Musical May – Bath International Music Festival

Established in 1948, Bath International Music Festival is now in its 67th year and stronger than ever. This year it runs from Friday 15th May to Tuesday 26th May.

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The popular festival, sees the city come alive with music from nearly 2000 performers over its 12 day run. From classical, jazz, folk and world music, musicians and orchestras congregate on Bath from all around the world.

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The Festival kicks off with the well loved Party in the City with an opening procession and free music throughout the evening over 43 venues, plus out and about on the streets of Bath. It’s not to be missed. Enjoy street performers, gospel choirs, and even an 8 metre long Disco dancing Turtle! You can even sample some unusual drinks while the music plays, as Ora Et Labora are inviting you to discover the wonderful honey drink of Mead with their specially created Mead cocktails during Party in the City.

Once again the Party is joined by the fantastic Museums at Night celebrations, when many of the city’s popular Museums are open after hours for exploration and special exhibitions and talks.

Sally Lunns Restaurant Oldest House in Bath at Night in Bath Somerset England

The fun doesn’t just stop after Friday. You don’t have to have tickets to events to enjoy Bath International Music Festival as there will be free music on the Bandstand in the Parade Gardens the weekend of 16th and 17th May. Plus, a free family Music Day on Sunday 24th May.

We can’t wait to see the city buzzing and alive with all that music!

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To ensure you have your accommodation sorted during the Bath Music Festival, please call us on 01225 859090. The best deals are obtained direct with the hotel, so please call us, book directly via our website, or email us at hotel@bailbrooklodge.co.uk

Focus on Bath: Amy Laws – Fashion Designer

With the fantastically glamorous festival, Bath in Fashion 2015, starting this coming Saturday, March 21st, for a whole week, we thought we’d take a closer look at one of the many Bath based designers within the city.

Bath in Fashion 2015

Bath’s history of being a Spa town, and THE place to go and be seen during the “season”, meant the city developed a reputation over the centuries as being a city of Fashion and Fashionistas. Today, Bath still has a hub of creative individuals who all produce wonderful things for the fashion lovers of the city who want something not just of quality but individualistic.

The city is also host to a number of Fashion design courses. One can study at both Bath Spa University and Bath College for a Fashion Design degree or B.A. in Fashion and Textiles. Many of these students will then move on to the bigger cities such as Bristol, London and Manchester to explore their potential further, and to gain invaluable placements in nationally renowned design and fashion agencies. However, in Bath itself you can also find designers beavering away creating their own collections.

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You can pick up items made by local Bath based fashion designers within the city itself or online. For luxurious leather handbags with a difference buy from Liz Cox (17 Margarets Buildings) or Peony & Moore (concession within Sisi & May, Bartlett Street). Beautiful hand-printed 100% silk scarves by Eleanor J Shore can be obtained through her online shop. While if you want to add some fun jewellery and accessories to an outfit for either men or women, pop into Charlie Boots on Broad Street.

EleanorJShorescarves

If you look up dressmakers in Bath you will come across many skilled seamstresses who choose to go into the very lucrative market of occasion and wedding wear. However, what about day to day clothing? This is a side-line somewhat overlooked; however not by one Bath based designer and dressmaker, Amy Laws, who runs There’s Only One Amy Laws.

Amy, well deservedly blowing her own trumpet!

Amy, well deservedly blowing her own trumpet!

Situated behind The Circus in an un-assuming flat on Rivers’ Street, lies the workshop and home of Amy and her partner Chris. Amy had moved to Bath in 2012, having originally grown up in Stoke-on-Trent and studying a BSc in Product Design Engineering at Brunel University. Not quite the path to becoming a dressmaker you may think; however Amy had been taught to sew from a very early age by her grandmother.

The days of living on a small student budget, but the desire to wear a new dress when going out with friends, forced Amy to put her skills to use, and she began to rustle up new outfits for herself. It was a hobby that she didn’t think much about expanding until friends and strangers began to comment on her outfits. She tried Brick Lane market in London, only producing one size of her dresses, and was surprised when she actually sold items, and people were interested in more. Inspired by this, Amy decided to continue selling her designs on e-bay, and while working took an evening B.T.E.C in Pattern Cutting.

