A provincial city shows respect: shopping and mourning in Bath

Bowman, Marion (1999). A provincial city shows respect: shopping and mourning in Bath. In: Walter, Tony ed. The Mourning for Diana. Oxford: Berg, pp. 215–225.

URL: http://www.bergpublishers.com/?tabid=1710


While the national and international media concentrated primarily on the extraordinary scenes in London, as a folklorist and scholar of contemporary religion, I felt it was important to provide a record of what was happening at the local level, on the basis that the great majority of people did not get to London and that there might be both regional variation and innovation. It seemed valuable to record some of the unreported reactions to events, and the personal and communal forms of exppression that emerged, as this would give a more rounded picture of what was happening. This would also provide a snapshot of popular mores of "appropriateness" and aesthetics in the face of death, and help to explain what changes (if any) it set in motion.

I selected Bath, a small historic city of 85,000 souls in the west of England, where I live, concentrating on the city centre and on one suburban shopping street. I also concentrated on the (Saturday) morning of the funeral, because one would expect that this was the day when showing respect would be at its height, yet also when most people would be indoors privately watching the funeral on television. So what would be happening in the city centre, and how would those who work there - chiefly shopkeepers and their staff - handle this liminal monrning and signal their intentions? I therefore went into town that day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with my camera and an open mind. Most striking were the shop window shrines to Diana - some had been created a few days back, others just for the day. Having photographed them, I returned a year later (just for the anniversary) to interview the staff who had created them.

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