It was a rainy day in Bath when I visited for the University open day. My Dad and I took shelter under an arch next to the famous Fudge Kitchen as rain battered shop windows and caused tourists to tuck cameras in their bags as they hurried away from the Abbey. Putting our hoods up and realising this wasn’t a fleeting shower, we began to make our way back to the car – not that we knew the way. It was along this hurried journey that I discovered Southgate for the first time, and the personality of St Lawrence Street. I’ve never stopped loving it since.
St Lawrence Street is known for its art installations and décor in line with city-specific or wider global events. On this particular day (and aptly so!) hundreds of multi-coloured umbrellas stretched across the street, suspended in a bright canopy overhead. Dim light filtered through the gaps between the umbrellas and gave the street an atmosphere that stopped me in my tracks.
I took a photo and uploaded it to Instagram: ‘very in love with Bath’ was my caption. Little did I know this wasn’t a permanent fixture, so when I returned to the city that September as a fresher, I was disappointed to discover the absence of brollies above what I’d been referring to my friends as ‘Umbrella Lane’. However, it wasn’t long before a new theme greeted the skies over Southgate. My favourite themes have included vibrant ribbons and skulls in ode to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, and the pastel-coloured wisteria walkway to celebrate the Bath Festival.
Making the magic
Towards the end of my second year, I was heading towards the bus stop after a night of clubbing when I saw workers installing a new theme on the street. I’d never considered this before; how they would work late into the night, unseen... the décor suddenly appearing the next morning as if by magic, ready to become the next Instagram backdrop for tourists and locals alike.
I think what strikes me most about St Lawrence Street is how it brings life and movement to a city of deep heritage and age. While the stone buildings remain unchanging in their golden hue, Southgate’s decorations enable Bath to evolve with culturally significant events, giving tourists a reason to visit time and time again. Not to mention, it serves as a reminder of the changing of the seasons, with the wisteria walkway giving an inevitable spring to the step of passers-by.
Although there are periods of time when the street is stripped of its rich themes, I always wonder what could come next. After living in Bath for two years now, I find that a city that can keep its locals guessing is one that serves its inhabitants (and not just its tourists) well.