By the time she had moved to Bath, by way of Edinburgh and a screen printing course there, Amy had made up her mind to set up her business; but she only became full-time since April last year. She produces not just women’s dresses, skirts and blouses; but children’s skirts, dresses and tops.

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The first thing you are struck by is the quality of her clothes and the materials used. Amy said it took her a long time to source exactly what she wanted, and to her credit she has also kept to using British based companies. Her fabric, mainly cottons and stretch cotton, she orders from a textile company in Manchester, and the water based inks she uses come from Handprinted, a small business based in Sussex. The inks are environmentally friendly, and she thoroughly tests each new dress and design herself to ensure that it can withstand continuous washing at 30C without fading or loss of the print.

The second thing you are struck by is the unusual name for her business – There’s Only One Amy Laws. She’s even had other Amy Laws contacting her to tell her she’s not alone! Amy says that the name though has always been there, even before she was sewing or considered taking it up as a business. A chant at her school it seems has been the inspiration for a whole brand.

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Since starting her business back in 2012 Amy guesses she’s had around 10-15 designs. She’s created many more, but as she confesses, some have been hit and miss, and those have never seen the light of day on a dress or shirt. Some of these ideas may be resurrected at another time and reworked into a design that will eventually be used in her work.

Her work has ended up in America, New Zealand and around Europe and she says her most popular print has been her Flamingos. There’s an easy on the eye simplicity to Amy’s fun and bold designs that reflect familiar images and childhood memories – from ice cream cones to umbrellas, from daffodils to bees, and balloons.

Her winter collection saw squirrels and robins nestling in the folds of fabric and proved very popular. One lady even bought every female member of her family an item of Amy’s Robin collection and posted her a picture of them all wearing her designs on Christmas Day!

Child's Robin Print Dress

When asked what inspires her collection and designs, Amy said it’s really what interests her, what catches her eye in magazines and when walking around the city; plus she loves looking back at the designs of the 1950’s. Since her clothes have that straightforward classic 1950’s shape, she likes to keep the style and design simple too.

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We’re hoping she may come up with a Bath design too. We have dropped a few hints, so you never know. Amy agreed with us that a design of the Circus around the bottom of a skirt or dress would look exceptional, so we’re keeping fingers crossed it becomes a reality!

All of Amy’s work is currently produced in her flat. We asked to see what goes into making one of her designs, so here’s a run-down of how Amy makes her wonderful clothes.

1) She drafts and grades her own patterns by hand, and each new design and item has to be hand drafted in the range of sizes she produces as well (Sizes 8 to 16 in womens wear).

Creating the Robin Design

2) Amy also makes her own screens using lengths of wood and plain mesh. Each new design requires a new screen. Plus if there are different colours or elements to a design then a screen has to be made for each part.

Creating the Screen Frames

3) She draws her design by hand then downloads it onto Illustrator on her laptop so she can create a smoother image which she then prints onto acetone. In the meantime her mesh screen has been painted with a light sensitive emulsion and left in the dark for 8 hours (this she does in her bathroom. Pity anyone getting up in the night for the loo as you have to scrabble in the dark. Strictly no lights allowed!).
4) Once the screen is dry and the design is ready, the acetone is placed on the screen, and Amy uses a 500w lamp to expose the image to the mesh for 30 minutes. The emulsion hardens around the image, but any of the mesh that’s under the design, will still have soft emulsion that can then be washed off.

Setting the Emulsion
5) Amy then selects the fabric and colour of fabric she’s going to use and begins to cut out the panels
6) She will then print her design on the fabric before she sews the item together. To do this, she gets her prepared screen and pours ink onto the mesh, and uses a sponge to push the ink through.

