While Jack Dee sneers at Trowbridge, the artists are quietly moving in

Jack Dee has joined, or perhaps he’s always belonged to, the community of people who think it’s funny to insult a place where people live, work and go to school.  Introducing I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue from the Theatre Royal in Bath, the comedian remarked

This city got its English name because early settlers arrived here and noted it resembled a bath.  Because it was next to a toilet called Trowbridge.

I’ll pause for a moment while you enjoy this comedy gold.


I’m trying to get to grips with the thought process of the joke: Hey, guys, we’re in Bath where the average house price is £578,100 and, oh God, guys, this is hilarious, Trowbridge is only eight miles away and the average house price is £183,940.  Hey, I can raise a laugh by pointing and laughing at people who are considerably poorer than I am!   

But what do I know about comedy or Jack Dee? I’m sure he’s a lovely person.  According to Wikipedia Jack Dee grew up in Winchester, where he was a pupil at a prep school before failing his Common Entrance Exam and attending a comprehensive school and then a top-performing Sixth Form College, and he then worked as a waiter at the Ritz Hotel in London before becoming a stand-up comedian, so we don’t have to imagine that he’s led a comfortable, privileged middle class existence all of his life.

And, it’s OK, I’ve lived in Trowbridge for 13 years so I’m used to the disparaging remarks.  I’ve heard the jokes before.  I’ve even noticed that Trowbridge has a generous share of Pound Shops, charity shops, boarded up shops and empty buildings with buddleia growing out of their windows.



And Trowbridge is still too shabby and scrappy to have been noticed by any  colour supplement or “Let’s Move To……” articles.

A quick glance through online property discussion forums will see Trowbridge variously described as “a dump,” “a pit,” and “Chavbridge” (maybe this is where Jack Dee seeks out his comedy material).

But there is a group of people who have begun to notice Trowbridge.  There must be something different about this group because they seem to see things from an alternative perspective to the Jack Dees of the world.  They seem to be able to look past the satellite dishes, cut-price shops and indelicate loft extensions (there are some eyesores around).  Perhaps they’re less sensitive than Jack about scruffiness and instead of pointing and laughing are instead observing that in among the eyesores are buildings with high ceilings, large windows, original Victorian tiled floors, wooden floorboards, stained glass windows and 120′ (35 metres)  gardens.

Any guesses for who these people are? They’re the artists, of course.  I think one of their jobs is to be good at noticing things.

Perhaps the artists have also noticed that, like Jack Dee said, Trowbridge really is next door to Bath.  It’s 20 minutes away on the train and you can even cycle there along a canal path.  It’s also 30 minutes from Bristol and on a direct train route to London Waterloo.  And half an hour from the M4 (admittedly you might get stuck behind a tractor every now and then – did I mention we’re right next to some of the most beautiful countryside in Wiltshire and Somerset?).


Where is Trowbridge?

One such artist is Professor Anita Taylor, Dean of Bath School of Art and Design who chose Trowbridge to be the new base for Drawing Projects UK, a centre for research, development, production and promotion of exhibitions, events and workshops in drawing and contemporary art.

Anita Taylor

Anita Taylor next to one her charcoal drawings on display at Drawing Projects UK, Trowbridge.

Then there are the artists who rent studio space and offer creative workshops at Drawing Projects UK and at Trowbridge Town Hall which is being re-developed into an arts hub in the centre of the town (I’ve just completed a short poetry residency there where I ran a series of poetry workshops and events).

It’s not just artists moving here.  Trowbridge is also the home of leading web design company WebCreationUK, for example, and there are enough creative enterprises here for the town to be named in the report The Geography of Creativity in the UK as one of the 47 “creative clusters” outside London.  (source:  Creative industries booming across the UK, according to new report).

As for me and my family, when we moved here from London in 2003, we just wanted somewhere affordable to live with a big garden for our children to play in and state schools that they could walk to.  We wanted to live near a mainline railway station so that Andrew could commute to London and we also wanted somewhere with brilliant internet connections so that he could work from his garden office when he needed to (long gardens give you space for garden offices).

