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The Right to This City

The Right to This City is a body of work documenting my photographic research into housing inequality in Bath, one of the UK’s most expensive places to live. It also serves as a response to the Henri Lefebvre manifesto “Le Droit a la vile: The right to the city” which sets out the fundamentally basic rights to: adequate, affordable housing, good schools, good public transport and a place to grow and thrive. These rights I feel are undervalued or simply set aside in favour of exploiting the city for capitalist gain. Political policy making over the past one hundred years has left a physical mark upon the built landscape across the UK and is particularly evident in Bath. We can see from property size and density how regulatory standards have been systematically stripped away.  

Limited run of 20 first edition copies available to buy 

“Bath is a city of great contrast. The story that gets frequently gets told is one of Georgian building splendour and Roman imperial history. The story that has not been told is the story of the industrial working class and the conditions in which they lived and worked.

The project by Tim Beale goes some way to readdressing this imbalance. His work using the medium of photography provides an interesting overview of social housing construction and styles in Bath. When you read his work, it brings provides a very different picture of Bath life, no glamour, no high fashion and no historical “white” wash.

A very interesting work which introduces us to real Bath real people and real stories.” Chris Taylor, Big Issue

“The Right to This City comes as a timely reminder of how this city once led in the provision of social and affordable housing, but is now compromised by the impact of land value and Bath desirability.  It clearly illustrates the route to where we are now in the city, with new designs for housing with little or no affordable provision, and with dimensions that by post-war standards would be seen as uninhabitable.   

By looking beyond the famous architecture of the 18th century to the streets and neighbourhoods where the residents of Bath actually live, this work encourages us to question whose city is this?  The photography in the book also serves to form a significant historic record of buildings that are overlooked and underappreciated in Bath.  It captures architecture too frequently dismissed, yet of high value to the community and to the understanding of the development of the World Heritage Site it sits within.  This is the period of architecture most at risk in Bath and if we are not careful, the images in this book might one day be the only evidence of it to survive.” Dr Amy Frost, Bath Preservation Trust

"I first met UK-based photographer Tim Beale several years ago at the Museum of Bath Architecture. At the time he was working at the museum and amongst other things had by chance found a photo of my father in the achieve, my father had been snapped ‘salvaging’ stuff from a skip sometime in the early 1970s. My father was an architect. He cared and campaigned to save, restore and conserve the buildings of Bath which were being torn down without a second thought. He was actively involved in rescuing many of Bath’s historic buildings. Much of this destruction was documented in a book called The Sack of Bath published in 1973. 

Fast forward a  few years and Tim and I are catching up over coffee. He no longer works at the museum but has just completed an MA in Photography. He showed me a copy of an extensive document he created for his MA called, The Right to This City, photographic research into housing inequalities. This image titled "Not even room for a shed" Mulberry Park, Bath 2021” is from the project. It is a documentary photography project that explores living conditions on the fringes of Bath. Sadly I don’t think housing inequality is unique to Bath, indeed, some might be surprised to hear it exists at all, given the city’s ‘posh veneer’. Perhaps it is the fancy façade of the city that brings home the reality of the housing situation which stands in such stark contrast to the grand Georgian architecture for which the city is known -  buildings that people travel the world to see, the backdrop to myriad blockbusting film sets and gives the city its rare UNESCO World Heritage status. Tim explains to me that Mulberry Park is one of Bath's newest built estates that mixes affordable housing with commercially priced houses. “It’s built by the housing association Curo, who for the past twenty years have managed Bath and North East Somerset councils housing stock”, says Tim who continues. “Over the past 20-30 years housing have become increasingly smaller, in part due to the lack of government regulation on the size or density of house building. The gardens of new builds have also suffered the same fate”. And nowhere is this more evident than in Tim’s image which reveals a shed too big for the small garden and crammed ridiculously between the houses that have been arguably designed for profit and not for living. Tim’s research and photographs could perhaps be seen as a modern-day version of the Sack of Bath documenting the crimes against architecture. However, it’s not just design and architecture that’s under fire here, more importantly, Tim’s extensive project and research reveal the injustices and inequalities of social and affordable housing in the shadow of Georgian grandeur." Benedict Brain, Amateur Photographer - Premium Edition, January 2022

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