Live Music

Bath Festival and Fringe Party In The City 2011

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Posted on 30th May 2011

Party In The City

Bath International Music Festival

Bath Fringe

Friday, May 27, 2011


The Bath Music Festival begins with the Party In The City, a new tradition, supplanting the old of a Party in Royal Victoria Park. There are still many who bemoan the change but, to me, the park party meant sloshing around in (and I do mean in, not on) the muddy lawn, it and us soaked with the inevitable rain, surrounded by drunken youth while inappropriate music (Graham Fitkin? Keith Tippett? Bath Sinfonia?) played from a distant stage to uncaring ears. Then came the fireworks, stunningly exploding over the graceful Royal Crescent. That was the good part.

The first Party in the City, 5 years ago, was designed as though for balmy Portofino, not blustery Bath, and it was more than sabotaged by weather far worse than even the normal inclemence. After that, the outdoor events were largely moved indoors.

This certainly worked better, but not best. The feeling of a party is difficult to maintain when everyone is subdivided into smaller interior groups. You need people thronging the streets, even if on the way to these indoor events. You need food and drink stalls — maybe the Christmas Market, which works so well in winter weather, could be a model.  As it is, the Party In The City functions more like an Arts Crawl, a pub crawl for the cerebrum.

Which brings us to this year. The budget cuts affecting the Bath Festival (and everything else) are well known and becoming more apparent day by day in all areas of life. They seem to have affected this Party as well, both directly and generally. Wandering from site to site, one (well, this one) was struck by the fewer sites, but even more by the paucity of offerings. Gone seemed to be the day when interesting groups like Acoustic Ladyland (in their prime) would be playing, when notable local artist like, say, Joan Davis, could be seen with a bunch of great London players. This year seemed largely a showcase for student bands and unsigned hopefuls. And there were far fewer partiers in the street. Perhaps because it wasn't a party.

But, wait! There was a party going on, and it was in one place: the Spiegeltent. The Fringe, despite having been banished from Victoria Park years ago to regroup with the Spiegeltent on the Rec grounds (and then to shunted off to the far end of the grounds) knows how to put on a party. There were throngs of happy people inside and out of the tent and when The Rhythmites (the perfect music for a party) played, the place was throbbing. There was nothing else like it; it was so much fun I almost missed the fireworks — which still looked better over the Royal Crescent with everyone together oohing and aahing. But there were enough people in front of the Spiegeltent to make for that togetherness.

Perhaps the Festival should just turn this so-called party, along with a few budgetary crumbs, over to the pros, The Bath Fringe.

Charley Dunlap

a small postscript:  If anyone ever thought the music was loud in the Spiegeltent (and some have), the rock bands in the Parade Gardens could be heard all over town, not just on the west side of Pulteney Street.


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