Recently the Cultural Forum organised a meeting at Natural Theatre HQ to brainstorm the future of Bath’s Green Park station. Almost sixty representatives of interested bodies attended to hear various proposals, some practical and some delightfully blue sky.
The area around the station is Bath’s last remaining chunk of ‘brown’ land so it is essential that the city gets it right!
Many years ago, the Arts Workshop, from which the Naturals grew, published an amazingly detailed drawing of what the station might look like if developed as a venue. Back then, along with other crumbling piles, it was a scene of dereliction notable only for the magnificent displays of wild buddleia clinging to the cracked stonework.
The Workshop took it upon themselves to create visionary plans for these structures which would then more than likely be pooh-poohed by the powers that be. For example, somewhere in the Guildhall there lurks a large cutaway drawing of Walcot’s Ladymead House regenerated as a community arts centre. In their enthusiasm, the Workshop laminated the design into a sturdy Formica panel. It was handed in to a startled council official, never to be seen again.
In the station illustration, myriad little figures busied themselves in art classes, farmers’ markets, craft enterprises and concerts. But the piece de resistance was a huge glass box in the middle of the concourse containing a working steam locomotive. This, the caption rather hopefully explained, would supply the central heating for the complex. Now that is blue sky thinking!
But mock ye not. By coincidence this week I learned about the refurbishment of a similar but much larger railroad station in St Louis, Missouri. This was first undertaken in the eighties and is now being extended. The historic façade hides a five-star hotel which makes full use of the elaborate mock-gothic interiors, and a large shopping mall and marketplace. Under the huge glass train shed is, believe it or not, an enormous boating lake, complete with piers, boardwalk cafes and full-size trees. The station is now the city’s most important tourist attraction.
Too Disney forBath? Well, Natural Theatre might be performing there in September, so your Chron correspondent will be able to tell you all about it first hand!