Selection of Screens
7) Once the ink has dried after a few hours she will then heat set the design using an iron. This she says is helped by lots of TV and Radio 1; plus her boyfriend is put to good use with the iron when there are lots of orders to do.
8) If it’s a new design, then the item will be washed and tested to ensure the print quality is fine.
9) Eventually we come to the sewing part! Once all the pieces of the item are assembled, then there are the last few things to do. By law Amy has to ensure that every item is marked with labels telling you how to wash the item (30oC), where it’s been made (In England) and what fabric it is (100% cotton). She also adds a size label and her own label.

Sewing
10) Then viola, she has the finished item! Amy either hangs it up ready for taking to sell at markets; or when postal orders come in, she carefully packages the piece up with labels, tissue paper and a sticker showing the print of the item on the front of the wrapped package.

Phew, then it’s time for a cup of tea! These dresses really are a labour of love.

AmyLawsIceCreamDress

It’s the attention to detail and the extra touches that really makes one of Amy’s dresses such a beautiful masterpiece. It’s simple and practical yet individual at the same time. In the winter time the dresses are lined and cap sleeves are added; though Amy said that she is happy anytime, when people order, if they want her to lengthen the dress, add pockets or sleeves, for a small extra cost.

It’s such a surprise that everything is produced in her flat, and we have to say she has a wonderfully supportive and tolerant boyfriend – who’s also handy with an iron and getting to the loo and back in the dark it seems!

Amy is currently looking for local studio space, but in the meantime, to get herself out the flat, she will soon be found for a few days a week in The Makery in the centre of the city, where she can sit and sew her dresses together.

Apart from selling on her website and Folksy, Amy can also be found with a stall every month at Green Park Station’s Artisan Market, every second Sunday of the month; as well as other local markets such as in Frome and over in Bristol.

Amy hopes for the future that eventually she will have her own studio and take more people on so that she can expand her ideas and designs, but she doesn’t want to stray from what is her key ethos for her business – the uniqueness of getting a handmade and hand printed item of clothing.

Hear hear to a British, and more specifically a Bath based fashion business! There is indeed only one Amy Laws!

Amy's Market Stall

Amy’s clothing ranges start from just £25.00.

You can purchase her collections online or at local markets.

Amy can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter

Love is all around…in Bath.

There are plenty of reasons to believe Bath is the city of Love – not only is the famous Pultney Bridge built by Robert Adam in 1774 based upon the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte di Rialto in those most romantic of cities Florence and Venice respectively; but Bath was chosen as the setting for most of the action in both romantic novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. John Betjeman even wrote a love poem about a couple lost in each others company entitled “In a Bath Teashop”. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the multi-betrothed “Wife of Bath” in his Canterbury Tales (14th Century), whose tale to the pilgrims about what women desire is a much studied text even in the 21st Century. Plus in the 18th Century the developing relationship and eventual elopement between the famous playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Bath born resident, singer and actress, the beautiful Elizabeth Linley captivated society at the time, even leading to a duel just outside the city to defend Elizabeth’s honour! This love story also inspired a ballet called “The Great Elopement” and an arrangement entitled “Love in Bath” which was written by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1945 compiled from a suite of music by the famous composer George Frederick Handel.

Sheridan and Linley

Today, couples can stroll hand in hand in the very steps of Richard and Elizabeth, Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey) or Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliott (Persuasion). There are plenty of wonderful places to discover together and museums, art galleries, markets and gardens to visit in the city; but we want to highlight a few special events and suggest romantic ideas for this year’s Valentine’s Weekend.

Brief Encounter

For the true romantics, on Saturday 14th February, The Forum, will be putting on one of the most romantic movies of all time – Brief Encounter. The showing of this 1945 classic film will be even more special as there will be a performance by the Bath Philharmonic Orchestra beforehand of some of the music that inspired the film’s soundtrack, including that of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with international soloist Alexandra Darieuscu. There will also be roses and champagne available to purchase in the foyer if you wish to treat your loved one even more.

