying live bands performing in a converted vintage cinema. The world’s most insightful thinkers debating in a Georgian ballroom under glittering chandeliers. Rising classical music stars playing in the historic Bath Abbey. These are just a few of the memorable experiences that are made possible by the wonderful arts and music venues in Bath.
Bath Festivals is proud to host its events in unique and historic buildings in a city that has been designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The city of Bath was awarded this accolade in 1987, meeting the criteria ‘of outstanding interest and therefore the need to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.’
In anticipation of the May festival, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the incredible spaces that we have the privilege of using during The Bath Festival.
22-23 Westgate St, Bath BA1 1EP
Komedia on Westgate Street, Bath, is an independent venue which hosts a variety of events, including comedy, music and film. The building began life as one of the earliest cinemas, opening as the Bath Electric Theatre in 1910, establishing itself as a popular venue for filmgoers, before expanding and re-opening as the Beau Nash in 1920.
In the early Noughties audiences left cinemas like Beau Nash in favour of out-of-town multiplexes and in 2005 it finally shut. The Grade II listed building, with its neo-Classical façade and ornate ceiling and plasterwork, remained boarded up until it was rescued by Komedia.
The renovated building was opened by Komedia in 2008 and since then the venue has built a reputation for all kinds of events, including launch nights, film screenings, emerging talent in music and comedy and heritage and tribute bands. It is now a community owned venue putting on around 400 events annually. The flexible space seats up to 780 in the auditorium, with seating in the balcony, and the arts café has a capacity of 100.
Accessibility: The building has ramped step-free access, accessible toilets and offers wheelchair spaces with a clear view of the stage in the auditorium.
The Assembly Rooms
Bennett Street, Bath, BA1 2QH
This is one of Bath’s finest Georgian buildings, giving visitors the chance to experience social gatherings in the very rooms where the cream of 18th century society used to dance, gossip and play cards. The Assembly Rooms were opened in 1771 and designed by architect John Wood the Younger, who was also responsible for finishing The Circus and designing the famous Royal Crescent.
There are four rooms; the great Ball Room with its high ceilings and priceless, glittering chandeliers, the Tea Room, the Octagon Room and the Card Room. This historic setting has been used over the centuries in books and film. It was mentioned in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion and scenes for The Duchess starring Kiera Knightly were shot here.
On 25 April 1942 during the Bath Blitz of the Second World War, the Assembly Rooms were bombed, destroying its roof, which had to be re-built. Fortunately, someone had the presence of mind to put the 18th century chandeliers – said to be the finest in the world – into safe storage at the outbreak of war.
Accessibility: The Assembly Rooms is wheelchair accessible, with accessible toilets. A hearing loop is available and registered assistance dogs are admitted. There is mobility parking nearby for blue badge holders in Bennett Street.
1a Forum Buildings, Bath BA1 1UG
This is Bath’s biggest venue and one of the largest in the south west region. The Forum opened in 1934 during the heyday of cinema, when the men and women who worked in Bath’s factories would flock to see films in the days before television. Sitting in rows in this grand Art Deco interior, with its elaborate gold leaf and lacquered wood details – and a time when smoking was the norm inside auditoriums – audiences would be transported by musicals, thrillers and comedies. The stars of these pre-war years included Clark Gable, Harold Lloyd, Robert Donat, the Marx Brothers and Joan Crawford. But as television grew in popularity cinema-going declined and in 1969 it closed. This area of the city was liable to flooding whenever the River Avon broke its banks and there are photographs from the 1960s of people being evacuated from The Forum by rowing boat as water filled the streets. After use as a bingo hall and dance school the mighty Forum fell into silent decay until it was acquired by Bath City Church, who set about restoring its faded glory. Now, as one of only a handful of similar buildings in the country, it’s an ideal venue for the largest crowds to gather under one roof.
Accessibility: The Forum is wheelchair accessible (the disabled entrance can be found at The Forum reception, to the right of the main doors), has accessible toilets (located in the Lower Foyer area) and baby changing facilities, offers a hearing loop and admits registered assistance dogs. There is mobility parking nearby for blue badge holders on the road opposite The Forum and in Avon Street and SouthGate car park.
High Street, Bath BA1 5AW
This is the equivalent of Bath’s town hall, the seat of local government. It was built in the late 18th century, with additions and embellishments in the Victorian era. Its imposing interior includes a wide wooden staircase which leads to the magnificent first floor Banqueting Room with its high ceiling and large windows overlooking the High Street. Also in the Guildhall is the Mayor’s Parlour, a wood panelled room where many civic treasures are kept, including the charter granted to the city by Queen Elizabeth I in 1590, and the Council Chamber where the decision makers meet.
