Calling all students and staff: The Edge needs your feedback

Posted in: Director's update

Since the salad days of the Arts Barn and patronage of superstar architects Alison and Peter Smithson our University has a grand tradition of supporting arts and creativity. The Edge is Bath’s flagship for this on campus - providing a great variety of opportunities including dance classes, mentorship, tuition, all ages workshops and world class presentations from fabulous artists. During the academic year the corridors are buzzing with creative student activities, from spoken word to pole dancing, there’s so much going on. Already in 18-19 members of the Edge Arts Community (1500 and counting) have coordinated and presented an inaugural film festival and Bath’s amazing student societies have given 7 of their 50+ performances for the year. Preparing for these requires much determination and of course space to rehearse. Last year 56% of evening, weekend and Wednesday afternoon space at The Edge was booked by student societies, showing how important arts are to our community.

Dancers in the Weston Studio, The Edge

I also look forward to seeing what our latest cohort of arts scholars will produce in the run up to our annual gala celebrating student excellence in the arts. These 18 UG and PG students include music, dance and theatre performers, photographers, film-makers and more. We have much for our University to celebrate in continuing to support our community, and see talent develop. Success stories like Claire Guest and Aquapella are wonderful testament to the heights we can achieve.

Arts Scholar Claire Guest performing spoken word, Platform 2018

Together with colleagues I have been thinking about ways we can improve access to our facilities during semesters given the high level of demand. With the exception of societies who get advance booking, if you want to find out if space is available there is no visible booking calendar and you have to ask a member of staff, who then manually books each rehearsal and grants access via a door card given to you on the day. This process needs updating so the time and resource it takes can be better used for consumers, for example making acoustic improvements or better-quality pianos for rehearsal. I want to ensure any changes we make work well for users of The Edge and we are seeking feedback from students, student groups and societies and staff in the coming weeks to see what might work best. I talked with student societies last week and am now holding a series of focus groups to go through the ideas in more detail, for example the introduction of a digital room booking system linked to library card access.

Rehearsals in the Music Studio, The Edge

As societies have pointed out, we need a secure system where gear can be stored safely in rooms and without the risk of theft. We also need to address issues of storage of kit and improvements to the theatre.  Certainly I see no sense in students lugging their cellos, kettle drums or worse between lectures in order to rehearse at The Edge. I hope to tackle these sorts of issues in the future.

The focus groups will be held this Wed 21 Nov and the following Wed 28 Nov at The Edge, for further details please see the proposals in detail here.

You can also provide feedback using this online survey

Visitors to Visions of Science exhibition, displaying artworks inspired by science at the University of Bath

We estimate that close to 30,000 people have engaged in some way with the arts activities held at The Edge in the last academic year, whether as participants, audience members or supporters. That is double the number who engaged in the The Edge’s first full year of operating. This figure doubles again when arts rehearsals and all the other activities held in the building are taken into account such as Widening Participation schools visits, Bath Taps into Science, public lectures, ceremonies, teaching, conferences and the like.

A creative clay workshop in the Andrew Brownsword Gallery, The Edge

Since I took up this role in 2016 we’ve aimed for The Edge to be expressly linked to what we teach and what we research at the University – mixing art with computer science, engineering, architecture, physics, earth science and more.  We have initiated partnerships with national and local bodies such as Arts Council England, the RIBA, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Bath Preservation Trust and worked with some wonderful patrons. The Edge’s mix of public engagement, cross-disciplinary exploration and enrichment - or as we like to call it ‘Art, Research, Adventure’ - has delivered real impact for visitors, staff and students Already this academic year, The Fantastical Multimedia Pop-Up Project and Science Faculty partnered Visions of Science Art Prize have opened up fresh possibilities showcasing what we do at Bath.

Young visitors engaging with a manual 3D printer in The Fantastical Multimedia Pop-Up Project

I want to see The Edge pulsating with arts activities benefiting as many as possible and continuing to support student talent. These first steps and changes will start to unlock the processes by which we can begin to make that happen, so do get involved and let me know what you think of our proposals.

Read the proposal

Focus Groups: 
Wed 21 Nov (Read the summary from this session)
Wed 28 Nov (Read the summary from this session)
Wed 5 Dec - Final Session (Read the summary from this session)

Outline of Edge proposals for room entry and booking 2019

Posted in: Director's update

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  • It's good to hear this kind of communication, a positive set of reflections and ideas. I see the lack of student consultation by the Edge that occurred recently as being quickly and effectively addressed. It seems that transparency would have aided this issue, and it is good to hear that you are thinking of ways to address this.

    I agree with your ideas of the digital room booking system, but particularly a visible booking calendar, so that it is apparent what activity is going on in the Edge, and so that there is less miscommunication and fewer mistakes made with room booking, as the current system seems to be widely open to human error.

    In your proposal document you shared, there are some unclear points that I feel students would appreciate being clarified.
    "For room entry, societies would need to recommend 5 members per year for library
    card access [...] Access would be granted on library cards in early October."
    What kind of room entry is this talking about? Many different students from societies, beyond their committee members, will require the rooms the Edge has available, as it is common for members of student groups to make use of these rooms in practice times or rehearsals not necessarily including their committee members (rather the 5 nominated students you suggest).

    Furthermore, why is it necessary in your view for advance booking (across societies) to stay under 60%? It is already exceeding that level in the case of the Theatre and Weston Studio, so this is not actually in line with the SU's top 10 aims for 2017-18. Indeed with ongoing expansion of the student population at Bath, restricting students to this percentage will cause conflict and limit student engagement at the Edge. If these rooms and practice spaces are being used by outside groups for non Science/Art collaboration and outreach, it sounds like students will be losing out.

    I eagerly await the focus group I am attending this evening and next week, but I would like to hear more of your student engagement on these issues!

    • Arron - Thankyou for sharing your feedback and joining us for the Focus Group on Wednesday

      I’m glad to hear you feel our reflections and ideas have been positive and we appreciate your thoughts on areas of the draft proposal which need more clarity, it’s important we know where more information is needed. Thankyou for querying these topics further in the Focus Group, it was incredibly valuable to get your input.

      We hope you can join us for the session next week.

      For other readers who may require clarity (on your points) but were unable to attend the focus group sessions - see below:
      ‘Room Entry’ in the proposals refers to how bookers physically get into rooms at The Edge, which are locked for security purposes. Library card access would mean that library cards are programmed to unlock the required rooms, so at the time of booking the individual would not need to collect an access card but could use their own library card.

      The 5 members with library card access (per group membership) would not need to be limited to committee members, but could be any key group members who attend/run sessions. As discussed in the focus group we can however assess if this needs to be a higher number, or something which would change throughout the year based on society needs. As raised in the focus group introducing a way of knowing who is using rooms would also be important for security.

      The rationale for advance bookings across societies staying under (an average of 60% across rooms) allows for other user driven arts activities e.g. individual or group rehearsals, arts scholar sessions, Edge Arts Community programmes and mentor sessions to still happen in year. All of which maintain the Top 10 commitment. Let's promote and encourage students, in all their diversity, to use the unique arts facilities here on campus. NB the figure is 60% of the rehearsal and theatre spaces together during popular times, not per room. We appreciate the Weston Studio and Edge Theatre are used frequently by student societies during term time and these proposals do not effect change in these areas.