Most of the articles/stories on this site I’ve written for fun (unless they’re segments of published stories), but this one appears on a travel site. This version’s better. Hidden within these words you’ll find my previous life as a student of Bath Spa University. Bits of it are very studenty, such as the preoccupation with pubs.
If lively entertainment and surreal festivals are your thing, Bath is the answer when you want something a little different. From punk to street parades, it has it all.
Forget the pretty Georgian buildings (although they are lovely) and drunken students singing rugby songs; if you’re a tourist in Bath there is a lot more to see. If you’re around in the summer both tourists and locals alike will recommend the Bath Fringe Festival. Beginning on the 25th May and ending on the 10th of June, it’s a two-week journey into the surreal with performances from underground theatre groups in various venues around town. Many are often set in the Chapel Arts Centre, Bath’s ‘alternative arts venue,’ alongside late night pubs and parties. Let me tell you, it was an experience hearing a Dalek recite a DaDaist poem at 1 in the morning.
However it is the parades the festival is best known for. Only on the street party Walcot Nation Day (Walcot Street of course) can you be confronted with the likes of an 8-foot furry spider; it may be a man on stilts in costume but it’s still impressive. In the brilliant sunshine the chaos of the day becomes more and more pronounced, “I ended up on the back of a stranger’s bike handing out fliers for an art exhibition whilst being followed by circus performers swallowing fire,” recalls local Susie Morris, 27, fondly.
Crazy festivities aside, for those a little more local to Bath there is still a lot to keep a person entertained when the slow-walking tourists have gone. Aside from watching the ever-present street performers in the Square by the beautiful cathedral, or strolling around market stalls of alternative/hippie clothes and jewellery, you could sample the local flavour on a pub crawl. Start with vegetarian pub The Porter Cellar Bar, which is good fun with a variety of music (it’s best if you like it very loud), and full of pierced eye-candy both male and female. Through the gradually ascending hip hop or other ‘cool’ music you’re bound to meet all the young things of the area, and downstairs you’ll occasionally find bands, acoustic performers or comedy.
Next, off to Mandolin’s, the gay pub, which is always very full at the weekend; next there’s the Bell, favoured place of hippies and Rastafarians, and finish at the Porter Butt. This last place is famous for “loud and vicious” techno and punk nights, and is proud of its lack of shine. Andy Tanner, the landlord, lovingly describes it as having “a 1970s floor, nicotine walls and a flock of parrots to collect the dust, and the best pool table in Bath.” Something to bear in mind is the massive variety of ales on offer.
Upon waking the next day with a very sensitive head and a need for something more soothing, you can have a good breakfast at one of the many art cafes.
Upstairs in these venues are often poetry nights or art exhibitions, and there are a number of open mic nights (evenings that encourage anybody to grab the mike and perform) held monthly in assorted sites. Anyone can have a go as long as they’re brave enough, and a bar is always available.
If hair of the dog is the only way, head for the aforementioned Bell on Walcot Street. Settle down with a bottle of Weston’s cider amongst the canal dwellers, grizzled old hippies and dreadlocked residents to a soundtrack of folk or reggae, and later on liven up to a ska band at weekends. As happy hour reaches ever nearer, you have a couple of options open to you. You can either head to On the Video Front DVD rental and savour the joys of Hammer horrors, video nasties, worldwide indie cinema, the entire two series of Twin Peaks and many, many more; or you can head back down to the Porter and begin the journey all over again.