Old dairy high jinks

I was having a haircut at the barbers opposite Bath Spa station the other day when I remembered how, many years ago, we borrowed that whole row of shops from the council for one of our alternative festivals.

The buildings were derelict at the time, so armed with ladders, paints and brushes we set about smartening them up, much to the chagrin of the city planners who didn’t exactly take to our lime green and ice cream pink colour scheme!

As I recall, one shop became the festival info and nerve centre, one housed a model railway, one had an exhibition of surreal iced cakes from the queen’s patissiere and what is now the barber shop was converted into a temporary staff and artistes’ café.

Many a luminary of the alternative theatre and music scene downed lentil soup and granary bread  where now the not so famous get their short back and sides, including none other than world renowned  beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who was happy to chow down with the rest of us.

Just around the corner where Debenham’s now stands was the old dairy. We borrowed that too. Its white tiled interior housed an exhibition of amazing machines, including The Bowler Hat Taker-offer, created by the Welsh genius Charles Byrd, a delightful mad professor of a chap straight out of a Rupert Bear annual

On the last day of the festival, the outdoor rock concert was cancelled due to torrential rain. The whole caboodle was moved into town and into the dairy, with strategically placed buckets to catch the drips.  Halfway through, realising there were still crowds of people trying to get in, we sent for the boys from Comtek, the design and reclamation project based in Walcot. As the rock concert continued on stage, the audience passed scaffold poles and planks over their heads and a balcony was constructed there and then to accommodate the extra fans.

Eventually, some fuming councillors and their officers turned up to say OK folks you’ve had your fun. Now turn it off. Apparently the crumbling asbestos roof not only let in the rain, it let out the sound, and half of Bath had phoned up to complain about their peaceful Sunday afternoon tea being ruined by the noise of heavy rock!

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