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Traditionally, Bath has a flourishing and busy Christmas market, bringing 400,000 people into the town over two weeks, but last year, Covid restrictions meant that it couldn’t take place. Visit Bath and Bath Business Improvement District (BathBID) wanted to create a Christmas light trail to bring the festivities to the town centre and across the BID area of the town.
“Over the past five years we have been developing Bath Christmas Market into more of an event by bringing in sound, lighting and building a great atmosphere. Our original idea was to create a smaller Christmas Market, but as the Covid restrictions were changing regularly, our plans were in constant flux. We realised that we couldn’t create the chalets, the staging or have music, but the one thing that we could still do was use lighting so the decision to create additional illuminations was made,” said Mick Heath, Head of Events for Visit Bath.
“The funding for the Christmas Illuminations would usually have come from the proceeds from the Christmas market, but as it was not taking place this year, we approached BathBID and they funded the project and suggested a light trail. The brief was to bring light and festivities into the whole town, and to light as much of the BID area as possible, whilst sticking to the budget available,” continues Heath. “One of the benefits of just using lighting was that the trail could also carry on throughout the festive period - well after the market would normally have closed in the middle of December.”
“Much of Bath is a World Heritage Site but the venues that we worked with were really keen to be involved - especially the Abbey who have a very forward-thinking approach towards supporting community events,” says Heath. The practicalities were harder to implement because the use of machinery such as cherry pickers would be limited, and permission would be needed to decorate certain areas. “We needed to work with a company who was adaptable, creative and able to guide us on what would deliver us the biggest impact for our budget,” explains Heath.
BathBID and Visit Bath appointed Fineline to design and install lighting across the town.
“Time scales were tight, so we quickly assessed the area and focused on the buildings and spaces we were confident that we could light with ease,” said Rob Sangwell, Managing Director of Fineline. “BathBID and Visit Bath were great to work with; they worked hard to secure all of the permissions needed and they trusted us to create the designs and lighting solutions that delivered the most impact, across the most area for the budget available.”
The Abbey is the biggest building in the town centre, and can be seen from multiple sites so that naturally became the focal point. “The Abbey has vaulted cellars which could be damaged with heavy machinery, so we couldn’t use a cherry picker to lift us and the equipment on to the roof,” continues Sangwell. “The building has eight roofs and spiral staircases in each corner, so everything had to be carried up on foot; I estimate that the team went up and down those staircases over 100 times!”
The Bath Mineral Water Hospital was lit in blue in honour of the NHS, with Christmas gobo patterns, and the Old Tourist Information Office was decorated with bold colours and a giant snowflake.
“There is a big tree on Abbey Green that is protected and consequently it’s been very hard to decorate in the past. We worked considerately and with permissions and so we were able to make it look stunning. Northumberland Place was also decorated with colourful sparkly projections, along with St Swithin’s Church, the Roman Baths and the trees by the Podium Shopping Centre,” continues Sangwell.
“By creating a colour pallet with big and bright colour combinations that were vibrant and bold, we illuminated the iconic buildings of Bath and made them stunning and eye catching,” says Sangwell. “We considered how the buildings looked from different angles and how different aspects were viewed from different parts of the town to ensure that the lights could be enjoyed from multiple vantage points.”
“We worked with social distancing measures in place to ensure that we kept the team and the public safe. We approached unloading differently, changing some of the delivery methods, and working out one-way routes for tall and narrow staircases. We took everything ‘back to basics’; working this way needed a bit more planning, a few early mornings and late nights and lots of ladder work, but it was totally manageable and straightforward.”
“The spirit of community was really apparent throughout the venues - with everyone wanting to get on board and make the trail happen. The whole community came together and the ‘‘blitz spirit’ was experienced by us all,” says Heath. “With Rob leading the project, his professionalism ensured that all the venues felt very confident about putting their trust in him and his team. His team were enthusiastic and took pride and passion in their work.”
“Even from the very first evening, the atmosphere in the city was just magical. People were standing and staring, taking photos and posting all over social media because we had created such a positive feeling and an uplift in spirits. It was rather emotional to see the city shine through after such an awful year,” concludes Heath. “The legacy of this project is that we can never go back to the lights that we had before and we are already working with Rob and his team to plan out a bigger and brighter Bath Christmas experience for 2021.”