If you fancy something a bit more up to date in the cinema then on Friday 13th February sees the general release of the hotly anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey, which can be seen in both the Bath Odeon and Little Theatre. Back seats will be filling up fast we’re sure! If some S&M isn’t really your scene then another romantic film released soon is The Last Five Years. This is an adaption of a 2002 off Broadway musical that chronicles the love affair and marriage of a couple over five years told almost entirely through song.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Eve may have been tempted by an apple in the Garden of Eden, and you can too in Bath this Valentine’s weekend at the 9th Bath Cider Festival, taking place at The Pavilion. Opening on Friday 13th until Saturday 14th February, you can enjoy over 100 ciders and perries along with a hog roast and cheese platters. The Wurzel’s tribute band, The Mangledwurzels will be playing at all sessions as well, to add some Scrumpy and Western flavour to the event.

There are plenty of other musical events over the Valentine’s weekend that everyone (not just couples) can enjoy. Komedia will be running its regular Saturday Comedy Night followed by the fantastic Motocity where you can dance the night away to some soul and funk classics. On Friday night at Komedia there’s also a DJ set entitled “Valentine’s Payback Special”; while over at The Chapel Arts Centre you can enjoy a night of 60’s and 70’s classics by The Mods Band. The Chapel Arts Centre will also have the Zen Hussies playing on Valentine’s evening, bringing you a night of swing, jive, boogie and surf from this fantastic six piece band.

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If the theatre is more your thing, then at TheTheatre Royal, you can enjoy Tom Stoppard’s Olivier award winning comedy about science, sex and landscape gardening, Arcadia. Over at the Ustinov Studio you can take your loved one to see Stella, about Jessica Bell and Caroline Herschel and their two loves – men and astronomy. A rather apt play as Caroline lived and worked with her astronomer brother William (who discovered the planet Uranus) in the 18th Century at 19, New King Street, Bath, where there is now the Herschel Museum. The Rondo Theatre will have on Saturday 14th February the celebrated chanteuse Fiona-Jane Watson who will be recreating the changing times for women in the 20th Century in a one woman show, Wartime Women – the Khaki Cabaret.

Of course, we mustn’t forget food. After all, it is said that the way to a person’s heart is often through their stomach! There will be many menus about to tempt you, but we’d like to suggest taking a look at our sister hotel’s offer. At The Royal Hotel they are organising their candlelit romantic dinner once again. Arrive at their Parisian style Brasserie Brunel to be seated and surrounded by warm wood, candlelight and crystal chandeliers. A complimentary glass of pink bubbly will be offered to you as you contemplate the specially created Valentine’s menu. You will then be served six courses of sumptuous delights to dazzle and delight the sense. This romantic menu is only £28.50 per person. If you’re thinking of making it even more special with a proposal, simply talk to their staff on booking and they will see what they can do to make the night even more memorable for you both.

Valentines Candlelight Dinner 2015 Royal Hotel

Other romantic things to do over the Valentine’s weekend that we can suggest include –
• A Hot Air Balloon ride over the city
• A pampering time at the Thermae Spa
• A walk around National Trust owned Prior Park – a popular place to drop to one knee and propose!
• High Tea at The Pump Rooms
• A stay in one of our Four Poster rooms at Bailbrook Lodge where you can snuggle up in front of our real fire, or enjoy watching a romantic DVD from your comfortable bed; plus you will enjoy complimentary toiletries, robe and slippers, and our award winning champagne breakfast in the morning. If you’re looking to make it extra special you can arrange with us for flowers, chocolates and champagne on arrival.

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If you’re be looking for presents for your loved one then you’re spoilt for choice with so many shops in Bath – perhaps consider a box of handmade chocolates from Charlotte Brunswick, they have a Captured Heart Cube for £8.50 or their Heart Boxes start from £14.95. Nearby San Francisco Fudge Factory can tempt with cookies and cream, vanilla and caramel or raspberry and white chocolate Pavlova fudge pieces that you can buy by the piece or box. Say it with flowers, and you can’t go much wrong with the beautiful bunches from Flowers of Bath. They offer a stunning selection, plus bespoke orders are taken too. During the Victorian period the meaning of flowers was incredibly popular and you can’t go wrong with a red rose which is said to represent “passionate love”. If you want to be someone’s secret Valentine then yellow chrysanthemums are for you, Yellow tulips represent “hopelessly in love” and Lilacs mean “first love”.

