Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work.
Hazel Plowman, head of the creative learning programme for Bath Festivals
The beautiful views across the city are part of the reason I decided to study at Bath Spa University in 1995. The day I came for my interview at the Sion Hill site, it was snowy and sunny and it felt so very different from the suburbs in the midlands. The view from the top of the hills, from Twerton and Whiteway over to Lansdown and Camden Crescent when the morning mist still hangs in the valley are all spectacular. Now, 20 years on, I live in Widcombe with my partner and three children.
As head of creative learning for Bath Festivals, my role entails creating, producing and managing projects that engage children and young people with the festival and the art forms it celebrates. Bath Festivals offers a year-round programme of music and literature projects which give children and young people opportunities to work with leading arts professionals, gain real-world experience, grow passions and interests, gain access to cultural events and create and produce their own events.
There have been many special moments at Bath Festivals since I joined in 2012. Some of these are large-scale projects like the Party in the City annual schools’ commission which takes place in Bath Abbey as part of The Bath Festival in May. More than 100 children sing songs they have created, alongside a professional composer. The abbey is bursting at the seams with people, and the atmosphere is incredible. One of my personal highlights was being roped in to performing in Julia Donaldson’s show at the last minute at Bath Children’s Literature Festival – I ran around the audience with cat ears on! Other highlights are from smaller events but they have a significant and lasting impact. Some of the young people I work with may be facing significant challenges in their lives and the activities and events I programme have helped them form new friendships and develop confidence.
At the start of my career, I co-directed a small arts company called Eshoda Arts. We made performance pieces and exhibitions combining dance with other art forms. Alongside this, we delivered workshops for children, young people and teachers. There were times when this was my part-time job and times when it was full time, so alongside this I worked in shops, did project management for other Bath arts organisations and did what all freelancers do – tried my best to survive!
I love the community in Bath – I get to work with interesting and dedicated people: festival staff, authors, illustrators and artists, teachers, youth workers, people from other arts organisations, and of course, the children and young people. I am still collaborating with some of the same incredibly dedicated people that I worked with 15 years ago: Kate Cross from the egg, Penny Hay from 5x5x5=creativity and Jamie Luck from Mentoring Plus. We continue to ensure that every child and young person in Bath has access to the arts.
Bath Children’s Literature Festival takes place from 28 September to 7 October: bathfestivals.org.uk; 01225 463362
PORTRAIT: Neill Menneer at Spirit Photographic. Visit: capturethespirit.co.uk, tel: 01225 483151