The Client: Brixton Village
The Brief: Install a new lighting system to give the Brixton Village team more flexibility, and to give the space a warmer, more welcoming feel for customers.
In October 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fineline Lighting were enlisted by Brixton Village to revamp the market’s lighting system. Two years ago the market was purchased by Hondo Enterprises, which has since been on a journey to update and upgrade the space while maintaining the integrity of the Grade II-listed architecture.
“The lighting had always been a problem across the two covered markets,” says General Manager Diana Nabagereka. “The centralised overhead white lights gave the effect of a mortuary. It didn’t work for a night time economy.”
By day, Brixton Village is a traditional market, by night a popular nightlife hub with restaurants, rooftop bars and a bar playing jazz music. Fineline Lighting were enlisted to create an ambient, comfortable atmosphere for the market’s nightlife to flourish, but equally for a warmer and more pleasant tone throughout the winter days.
“There is always a complexity with reimagining Grade II-listed buildings, so we wanted a solution that was warm yet impactful and still showcased the architecture,” continues Diana. “The new lighting solution formed part of an extensive upgrade of the markets, as such it was important Hondo Enterprises found something equally cost-effective and efficient as an ongoing product.”
“There was no overselling, with Fineline. They understood our needs clearly and provided a solution, with no frills.” says Diana. “They presented the festoon lighting option, which has been tried and tested in a number of retail and dining locations. The result is a now transformed environment.”
The planned four-week overnight install was completed in just over three weeks.
“It was a large-scale installation with over 1,000 lamps, spanning 30,000sqft. The team worked fastidiously, in a professional and highly efficient manner.”
When it comes to working with the Fineline Lighting team, Diana concludes: “Working with contractors can often be fuelled with unexpected delays and additional cost. None of these were experienced with Fineline. They were a pleasure throughout, and went above and beyond at each stage, including a follow up tutorial of the system.”
The Tech Specs:
Approximately 1km of festoon lighting
Over 40 Briteq LDP Colorstrip 24FC (battens)
Over 90 Briteq Beamspot 1 DMX FC
Artistic licence dimmers
Stick KE2 controllers
Fineline Lighting is one of 57 businesses to join the West of England Combined Authority’s Creative Scale Up scheme, which provides online peer support and mentoring to help them tackle the challenges of the Covid-19 shutdown.
Creative Scale Up is a two-year pilot programme funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It aims to help creative businesses in the West of England access finance through an intensive sustainable growth support programme.
Creative businesses that demonstrate a genuine ambition to grow, innovate and strengthen the local economy are eligible to apply.
Creative Scale Up mobilises regional and national investors and educates and encourages them to invest in our hot-bed of creative businesses. The programme runs until March 2021, and each business on the programme will be part of a cohort receiving a minimum of six months intensive business support. The scheme was in existence before the pandemic but has been re-focused to ensure the support remains relevant and effective.
Businesses receive an individually tailored package of support, including:
- A £6,000 grant to spend on mentoring support
- A dedicated Peer Support Network facilitated by Gill Wildman (Watershed Business Development Advisor) and Mark Leaver (DIT Creative Industries Advisor)
- Business development training
- The opportunity to pitch for a grant of up to £2,000 to spend on business development activity
- Continued engagement with investors until the programme ends in 2021
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles commented: “I launched the Creative Scale Up programme to support our wonderful creative businesses to become the household names of the future.
“In response to Covid-19 we’ve made crucial changes to the programme to ensure our creative sector gets the help it needs to survive and emerge stronger, supporting the jobs in the region that depend on it.
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to offer increased support to a total of 57 creative businesses. I know our latest participants will also find new ways of working together to survive and thrive, cementing the West of England as an excellent home for the creative industries.”
Fineline Director Sevim Sangwell added: “We’re very pleased to join other West of England Creative businesses on the Creative Scale Up. At a time where much of our events work has been put on hold, it’s fantastic to use that opportunity to grow the business and take advantage of this fantastic programme.”
Fineline have been busy in our home city of Bath, providing a splash of colour to our beautiful buildings, bringing some cheer during the festive period.
We are very proud to take part in this fantastic project, Bath Christmas Light Trail, very thankful for having the opportunity to get involved.