Brunel 200 Legacy Generic blank masthead.
South West Arts Projects
Bristol Arts Projects
Brunel 200 Events & Activities
Brunel 200 Main Site Spacer
South West Arts Projects Overview > Streats of Bath

Heading – Streats of Bath

Iron, Steam & Stone

Streats of Bath created a large-scale, promenade-style theatrical performance happening around Sydney Gardens in Bath (behind The Holbourne Museum). The event dealt with successive strata of transportation in the Avon Valley, particularly Brunel’s engineering feat of moving the Kennet and Avon Canal to allow the Great Western Railway to be built along the Canal’s former course. Sydney Gardens contains both the canal and the railway and is bordered by a turnpike road, the present A36.

The performance addressed the transformation to 19th century society brought by new forms of transport (especially the railway) and the influx of workers involved in building (the navvies, ‘folk-devils’ of a sort, in genteel Bath) and then running them.

Visitors to the event were encouraged to bring their families, picnics, chairs and rugs and place themselves in the middle of activity in the Gardens. Audience members were encouraged to move among the scenes highlighting different issues, in the company of actors improvising period characters – and often getting involved directly in the action!

The performances were a collaboration between seasoned outdoor theatre performers with long experience of devising and producing such work – and of improvisation! – older people with whom the performers ran performance workshops, school drama students and amateur performers interested in outdoor work. The scenarios were founded on research produced by Streats of Bath, much new and unique to them and some produced by the project run from The Holburne Museum (Brunel in Bath), helping artists be especially creative in producing excellent (and in many cases one-off) work.

A new development for Streats of Bath was working with The Quest to produce The Steam Room, a reminiscence piece created through interviews with a group of older people. This gave them a greater community involvement than in previous events of this sort and the first involvement of anyone other than in performance: “a step forward that we will try to work on with our next project with The Quest”.

With a huge range of artists appearing on the day, there were lots of ways for visitors to the Gardens to engage with activity:

“Great to have entertainment that all the family can see.”

“Very positive.”

“Your garden/park setting was super – just the right place to consider the man.”

“Overall I liked the Irish navvy best for his unique style… I found his non-PC mime act entertaining. I liked his ‘get the child in the audience to help me do something to help me’ style… with tools in the middle of the grass (but watch out for Health and Safety – Oh, I hate to hear myself saying so).”

“Brunel afternoon was a big success in my view. Well done.”

and from performer John Lee (who played a stilt-walking Brunel):

“I really enjoyed the day and well done – it had a very special feel to the day and of all the Brunel festivities that I have been involved in, this one felt the most authentic. Thank you for that. I enjoyed trying to build the impossible building with the children in the centre of the park – one girl actually numbered the 196 floors on the Empire State building that we were designing and constructing!”

Streats of Bath carried out an audience survey on the day of the event. 92% declared that their expectations of the event had been met or exceeded. For a family afternoon out, an added bonus was that 56% found it educational, now being more aware of Brunel’s input into bringing the railway to Bath. 33% commented that they’d already been to the Holburne exhibition.