Party in the City Memories
Since the 1940s, we’ve been celebrating the joy of music, books and performance in Bath. Of course, at the centre of all of these festivals have been audiences. For that reason, we’re asking for your favourite festival memories! Here are two recollections from Dan Brown and Christopher Hansford, both reflecting on Party in the City, the annual Bath Festival opening celebration.
Birthday Party in the City, memories from Dan Brown
My late father Jimmy Brown was an oboist in the Bath Festival Orchestra playing with Yehudi Menuin for many years. I distinctly remember him saying he drove to Bath shortly after my birth (May 16th 1961) from London to Bath to attend the festival. At the time the Hole in the Wall restaurant was the place to be and George Perry-Smith was a family friend. After the long drive (before the M4 reached Bath) he would arrive late in the evening, dine and if my memory serves me correctly, sleep in the restaurant! Being a member of the orchestra during the festival offered greater perks, such as dinner at Eden Park in Batheaston, home of Bath MP and Festival Chairman Ted Leather, functions at Combe Hay Manor as guests of Barbara Robertson, taking the Jazz Express from Green Park to Wellow and possibly a royal audience with Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon.
My more recent memories start when the opening night used to be focussed on the park in from of the Royal Crescent. It seemed to get bigger and bigger each year and was always topped off with a wonderful firework display. As a parent myself by then, it also seemed to be a time when teenagers were really let off the leash, and the sight of drunken kids staggering out of the bushes was probably one of the reasons why the format needed to change.
One year I was able to watch the fireworks from the roof of the Royal Crescent and observe the crowds from above.
Party in the City for me has been a wonderful event, coinciding closely with and often on my birthday. A giant party laid on for me! We always tried for tickets for Jazz at the Cross Bath, if we were lucky and organised our session could be exclusively friends and family. The multi-venue taste of the artists from the week ahead catered for everyone, capped off with Clyve at Komedia. Perfect!
Pure Magic! memories from Christopher Hansford
I will never forget the pure magic of my first opening night of the Bath Festival nearly 40 years ago. I had recently joined the then Bath Evening Chronicle as a reporter and had just bought a basement flat in the Circus. Everyone in the Circus, Brock Street and Royal Crescent was asked to turn out their lights and put candles in their windows as darkness fell. The effect was breathtaking. As hundreds of people thronged the streets it was like nothing you would ever see in England. Perhaps in Venice or central Spain but not in a small provincial city.
Twinned with opening night festivities was the controversial contemporary art fair based at the Assembly Rooms but spilling out all over the city. It provided all sorts of installations over which Bath people could work themselves up into a rage. A mountain of old car tyres outside the Assembly Rooms was a good example. Oh and a nude torso on a plinth in the centre of the Circus. Sadly, when trying to drum up a bit of moral outrage for the Chronicle, I asked a rather grand old lady in my own house, who regularly had a Christmas card from Buckingham Palace on her mantelpiece, if she was offended, she said that on the contrary she rather enjoyed seeing the fellow when she drew her curtains in the morning.
When two huge blocks of granite were installed on the green a couple of years later I remember one genuinely outraged Chronicle reader writing in to say he would be prepared to accept it as art if the artist could carve one of the pieces into a chariot with four rearing horses. Whoever the artist was I don’t recall them meeting the challenge.
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