Sunday, 17 September 2017

Bath and the 2017 Great Bath Feast

Bath’s famous Jane Austen Festival may be over for this year, but never fear, something wicked(ly delicious) this way comes!

Every year for the past five years Bath has hosted its own city-wide food festival called the Great Bath Feast. For a fortnight each year Bath is filled with a plethora of special events to delight the taste buds:  

“The Great Bath Feast is giving locals and visitors the chance to taste new flavours, explore new skills and enjoy new culinary experiences. From independent restaurants, pubs and cafes to local food producers, Bath’s businesses will come together to create a festival of gastronomic delights.”

The whole programme of Feast events looks marvelous, but we’ve done our best to pick out a few of, what we feel, will be the big festival highlights.

The Great Bath Persian Feast
(September 23rd, 10am-2pm (repeated on September 30th and October 7th, 10am-2pm)

This is a combination of a demonstration, a workshop, and a lunch. Simi’s informal cookery courses offer examples of the celebrated cuisine and hospitality of Persia and Azerbaijan. They’re more like having dinner at a friend’s house than being at a formal class. (Vegetarian, vegan, dairy -free and gluten-free diets can all be catered for too!)

Flavours of Bath: Historical Tasting Tour
(September 23rd, 2:30pm (repeated on September 28th, 29th, 30th, and October 5th, 6th, 7th at 2:30pm)   
This was one of the big success events at last year’s Great Bath Feast, so it’s back again this year having been tweaked and made even better. In this tasting tour you’ll get the chance to sample the food and drinks which have put Bath on the historical food map, and will have some of the myths about the foods created here debunked (Sally Lunn and her buns are sure to play a role in this one!).

Fizz and Fish at The Scallop Shell
(October 1st, 12:30pm-4pm)
A one-sitting only event which sees the Guardian’s wine writer Fiona Beckett pairing a seafood feast with some of the very best sparkling wines and champagnes. Never again will you be stuck to know what wine to put with your shrimps, crab or lobster.  

Tea and Chocolate at Comins Tea
(October 1st, 3:30pm-5pm (repeated on October 4th, 6pm-7:30pm))
Tracy Chapman, Certified Chocolate Taster (what a job!), has teamed up with Comins Fine Tea Merchants to create one of our favourite events. Guests will be introduced and guided through five pairings of single origin tea and award-winning UK artisan chocolate. At the end each guest receives their own bag of tea and chocolate to take home with them. 

Around the World in 80 Bites
(October 6th, 5pm-9pm)
This will be a tempting array of internationally themed food stalls and dining experiences, all inside the
atmospheric shelter of Green Park Station. There’ll be lots to try, and great music to listen to – think street party atmosphere.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

One To Watch: Bleak House in Bath

The Jane Austen Festival and a Charles Dickens’ novel on stage makes for a highly literary week in Bath!

If you’ve seen lots of people wandering around the city this week wearing period costume, and
you’ve wondered what’s going on, then be rest assured that Bath is not in the beginning stages of a time warp back to the 1800s, but is hosting the fourteenth annual Jane Austen Festival.

Unsurprisingly, given that this is a special year for the author as it is the bicentenary year of her death and so the whole country has gone a bit Austen-obsessed, there are lots of people in the city taking part and attending some of the events that are taking place throughout the week. That having been said, this week also sees a great event taking place which celebrates the work of another famous author who had strong ties to Bath – Charles Dickens.

Dickens first came to Bath in 1835 when he was working as a newspaper reporter, covering election campaigns across the country for the Morning Chronicle. He stayed at the Saracen’s Head pub in Broad Street (which is still a pub which you can visit and drink in to this day) while he was working, but later on in his career he had made friends in Bath and often visited his friend Walter Savage Landor at his home at 35 St. James Square, and he took to staying at the York House Hotel on George Street (which is now a Travel lodge and bars).

While Dickens was staying in Bath he created the character of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop, and it’s said that the shop he based his fictional shop on is one which was just through the archway next to number 35 (the shop retains its large shopfront-style window but is now a private home). Dickens also famously satirized Bath’s social life in his 1836-1837 novel, The Pickwick Papers. Mr Pickwick was almost certainly based on Moses Pickwick, the then landlord of the White Hart Inn (now Costa Coffee on the corner of Stall Street and Westgate Street).

However, this week the Dickens work which will be in Bath is that of Bleak House – the story of multiple characters and sub-plots revolving around a long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jardyce; a case of several conflicting wills. An immersive stage adaptation of Dickens’ famous book is set for a brief four-show run at Bath Spa University Theatre, from September 14th to September 16th, with a matinee at 2:30pm on the Saturday in addition to the evening performance at 7:30pm.   

The evening begins with an immersive experience which recreates the dark world of the lower
orders of Victorian London, with the likes of pick pockets, drunks and con artists, and Victorian street food cooked fresh for the wandering audience. Then comes the full performance of the eleventh most-read book in the English language, with the themes of love, power, flawed legal systems and tough choices as relevant today as ever. When this show premiered in 2015 in Bournemouth it garnered standing ovations every night.

“Visual, physical and provocative”; we have high hopes for it!

If you want to know more details are at and tickets are £15.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Out and About in Jane Austen’s Bath

With the Jane Austen Festival just around the corner, we’ve been looking at some of the classic places to visit if you want to explore Jane Austen’s life in Bath.

Naturally, the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street is a good place to start to get an overview of the author’s life, but there are plenty of other places in Bath that are worth visiting if you want to get closer to Miss Austen.

One of these you might easily assume would be Bath Abbey; surely she went there on a regular basis? But while it’s an incredible building and well-worth a visit (we especially recommend going on one of the “Tower Tours” which take you up to see the bells, the clock, and the view over Bath), it’s not actually somewhere that there’s any evidence Jane ever went.

If you’d like to visit the place where Jane went to church then the place to go is St. Swithins Church, just off from the Paragon. This is where Jane’s father had his first job as a clergyman, and so where the Austen family went to worship when they lived in and visited Bath (the Abbey was considered to be far too crowded!) You can still visit the grave of Jane’s father at St. Swithins (Jane is in Winchester Cathedral).

Next, if you’re visiting St. Swithins, then just around the corner are the famous Assembly Rooms, which Jane writes about in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. The layout is largely unchanged from the layout of the building as Jane knew it - with the octagonal card room, the ball room and the tea room all still in residence. The decoration is also close to that which Jane would have known and the chandeliers are the same which would have been hanging up in Jane’s day. Admittedly they have since been adapted for electric light, but the structure with its crystals are still the originals.

On the other hand, if you’re more keen to visit the houses which Jane stayed in then you’ll have a good walk; they’re a bit spread out!

First she stayed at number 1 the Paragon where her rich relatives the Leigh-Perrots lived. Next she returned two years later to stay with her brother, Edward, when he was staying at number 13 Queen Square - it’s now private offices.

However, the first house which she lived in was 4 Sydney Place, opposite the Holburne Museum (which was Sydney Hotel in Jane’s time, and the ideal place to go for tea, reading the papers and for the occasional concert). After that she also lived at Trim Street, Green Park Buildings, and number 25 Gay Street.

You might like to visit the exteriors of one or two of the aforementioned homes, but if you do visit all of these places, apart from getting a good leg-stretch, you’ll also likely work up a bit of an appetite. This is perfect; as you’re sure to spot more than a couple of restaurants on your walk that you’ll want to return to!