Accessibility: the Guildhall is fully accessible and has disabled toilets on the ground and first floors. The Banqueting Room has a hearing loop and assistance dogs are permitted in the building.
St Swithin’s Church
Walcot, The Paragon, BA1 5LY
This is the church where Jane Austen’s parents were married and where her father George lies buried. There has been a church on this spot since the 10th century, the current box-shaped building having been built between 1777 and 1790 to replace a Saxon church which was severely damaged by storms in 1739. This is the only remaining 18th century parish church in the city and it is here that the rich and famous used to worship, leaving a fascinating collection of memorial plaques. Opposite the church is the hillside park, Hedgemead, once occupied by rows of terraced houses, 175 of which were destroyed by a great landslip in 1881. The brightly coloured east window, depicting Christ ascending, was installed in 1958 to replace a window blown out during the bombing of Bath in 1942. Most of the old wooden pews have been replaced with upholstered chairs.
Accessibility: St Swithin’s Church is wheelchair accessible, has accessible toilets and baby changing facilities and offers a hearing loop.
Bath is a city that doesn’t have a cathedral, but instead boasts an abbey which has its roots going back more than 1,000 years. King Edgar, the first king to rule all of England, was crowned on this spot in the year 973. The present Bath Abbey, the church dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, was largely built between 1499 and 1533 but under the Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott it underwent massive restoration and embellishment. Gilbert Scott is also known for designing the classic red telephone box, St Pancras Station in London and the power station building beside the Thames that’s now home to Tate Modern. Inside the abbey, affectionately known as the Lantern of the West because of its many windows, there are more than 1,000 memorials and plaques. Bath Abbey is currently undergoing huge structural work, prompted by the need to prop up the church’s sinking foundations. When the Footprint project is complete visitors will not only know that the church is secure, but will also be able to enjoy hospitality, with the addition of underground café and toilets. The vast vaulted ceiling and light-filled space make this a favourite for spectacular festival performances.
Accessibility: Much of the abbey is wheelchair accessible and assistance dogs are permitted.
The Masonic Hall (also known as the Old Theatre Royal)
Old Orchard Street, Bath BA1 1JU
Tucked away in a quiet thoroughfare, Orchard Street, is Bath’s original Theatre Royal. It was built as the city’s first permanent theatre for the fashionable crowd used to the theatres of London. The theatre opened in 1750 with a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II. Some of the great actors performed here, including Sarah Siddons and among its audiences were Daniel Defoe. By the end of the 18th century any show hoping for a successful run in London’s West End was tried and tested in Bath first. But by 1805 the theatre had been outshone by its new rival, The Theatre Royal in Saw Close and the old theatre was partially demolished. The building then became a Catholic Chapel before being taken on by the Freemasons. From 1865 it became a Masonic Lodge and the interior became what we see today, a very dramatic setting with a black and white chequered floor, imposing columns and, overlooking all proceedings here, the all-seeing painted eye.
Accessbility: The Masonic Hall is wheelchair accessible, offers a hearing loop, has baby changing facilities and admits registered assistance dogs. There is mobility parking for blue badge holders approximately 50 metres from the main entrance in New Orchard Street.
The Roman Baths and Pump Room
Stall Street, Bath BA1 1LZ
The Romans built their magnificent baths complex around the natural springs which every day pump 1.3million litres of naturally heated water out of the ground. It seems odd to think now when we explore this 2,000-year-old ancient monument that after the Romans left Britain all this fell into ruins. The Georgians built their own gracious Pump Room and baths on the site, but it wasn’t until 1871 when architect Charles Davis was carrying out some engineering work that he and his team uncovered the original Roman baths beneath.
The Pump Rooms – wheelchair accessible, accessible toilets, hearing loop, assistance dog friendly and baby changing facilities.
The Roman Baths – wheelchair accessible, accessible toilets, assistance dog friendly and baby changing facilities.
Please note, the ancient paving stones around the baths are uneven.
North Parade, Bath BA2 4EU
Affectionately known as Noah’s Ark by old Bathonians who remember the days when the River Avon used to flood this low-lying area, the Edwardian Pavilion building appeared to float on the flood waters. This is a versatile space which holds 800 people seated or standing in its vast interior and in its early days it was the headquarters of the Somerset County Skating Rink. Many musical acts have played here over the decades, including The Beatles, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Blur, Lily Allen, The Proclaimers and The Darkness.
Accessibility: The Pavilion is wheelchair accessible, has accessible toilets and baby changing facilities, offers a hearing loop and admits registered assistance dogs.More news