Something Bath offered without me realising was the sheer amount of non-academic events held throughout the year, both within and outside of the University.
For instance, sometime during exams I was checking through my emails and noticed that the founder of the Smart Girl Tribe, a former Bath student, was coming to speak on campus. Off I popped, mind swimming with all the revision I wasn’t doing, to watch a young woman with heaps of drive talking about her story. While her website and interviews explain her motivations in more detail, seeing her in the flesh and hearing her candid answers to uncomfortable questions was both refreshing and inspiring.
And that was just the start. While at this talk, I sat next to a coursemate who informed me that Robert Webb (as in, Mitchell and Webb) was going to be speaking in town about his new book. I’d seen his recent interviews and was curious to see what more he could add to the already interesting narrative he was recounting as a featured guest of the Bath Festival. The difference with this talk was that it was held at the Bath Assembly Rooms, somewhere I’d passed almost by accident before. If your parents have visited you in Bath, chances are you’ve visited the Baths and then the Fashion Museum, which is adjoined to these nationally acclaimed Rooms.
Now, aside from being a special and engaging event, Webb’s interview also brought to light the elegance of old Bath institutions, such as the Assembly Rooms and Jane Austen’s House Museum and how well-kept they are. The Festival was also advertising other impressive speakers on screens around the room: Judy Murray (in Komedia, no less), Afua Hirsch and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, to name a few. The one question going round my mind at the time was: would I have known about this event or even this room if I hadn’t checked my emails?
With that in mind, I was soon part of the Bath Box Office mailing list, too. More events on the agenda for June alone included baroque performances, international choirs, talks by acclaimed authors and classical plays. I’m yet to dabble in each of these, but knowing that they’re held in Bath’s beautiful venues is almost as good as the discounted student price you pay for them!
My one recommendation for freshers (and returners!) is signing up to mailing lists and always giving even the dullest emails a passive scroll. This goes for the society ones, too: in the autumn term, the LGBT+ group brought in the founder of UK black pride for an intimate evening; again, had I not checked my uni emails, I wouldn’t have known.
Coming from big cities can make Bath and the surrounding area seem very provincial and unexciting. Sometimes, that’s not strictly false: Somerset hasn’t been known for wild adventures since Austen last set foot on its hallowed cobblestones. That said, proactiveness goes miles and can really get you to interesting talks and events as long as you tap into the resources around you: that way, you will be able to discover and enjoy Bath’s extremely active cultural scene.