Thursday, 26 November 2009

Nicolas Cage, Alcatraz and hard-to-please Bathonians!

I have come to the (somewhat belated) conclusion that it takes an awful lot to impress some people in the fine city of Bath.

Maybe it’s because Bath has always punched above its weight and attracted major events and famous people but it seems some Bathonians refuse to get excited about anything.
Take the event taking place in Bath tonight (Thursday, November 26) . For here in Bath we have Hollywood A-Lister Nicolas Cage switching on our city-centre Christmas lights. This is a role normally (and very adequately) performed by the mayor or another worthy citizen in most cities of Bath's size. But Bath (being Bath) doesn't think of itself as a small city so they wanted something different this year.

So the ad director at the Bath Chronicle newspaper (Paul Wiltshire) and a few others on the Bath Christmas marketing team drew up a ‘hit list’ of possible canddiates to do the honours with the emphasis on who could bring the most people onto the streets to kick off the Christmas celebrations.
Top of the list was a recent Bath resident Nicolas Cage but I bet next to his name there was brackets around the phrase “nice idea but no chance”.

Well, it seems there was every chance.

One of our enterprising young ladies here at the Chronicle, Emma Samways, did the really radical thing of asking simply asking Mr Cage via a polite letter if he would mind switching on the lights. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The news that a genuine Hollywood superstar would, quite literally, be lighting up the city, has caused a mixture of shock and awe in many circles. In our office alone a kind of minor hysteria has set in!

I sometimes think, however, you have to go out of Bath to get a perspective on things because when I’ve mentioned this news to people who live beyond our borders, they have said ‘how on earth did you pull that one off’?

In Bath, however, not everyone is so convinced.

We ran a letter a couple of weeks ago from someone asking us to stop putting Mr Cage in the paper, and there’s been a number of similarly ‘sniffy’ remarks on our website ( too.
Some aren’t impressed with Mr Cage, others are worried about not being able to park and many are just a few words away from saying ‘bah humbug’.
So, in the interest of balance, can I just say publicly that the visit of Nicolas Cage is a GREAT thing for our city. As I say, if our office is anything to go by it has caused a wave of excitement among those who live and work in our community and all the shops and market stalls must be rubbing their hands with glee at the thousands of potential new customers who will hit the streets tonight and see what Bath has to offer.

Talking of shops brings me to another example of some Bath people finding it hard to appreciate what’s around them.

Bath has just opened a pretty stylish new shopping centre called SouthGate. I am more than happy to say that I really like the centre. I think it is an elegantly put together building which blends into Bath very well . And it is a million times better than the 60s monstrosity it has replaced.
But, again, not everyone is convinced.

This week, someone on a website has (wittily I think) compared it to Alcatraz, and although this did make me smile which is why I’ve reprinted the image here (SouthGate is below by the way!!!), we’ve already seen evidence in our letters pages and online that a lot of people just aren’t as convinced by the new centre as we are

Some people, for example, have criticised it for being ‘faux Georgian’ but sadly that’s the best we can do as we’re a couple of hundred years late to do the real thing! But equally, had it been more modern (and further away from Bath's Georgain roots) , I suspect the critics would have been lining up at the postboxes to write letters about how this betrayed the city’s heritage.

You just can’t win!

Ah well, maybe such debate is why we all love the city so much.
Right, better go, rumour has it there’s a Hollywood superstar in town...

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