Why is there such an artist/audience chasm between Bath and Bristol?

Alison Farina, 30 June 2012

Participants: Alison Farina, Annette Chown, Andy Burden, Phil Gibby, Joe Spurgeon, Anna Farthing, Tom Sherman, Hannah Drake, Bryn Holding, Tom Bailey, Sarah Kingswell, Luke Emmett, Ali Campbel, Justin Palmer, Ali Robertson.


Bristol theatre practitioners don't make a habit of coming to Bath to see work happening there - Why?

Theatre Bristol/CEW - Dance and Theatre Wiltshire created a Bath-Shaped hole in the theatre community/ecology

Transferring shows from Bath to Bristol is an enormous takes despite the proximity to each other.

Competition for audience - is there one?

Is Bath Bristol's geeky little brother?


There is the very clear perception of Bath being a place of Upper-Middle-class, wealthy culture-vultures and tourists, so why/how will Bristol-based arty-gritty-new-work translate in that environment? We discussed that arts culture in Bath does not revolve around the Theatre Royal complex, and that there are lots of companies creating new and exciting work that goes on under the radar of both Bristol practitioners and the Arts Council.

We talked about the audience crossover in Bristol and Bath as an excuse for the non transfer of work and decided there wasn't one. Audiences in Bath are clear-cut and the audience for new work could be widened by a relationship between Bristol and Bath. Comment:

“Bristol and Bath certainly have their own audiences. They can co-exist and work together”

We talked about how to encourage Bristol companies to come to Bath and this included a skills exchange between Bath and Bristol companies/artists (not just actors). I.E. using local knowledge to support audience development and marketing. Recommendations, a ‘buddy’ system for Bristol companies and Bath companies? Comment:

“The more an event is on, the more audience it generates”

Bristol artists have more choice of space to perform in. We discussed Chapel Arts being mostly music, The Mission being mostly Community groups and the education spaces being mostly used for students. The Theatre Royal complex is not an option for emerging companies, leaving only The Rondo as a viable option.

We talked about the previous relationship between the Tobacco Factory and the Ustinov and how that has been dissolved and discussed the provision for opening up relationship/talks between Ali Robertson and Ian McGlynn from the Rondo. Comment:
“I (Ali Roberston) really should talk to the Rondo more.”

We talked about the Arts Council funding picture for Bath and Bristol and Phil Gibby stated for every £1 spent in Bath there are £4 spent in Bristol (he drew a very nice picture i will try to attach). The glib comment of funding for Bath in the past being, ‘it will happen anyway, so why fund?“. Phil also said there are no theatre companies regularly funded in Bath. We talked about a temperature gaugeing of work going on in Bath and how to create an awareness of it for the Arts Council and larger venues in Bristol to take notice of.

We talked about the Ferment program and the Bristol Old Vic and how they are funded, but do not include any companies from Bath. Is Bath the poor relation/Geeky little brother that no one wants to acknowledge We talked about creating a dialogue between this program and the companies who create new writing work and how difficult (non-existent) this has been. We discussed how perhaps since this program is so oversubscribed should there not be another satellite program or new program altogether that will create the same opportunities to groups not being represented. We talked about Ferment getting funding, yet expecting artists to work for free/extremely low pay and how that affects the Amerteurisation of work. We noticed no one from Ferment/Bristol Old Vic was here today and discussed cliques, which ties into another session later in the day.

Was asked by Phil Gibby ”what three things would you do to solve this problem if

money/time/resources was no object“

#1 Create a Theatre Bristol/CEW/Dance and Theatre hub that included Bath properly. Not a Post-code-based system and one that featured grants/funding options available for Bath companies (since there isn’t one now)

#2 Create a Mini-Tour-Circuit for emerging companies to take their work to at theatres/venues that feature new work/new writing but who's space is hard to get into without being a ‘clique’ member

#3 Have an Arts Council Southwest Bath Meet and Greet session where companies can showcase their work, talk about what they do and discuss their plans to create an actual picture of the area based on what's there as opposed to arts council application information (most companies in Bath are not applying for funding or have been successful in their applications. Is this because their apps are badly put together or are they just bad?)

# A 'Twinned Artist/Company” program for smaller, newer companies to work with more established companies to create work, share information, reciprocally promote and to act as ambassadors for their work to venues.


Arts Council Funding, new writing, The Rondo, Touring, Emerging Artists, Bath, Tobacco Factory, Venues, Bristol, Disproportionate funding/support, Audience Development, new work, SouthWest, venues, Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, theatre, Ferment