Festival of the Future City 2017: Proof that Bath and Bristol share more than just a cycle path!

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Bath and Bristol. Two cities.

Amid the growing spectre of urban sprawl, this year’s Festival of the Future City (18-20 Oct) and Festival of the Future City Bath (19-21 Oct) take place in both. Though neither location resembles the type of concrete jungle one might associate with notions of 'future', both face challenges at the dawn of the 21st Century.

Moreover since the establishment of the West of England Combined Authority, both share a future that is inextricably linked. Standing in togetherness with the other devolved city regions of England at the dawn of a new era of inter-city partnership and collaboration.

Outsiders looking in tend to associate the romantic and traditional with Bath (Jane Austen, Sally Lunn, UNESCO) and the gritty and and creative with Bristol (Banksy, Aardman). The elegant Georgian townhouses of Bath juxtaposed with rows of multi-coloured terraces in Bristol, at first glance evidence a cultural chasm between two West Country neighbours, with the connection between them an eponymous cycle path.

The reality, of course, is that Bristol and Bath are both forward looking, modern cities. Sharing more in common than not. Visit England puts it best when describing Bristol and Bath as “the yin and yang of the West Country”.Without one, you wouldn’t have the other. They are inseparable contradictions, both at forefront of developments in arts and culture, science and technology on the world stage, yet fiercely traditional in their own unique ways.

For a festival that turns the spotlight on the city in the 21st century, Bristol and Bath are fittingly futurist in many regards, seeking to embrace green futures for instance. For my part, it is great to be working in partnership with our West Country neighbours and Univesities; sharing this landmark event: The Festival of the Future City 2017.

The two programmes demonstrate how great things come via collaboration between our two great cities, but also a commonality of purpose in celebrating culture and ideas. There is plenty to get your teeth into as you would expect from an extensive array of talks, originating from the brilliant Bristol Festival of Ideas.

Having said all that, I of course urge you to check out and attend the Bath programme first!

Owing to Bath’s rich architectural heritage, and the shared issues our cities face in terms of ensuring that housing and public spaces are fit for the challenges of the future; the Festival programme is generously apportioned to the future of urban housing (21 Oct) and creating great spaces. One of our key themes is What Makes Great Architecture with films made with some of our speakers (writer Anna Minton, the Design Museum's Justin McGuirk, architect Alison Brooks) to get the juices going on the subject.

Anna Minton

Justin McGuirk

Alison Brooks


Ensuring that the future city evolves in a way that is simultaneously liveable, inclusive and sustainable, while maintaining and developing a unique sense of place form the core of Bath’s contribution to the Festival programme.

We’ll also see architecture writer, Owen Hatherley, do a walking tour of Bath’s main architectural sites (19 Oct), while one of the city’s most radical adopted sons, Ken Loach, lays out his vision for the future of the place he calls home (20 Oct) 

In short, as the pace of urbanisation intensifies around the globe, the future of cities is becoming an increasingly hot topic. Holding such a festival across two cities, connected, physically, by a quotidian thoroughfare of urban life: the daily commute more than just symbolically. Together we are pathfinding together the shape and colour of the future city, via yin, and yang.

Festival of the Future City 2017 is supported by the University of Bath, Bath & North East Somerset Council, Bath Preservation Trust, Arts Council England, University of Bristol, University of the West of England, Bristol City Council and Business West.

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  • nicely written. kudos to your work