A Q&A with BathIRON about this year’s FireFOLK

The new bandstand in Parade Gardens is up! We had a chat with the people behind the project: BathIRON who will be running sessions at Parade Gardens for Family Arts Day which will be followed by an evening of excellent live music for FireFOLK on Sunday 26 May.

Q The bandstand in Parade Gardens holds a special place in Bathonians’ hearts as so many of us recall hearing bands play there as small children. How did Ironart of Bath get involved with its restoration and how long has it taken?

From the outset the project was supported by the National Heritage Ironwork Group, catchy huh?! Let’s call them the NHIG…. Andy Thearle who also runs Ironart of Bath in Larkhall is the secretary of the NHIG which is a national charity whose aim is to raise awareness of heritage ironwork, which is everywhere if you look, if you re-tune your eyes to metalwork, especially in Bath. Here is a BathIRONwork walk we created for BathIRON Festival of Ironwork, that leads people all around Bath to see ironwork dotted about the city.


Andy, the brains behind the BathIRON project wanted to create a beautiful, bespoke piece of hand forged ironwork to inspire people and show them how these skills can be used to create wonderful things on buildings, in parks as furniture, inside and outside. The existing bandstand balustrade was as bit sad and far from inspiring so Andy decided to create a new one as the focus and heart of the BathIRON project. As it was a bandstand, music was an obvious theme so Andy set up a competition in partnership with Bath Spa Unversity to invite composers to create a piece of music to be hand forged in iron and form the basis of a new balustrade. Jake Garrett a student at Bath Spa Uni was the winner with his piece The Hammer and Anvil.  Over a period of about a year, blacksmiths from all over the UK gathered in forges up and down the country to forge the notes, treble clefs, rests that were needed to reproduce The Hammer and Anvil in iron.

Andy also sent a call out to Master blacksmiths for designs for eight music themed panels to sit at the centre of each of the five sides of the bandstand. Designs came flooding in and eight were selected. These designs were to be created by the designing Master and a selected team over two days at the BathIRON Festival of Ironwork held in Parade Gardens in June 2018. BathIRON was a spectacular event with an opportunity to see first-hand the heritage skills of blacksmithing at their most impressive. Gold medal winning blacksmiths worked alongside students who learned from the sharing of skills and expertise. All eight teams had to complete their designs in just two days, which created a sense of excitement and challenge. It has taken many thousands of hours for all the pieces of the balustrade to be completed and pieced together, but it is a truly beautiful legacy for Bath, its inhabitants and visitors and will be enjoyed for many, many years to come.


Q Tells us how local schoolchildren came to work with the forging process?

During BathIRON Festival of Ironwork we also ran have-a-go sessions for schoolchildren, adults and young people. This was a brilliant opportunity for people to experience forging hot metal under the tutelage of skilled blacksmiths. The team contacted the Design and Technology departments in Bath schools and invited them to come and bring students to see what it was like and maybe get inspired. Students from the schools forged small treble clefs which have since been attached to a metal sphere which has had a beautiful forged finial attached to the top. Participating schools were Widcombe Juniors, Bathwick St Mary’s, Oldfield Juniors, Bathampton Primary, Beechen Cliff, Ralph Allen and The Royal High. The sphere, with 120 treble clefs and finial has been gilded and has been hoisted and positioned on top of the bandstand to take its position in the Bath skyline. It is looking beautiful. It’s such a wonderful legacy and all who had a hand in forging their part of it – 120 treble clefs in all, each made by two students – so that’s 240 young people who can proudly say they had a part in making it.


Q Now that the bandstand is complete how are you planning to celebrate?

As the blacksmiths breathe a sigh of relief and the balustrade is finally finished, we are all looking forward to our Big Reveal Party in Parade Gardens, Bath on Sunday 26 May, which we’d love people to attend.  This celebration is called FireFOLK in recognition of all those hours spent forging the parts in the traditional way ‘in the fire’ and also because we have a fresh line-up of talented local folk bands to help us celebrate. We’ve handpicked some of the best local folk bands from Bath, Frome, the Mendips and Bristol to entertain us all.


Q If I buy tickets for FireFOLK what can I expect to see, hear and do? Is it a child-friendly event?

Earlier in the day on Sunday 26 May The Bath Festival is hosting a Family Arts Day in Parade Gardens. We have joined in with this and are bringing some heritage skills for kids to try their hands at, including:

  • Green woodworking with Swainswick Explorers
  • Stone carving with Andrew Ziminski
  • Wood carving with Charlie Oldham
  • Blacksmithing with Lottie Shaw and the Ironart of Bath team.

Bring your kids along to be inspired by all these Have-A-Go opportunities and then what could be better but to stay in the park for a drink, some delicious Indian street food from Bath’s brilliant Chai Walla and some fantastic folk music. There will be live forging to watch and finally an auction of the music themed items forged during the evening and on our mobile forge, The Nowhere Forge, during BathIRON – with something for everyone, bring the whole family.


Q Who are the bands who will be entertaining the crowds and will there be dancing?

The FireFOLK line up will feature Sinnober, The Drystones, Nathanial Mann, The Striking Clock and The Railway Sleepers, click on each name to sample their tunes. With everything from atmospheric folk-swing harmonies, foot-stomping jazz funk to roof-raising, barn-storming gypsy punk – we promise it will be an absolute blast for all ages. And yes there will be dancing!


Q What happens if it rains? 

If it rains we have marquees to take cover in, get cosy and forges to keep us warm, however the weather forecast is good so we have our fingers crossed for a balmy May Bank Holiday evening.


Q How much tickets are and where can you buy them?

Tickets are available through the Bath Box Office https://bathboxoffice.org.uk/whatson/k9-firefolk-2019/

£11 adult
£7.70 under 16 or with a valid student card
£30 for a family ticket (2 adult + 2 children)


Q Would you like to be part of the legacy?

Hundreds of people have got involved by sponsoring one of the notes or treble clefs on the balustrade. To sponsor one of our last few remaining notes on the balustrade and dedicate it to someone special, a music lover or in memory of someone go to our balustrade appeal at https://localgiving.org/appeal/bathiron/. For more information about the BathIRON balustrade project and the Bath-based charity The National Heritage Ironwork Group who made this all happen go to https://nhig.org.uk/firefolk-2019/


Check out the FireFOLK event here 

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