On Tuesday 7th February 2023, Bath’s rebalance wellbeing festival was launched at Walcot House with an inspiring discussion about the future of Bath as a wellbeing city.
The event was hosted by Bath Business Improvement (BID), who has curated the inaugural reBalance Festival bringing together local businesses and wellbeing experts to create over 150 events, treats, taster sessions, walks and talks. Allison Herbert introduced the festival’s Olympic gold medal-winning ambassador, Amy Williams MBE, who shared her own personal goals and reassured the audience that not everyone has to be so extreme with their fitness goals but that physical, mental and spiritual are all linked. Amy urged the audience to try something out during the festival and get started with wellness.
Tarquin Macdonald, the CEO of Bath Rugby and Vice Chair of Bath BID was the host for the main discussion.
The main presentations of the event were provided by Alex Sherman, CEO of Bath Preservation Trust, Rob Delius Head of Sustainability at Stride Treglown, Claire Smith of Buro Happold and Hrolfur Cela of Basalt Architects. After the main presentation, Sophie Broadfield, Sustainable Communities Director from Bath and North East Somerset Council shared some of he Council’s ambitious plans for the next period of regeneration.
The presentations flowed beautifully from the starting point of the history of Walcot Street itself via Georgian Bath to a future where the city of Bath could aspire to be a city recognised the world over for its culture of feeling well.
Alex Sherman took us on a journey through the history of the city, emphasising its credentials as a wellbeing city, having been designed for that exact purpose by the Georgians who built most of what we see today. Alex pointed out that regulations are already changing with regard to climate change and that the city needs to be ready to be flexible to deliver better insulated homes and more efficient buildings. He finished with a rousing call to action:
‘If we can sustain and sensitively adapt this wonderful green city, if we bring design excellence and people focused planning and can lead the adoption of true sustainability, if we work together to leave Bath in a better condition than we found it, the city will undoubtedly thrive and our actions now will be valued as our Future Heritage.’
Rob Delius imagined Bath in the year 2030 when a Wellbeing City Action Plan has been embraced and exciting transformations are happening across the entire city. He also shared an exciting proposal for a signature wellbeing project which proposes public access to the thermal water within a redevelopment of Parade Gardens linked to the city by the tunnels under what is locally known as Bog Island. The plans were developed after Buro Happold successfully engineered the solution which enables Bath Abbey to have underfloor heating powered by Bath’s own hot water. The project has been developed with help from Icelandic architects, Basalt.
During the event Hrolfur shared the experience of Iceland which was named as a Country of Wellbeing in 2000 and now boasts one pool for every 2,000 inhabitants, compared with the UK where it is one pool for every 500,000 people. There is definitely scope to grow our outdoor water opportunities and the audience was left with outdoor spa pool envy after Hrolfur shared a number of projects which his company has created. You can see the full scope of Basalt architects’ water developments on their website.
Rob’s full presentation can be seen here.
Before a lively q and a session where the audience discussed trees in the city, play in the city and generally enthused about open water bathing, particularly in Iceland, Sophie Broadfield completed the line up with an explanation of Bath’s unique double UNESCO accreditation, including its most recent accolade as one of the Great Spas of Europe. If you would like to know more about Bath’s World Heritage Status, there is a World Heritage Day celebration event on Saturday 4th March. Sophie shared the content of the recently published Place Prospectus, which you can look at here
The debate was expertly hosted by Tarquin and feedback would suggest that Bath BID’s event was well received by all. It is clear that there is great interest and enthusiasm for what may come next and a desire for the community of the city to get involved. We would be interested to hear any feedback on the ideas presented, do get in touch if you have any requests for future debates.