BAFTA Award-winning actress, Miriam Margolyes OBE has spoken out in support of Jacobs Wells Baths, which was put up for sale by Bristol City Council earlier this month, despite campaigns to save the historic building and turn it into a community hub. On the Twitter page for Bristol's Trinity Centre, a video of the actress was tweeted, in which she calls for Bristol to save Jacobs Wells Baths because "the arts are the soul of a nation".
In the video she said: "I'm speaking out in support of Jacobs Wells Baths which are a wonderful facility and, for 30 years, it's been the only place in Bristol dedicated to the dance. Art centres are closing all over the country, it's something I bitterly regret because I think that the arts are the soul of a nation and I think in our difficult world, people need a place where they can go and learn whatever they want to learn and talk to each other and have a cup of tea, and just relax in a friendly space.
"I think it's really important that Bristol should have more of these spaces and that the arts can flourish and nourish us all because that's what they do. I believe it will make a huge difference, make a lot of people - children and older people - happy and it's right that it should survive. So please join me and support Jacobs Wells Baths. Thank you."
Cabinet members rubber-stamped plans to sell off the dilapidated property in Hotwells at a meeting on Tuesday, July 4, despite the fact a community asset transfer (CAT) process had not yet been completed, with two bidders in the running to take it over from the local authority. Councillors were told it was “Bristol's last chance to do the right thing for the local community”.
Continuing on from Miriam Margolyes' words, the Trinity Bristol Twitter account went on to say: "Built in 1889 to serve the working poor, Jacobs Wells Baths in the Clifton Conservation Area is a Grade II Listed building that holds within its walls a wealth of architectural and social heritage - from its time as a public swimming bath to its 30yr history as a dance hub.
"Now listed for disposal by #BristolCityCouncil we are advocating better of scrutiny regarding the future of our city's community infrastructure, given these decisions will have a far greater long-term impact on our social & cultural fabric Find out more: http://trinitybristol.org.uk/savejwb"
During the July 4 meeting, Deputy mayor Cllr Craig Cheney said it cost the council tens of thousands of pounds a month to maintain the former Victorian baths, used most recently as a dance studio for 35 years until its closure in 2016, and that “we just don’t have that money”. He said the CAT process was “still being worked through”, following the deadline of Friday, June 30, for final submissions from community arts organisation Trinity Bristol and Bristol Historic Buildings.
Trinity Bristol CEO Emma Harvey told the meeting that the decision to place the property on the open market, along with six other council-owned buildings or land, “jeopardises our connection to the past, erodes our present identity, and threatens the resilience of future communities”. She said: “These spaces are more than physical structures and worth considerably more than an old bog or a dumping ground.
"They represent a tangible connection to our city's heritage and have witnessed countless memories and community gatherings that have shaped our city's social fabric. These decisions risk robbing communities of tomorrow of spaces to build resilience and build solutions.”
Another campaigner, Heather Williams, said: “Jacobs Wells Baths is the only local space that is suitable for a variety of arts, culture and leisure activities. The council has received a well-thought-through plan to take the building forward.
"This is Bristol's last chance to do the right thing for the local community. We need to transform Jacobs Wells Baths into a thriving community space.”
Bristol City Council put out a call in March for someone to restore Jacobs Wells Baths, two months after leisure group Fusion scrapped an £8million project to regenerate it as a leisure, dance, arts and community centre. The baths originally opened in 1889.