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If wine is more your other half’s passion then why not try a tutored wine tasting with Raisin Wine; tickets start from £17.00. On Sunday 15th February there is Bath Market (9.30am to 4pm) at Green Park Station where you and your partner can go explore and perhaps buy something special for one another. There is everything from food and jewellery, vinyl, book and art, as well as gifts, crafts and much more. If your other half is a label and fashion lover, designer goods need not be out of your reach – simply call into Grace & Ted and take your pick of their second hand designer accessories, shoes and clothes. Finally, for that special piece of jewellery, you can’t go wrong with the family run Mallory’s of Bath. Based in the city for over 100 years, they sell the finest in watches, jewellery, handbags and much more. A fantastic place to go and hint at the engagement ring of your dreams.

We’ve also asked a few of the local independent retailers about Valentine inspired gifts this year:

For the beguiling bibliophile in your life head to the experts, George Bayntun’s on Manvers Street. They recommend for the budding foodies in your life The Foods of Love a little book about aphrodisiacs (£2.00), for your gorgeous Gothic romantic try A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe or perhaps a First Edition of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (£35.00); and for the charming Classicist perhaps purchase bound copies of Restoration Love Songs and Shakespeare’s Sonnets (from £400.00).

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Along with a good book one needs something to nibble on, and perhaps a box of scrumptious “sealed with a kiss” Valentine cupcakes or Love Bug cookies from Coffee@Camden will do the trick. A box of 4 Valentine’s Cupcakes, ribboned with a love tag costs £11.00; Single love bug cookies ribboned with a love tag are £4.00 each. You could even get your children involved in Valentine’s Day with the fun Cupcake class Coffee@Camden are running on Friday 13th February, 4-5.30 pm where they will make 4 cupcakes to enjoy, along with tea afterwards (£15.00 pp).

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What about something to wash all those goodies down? You could prepare yourself pre-Valentine’s Day at Independent Spirit’s Cocktail Masterclass on Friday 6th February where if you fancy yourself as the next James Bond you’ll learn to make the perfect Martini, shaken or stirred. Woo your loved one with your mixology skills by picking up from the shop, the very special Kwai Feh liquor (£26.95). Recommended by Chris Scullion, Director at Independent Spirit as their Valentine’s Day drink, this Lychee liquor not only has a romantic story attached (naturally) to its name but it works well as a floral alternative to Kir Royal with champagne or added to a cosmopolitan. Perhaps while you’re there pick up a bottle of their bestselling Cartier NV Brut champagne (£24.95) to create your own Kwai Royals.

Most of all during your time in this beautiful of cities just simply take time to be together with the person that means the most to you. Life can go by too fast these days so just pause a moment and take in the words of John Betjeman from his poem, “In a Bath Teashop”,
“Let us not speak for the love we bear one another –
Let us hold hands and look…”

 

 

Enjoy the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath

Jane Austen Festival

Jane Austen Festival

Many people visit Somerset’s premier city to enjoy relaxing spa breaks in Bath; after all, it’s the UK’s number one spa city. But did you know the city of Bath is a mecca for all Jane Austen fans from around the world.

Jane Austen is one of Bath’s most famous residents, and she set two of her later novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, in the city, as well as using it for inspiration by featuring notes on social life and music recitals of the time. Continue reading

Get a Taste of Africa in Bath

Get a Taste of Africa in Bath

Get a Taste of Africa in Bath

A trip to Bath would not be complete without a visit to the Roman Baths or the Thermae Spa for one of the therapeutic spa breaks in Bath, but if you are visiting in early September you may also like to include the ‘Taste of Africa’ event into your itinerary.

The Taste of Africa takes place on September 1 at the beautiful venue of Bath City Farm on the edge of the city. Continue reading