It’s all worked out reasonably happily for us.  I’m not saying Trowbridge is anywhere near swanky enough for someone like Jack Dee to want to move to, but we like living in a town where no-one we’ve met so far has felt the need to describe a place where people have made their home as a ‘toilet’.

Oh, those quaint West Country good manners – maybe the artists like them, too.








19 thoughts on “While Jack Dee sneers at Trowbridge, the artists are quietly moving in

  1. Madeleine Leech says:

    Well said. Hopefully, Jack Dee will be shown this concise travel guide to Trowbridge. It sounds awesome but then I’ve always been drawn to the lovely country market sounding name and I know Trowbridge is surrounded by beautiful countryside.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andy G says:

    Very well said Josephine. I live in a town that’s been given the same lavatorial label and have been fighting against that reputation for years, stressing the good in the town and the talent in all generations.
    Insults made for comedy effect are no better than verbal bullying and should not be taken lying down.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark Lee says:

    I’ve only lived here for 8 years and being honest the town is improving in that time. Unfortunately the most common culprits for puttting the town down are the locals (which is common across the shires I think) who seem to miss the beauty around them (perhaps that’s why it isn’t as well cared for as some towns)


    • Josephine Corcoran says:

      Hi Mark, thanks for commenting. I’m glad you feel positive about Trowbridge, that’s wonderful to hear. Our family has become friends with many terrific local people who care for this area and take pride in the place they live, work and go to school so I guess it’s the luck of who you know. Regardless of where people are from, some of them just love being negative! I hope you continue to enjoy living here. 🙂


  4. Sarah Plues says:

    Hi Josephine. Only today my daughter made a comment that sums up how she feels about Trowbridge “I feel at home here.” This coming from a girl who has moved here from the beautiful New Jersey coast USA and could easily have been located in York had it not been for my decision not to. Trowbridge has some surprisingly wonderful architecture if people bother to look up from their phones. I really do wish that merchants would give it second look and bring their money into town; it deserves a revenue boost.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Matt says:

    I like Trowbridge the way it is and always has been . I think your idea of ” improving” a town means gentrifying it which is happening all over the west country and the last my town needs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Josephine Corcoran says:

    Hi Matt, I’m glad you like Trowbridge. I do too, that’s why I defended it against Jack Dee’s insulting comment on national radio. I haven’t made any suggestions for “improving” the town in this post. I have commented that artists and a creative community are increasing their presence here, which is a very good thing. “Gentrifying” means taking away affordable housing from a place so that only those with high incomes can live there – that isn’t happening in Trowbridge where it is still possible to buy or rent somewhere to live for considerably less than nearby Bath or Bradford on Avon, or many other places, for example.


    • tipsforme says:

      There probably is a predictable pattern though- first the artists, then non-heteronormative non-artists, then broader hipsters who open independent shops, then noncreative professionals who like to go to independent shops on Saturday. Suddenly it’s gentrified.

      But I don’t think this can be blamed on the artists who spot somewhere attractive but cheap (because artists are usually poor themselves). And I like to live near artists and independent shops – I just need to move in while it’s cheap!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Josephine Corcoran says:

        Thank you for commenting on this post. I think, at the moment, Trowbridge is still relatively inexpensive and well-located for larger cities – Bath, Bristol, Cardiff. There are still many empty properties here, including in the town centre. The old Bowyers factory – large areas of industrial buildings which could be fantastic mixed-used houses/retail/restaurants and are located next to the train station – lie empty and increasingly derelict. (For ten years now). I have written to my MP about it but he seems to be focused on Brexit. It is quite sad because the town has so much potential. The best thing is, there *are* artistic endeavours here and they make a difference to the lives of people who participate in them. Drawing Projects UK (in particular) is a really wonderful centre.

        Liked by 1 person

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