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Delving into the Tales Of Bath

"I always think we cannot do better than our last treatment and then something like Tales of Bath is created. Almost floating in deliciously warm water and then lying snuggled on my side."

Lush co-founder Rowena Bird

It’s a voyage deep underground that begins with rain. Water saturates the Mendip hills, quenching green fields, and soaking through porous limestone to the depths of the underworld. Compressed, these rivers weave their way through underground roads, cutting through earth, rock and mountain down to Aqua Sulis. Stone melts away - no match for the sweet resolve of water hollowing out a path. Orchestra-like, dark chambers conduct cascades of cyclical quiet and awakening, just like the rush of water from a tap.

In the ancient city of Bath, The Tales Of Bath spa treatment was born. “The aim was to give people an environment where they might relax,” explains musician Richard Evans. “When I go for a massage, I want an experience where I can lose myself, and am made to feel special. And I want to feel better walking out than I did on the way in. I don't necessarily want a life-changing experience. Just an hours’ refuge.”

The Bath-based musician was tasked with developing a soundscape that would breathe life into the ancient lore and pagan rituals surrounding the city’s healing waters and form the basis of a spa treatment. The tale of Prince Bladud, who founded the city after he was healed from disease by the Celtic goddess Sulis, is narrated using spoken word, poetry and musical cues through the soundtrack.

Describing himself as ‘slightly sceptical’, Richard acknowledges that initially he was out of his comfort zone. And yet, “People do their most interesting work when they don’t know what they’re doing,” he remarks wryly. “As you learn you make mistakes and out of those comes something interesting. The confusion between magic and science became part of the story. I’ve often looked at the aims of what we think of as magic and science and think well what’s the difference? The fact that a surgeon started to be able to cure somebody at the end of the nineteenth century would seem like magic to someone from the fourteenth century.”

And vocalist Caroline Crawley, who performs a spoken word piece in the soundtrack, agrees: “There’s been a very lovely interplay between the masculine and feminine energies in this project. Magic and science has kind of come together.”

Richard first sought out Caroline’s help to learn more about the mythology of the city and also to find an artist to write and perform a spoken word piece. “I’d always wanted to create a spoken word piece for Lush, because my mum used to play Richard Burton’s Under Milk Wood, and it became a formative music piece to me,” he explains. “I started looking for someone to tell the story, and then it became obvious that Caroline should do it.”

Caroline initially approached the task with trepidation, explaining, “It was out of my comfort zone completely to even write the story, but it all felt so magical. I spent an entire weekend on it and it really felt like it just flew out. When I got to the bit at the end where the goddess Sulis speaks, I fell asleep, and then woke up as the sun was setting and wrote the final part. It really felt like someone else was writing it."

She continues: "On the day that we recorded some of the story, I asked if we could go at dawn to the Charlcombe spring. We got there in the dark; it was early, it was cold, and we heard the owls in the night and then we heard the dawn chorus. Afterwards, we magically ended up going to Richard’s studio and writing our first piece together.”

Birdsong, a signature aspect of a Lush spa soundtrack, was given a penetrating, otherworldly quality during the process. Richard, who is familiar with the Lush’s use of birdsong from previous work, explains, “In this particular treatment was all about the wren. Wren music is very expressive and melodic. We brought it down about eight octaves. My favourite part of the music is that wren song because the wren is seen as the king of the birds and a Bladud figure in the music.”

Richard and Caroline also worked with local spoken word artist Toby Thompson to produce another piece for the soundtrack. Toby recalls, “The poem maybe more than anything else than I’ve written, isn’t about me. It’s broader than that. Part of the brief was that a lot of the treatment doesn’t acknowledge the harder things in life. Initially, my piece was going to be slightly rousing and reintroduce you to the world. Now it comes in earlier. It was interesting to balance light and dark, loss and gain, life and death. That’s what gave the piece legs.”

When the bare bones of the soundtrack were laid down, Richard passed it on to Lush spa treatment developer Hannah Lamminam who created a three-part experience, consisting of a seated shoulder rub, private bath and side-lying massage. With a structure in mind, Hannah worked with Head Lush Bath spa therapist Eugeny Couture to polish and shape the final piece.

Eugeny explains, “Hannah has a very magical, organic way in which she designs our treatments, and when it was almost finished, she came to us. I think it gave her another perspective to see it performed by someone else.” Eugeny, who modestly describes her input as ‘subtle’, continues, “I enabled Hannah to see her work and polish it. Working with soundtracks is a very, very important part of Lush spa treatments. The affinity I had with the music meant that we were able to ensure that every move - I would dare to say every step - matches the music.”

As a trained ballerina, Eugeny was able to inject additional flow and musicality into the movements of the spa therapist during the treatment. “I think of it a little bit like a dance”, she says, “my steps to the music and my massage movements take the client to a different dimension. You want to provide the best quality of touch to your client. Tales Of Bath is quite a physical treatment, and we are also working with the idea of water, femininity and the goddess Sulis. You don’t want to break that moment in the treatment. It’s about holding the space for the client from the beginning to the end of the treatment.”

The final composition of sleep-inducing massage and light-giving music draws the client deep into an underworld of magic, peace and ethereal lullaby.  Evocative waves of otherworldly lyric, hot oils and free-flowing sound suspend mind and body in a poetical soundscape, helping you to step down from reality and recuperate.

As Caroline explains, “The more present you are the less likely you are to be thinking about all the things that aren’t important. Hopefully, you’ll come out of the treatment feeling more spacious and more empty and ready to appreciate the gifts of life.”

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