30 May 2010

The Lions of Bath – Pride in the City

The City of Bath, the historic city situated in the south west of England, is popular with tourists from all over the world.  However the good citizens of this two thousand year old city woke up this week to be greeted by visitors of a completely different type – a different species altogether in fact.

The biggest outdoor art event the city (which in its entirety is a World Heritage Site) has ever hosted sees a pride of one hundred lions take to the streets.  You have surmised already though that these lions are not flesh and blood – they are life size individually decorated sculptures.  The contemporary wives of Bath (and indeed their husbands) are safe on the streets.

Over thirty of the pride has been installed and the lions will be situated at sites across the city until October.  But why these leonine lovelies?  Why not some other animal?  For a start, the lion has been the symbol of royal England for almost a thousand years.

Richard the Lionheart, the missing king in the Robin Hood films, more often than not played by Sean Connery (or at least that’s how it feels) for those of you who like your history Hollywood style was the first to create the three lions symbol of which you may be aware from soccer tournaments at least.  Both of his parents had lions to represent their houses and he added a third.  The rest is history as they say.

So far so symbolic.  Additionally, this huge art installation is an attempt to build on the ‘pride’ that many Bathonians already feel (and incidentally, the bathonian is a period during the Jurassic, names after the city).  Local communities, businesses and people have sponsored each lion and they have then been decorated and people by craftspeople and artists.

You name the art genre and you will probably find a lion which can claim it as its own.  From fine artists to ceramicists, mosaic artists to those whose works cannot be easily pigeonholed there will be a host of styles in the city this summer.

The installation will culminate, in October, with a congregation of all of the one hundred members of the pride in front of Bath’s famous Royal Crescent, in a ceremony which is to be known as the Lions Roar Goodbye – that should certainly be an event to remember and a site to see.

The lions will then be auctioned off and the proceeds will go to a number of local charities with some of the proceeds being used to fund art projects in the city in the future.  For the near future however, this gigantic pride of lions will add to the already 500 plus leonine symbols throughout the city.

If you ever needed an excuse to put Bath on your itinerary, this is a good one.  Go on, take a dip in Bath and have a roaring time!

Thanks especially to Flickr user Fortaguaga and Gazza of Bath who have kindly given permission for their copyrighted pictures to be used here.