While some student groups have been going for decades, others have been a more fleeting reflection of the changing times. The sewing and pedal-car clubs of the ’70s were replaced by activities such as salsa and skateboarding. But creativity has long been celebrated at the University. A dedicated space on campus was created in 1974, when an outhouse from the original Norwood Farm was turned into the Arts Barn.
“We may be a science-based university, but student drama has thrived from the outset,” says Richard. “Both students and staff would be involved in productions; it was a pleasure to watch them perform with such enthusiasm.” What started as the drama society more than 50 years ago became known as Bath University Student Theatre (BUST), and the Arts Barn evolved into The Edge to accommodate the ever-growing popularity of dance, drama and the arts. Today there are 16 societies dedicated to these areas alone.
BUST became so big that a second group was formed, called BUSMS (Bath University Student Musicals Society). 2021-22 Chair, Lauren Green, tells us they work very closely with Backstage – an SU group that provide tech support for live events – and together, they’re known as TITS (Totally Integrated Theatre Societies). “I’m so immersed in this world that I forget about the acronyms and get funny looks when I say I’m going to a TITS social,” she laughs.
Lauren has been involved in BUSMS since Freshers’ Week 2018, when she began studying for a degree in sports science: “The best thing about it is the community,” she says. “Joining a society means you’re automatically going to meet people with similar interests. We’re really close, despite having over 50 active members, and alumni often come back to watch our shows. It was really nice to meet so many former members at our virtual 25th anniversary celebrations during the 2021 lockdown and to hear their memories.”
All student groups require a level of commitment, but arts and sports demand more than most. “We do five shows a year, and each one takes a month of rehearsing four times a week. It’s very intense,” she adds. Students, staff and the public alike can come along to The Edge and watch the productions. They often venture into the city centre, too. It’s not unusual to hear the harmonies of multi-award-winning a cappella group Aquapella in SouthGate for the enjoyment of tourists and fellow Bathonians.
“Busking is a big part of our week and a fun way to make extra income for the group,” says Aquapella’s marketing director Ellie Baldwin (BSc Biochemistry 2022). “The songs we perform have been passed down through the generations of members. Alumni are still very involved – we have a reunion every year and it’s a chance for new members to meet them.”