The City of Bath festival celebrates Emperor Haile Selassie’s legacy

30 Apr 2021

A new festival was launched in April celebrating the legacy and impact of Emperor Haile Selassie I on the city of Bath.

The Freedom in the City festival runs from April until the end of October with a series of online and in-person events exploring Ethiopian and Rastafari culture which are open to the public.

The project is the brainchild of the University of the West of England, Bristol Associate Professor Dr. Shawn Sobers, and is being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Dr. Sobers said: ‘‘Bath is predominately known for its Roman and Georgian roots and as the home of novelist Jane Austen. Yet Bath was also home to Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, who is considered God incarnate by members of the Rastafari faith. By launching this festival, we hope to connect local communities with this sometimes-forgotten period of history and celebrate cultural inclusivity in the city.’’

The festival officially started on 20th April with an online screening of the film Footsteps of the Emperor about the time Emperor Haile Selassie lived in Bath, followed by a question and answer session with the film’s director, Dr. Sobers. Other festival highlights include an online lecture on the history and theology of Rastafari on 11th June, a live performance of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba Opera at the Bath Guildhall on 17th July, and an Ethiopian Orthodox Church Service at Bath Abbey on 18th September. More information about the festival along with a full list of events and activities is available at freedominthecity.org.

…Emperor Haile Selassie’s life in Bath

Emperor Haile Selassie, I moved to Bath in 1936 to campaign for international support of his homeland, Ethiopia, which had been invaded by Mussolini’s fascist regime. The Emperor and his family lived in Fairfield House, Bath, until 1940 when he returned to Ethiopia to reign for another three decades.

Fairfield House

During his time living in Bath, Emperor Selassie received a warm welcome from local residents and this generosity was reciprocated when he gave Fairfield House to the city as a gift to be used for elders.

Emperor Haile Selassie with the Mayor of Bath in October 1954

In 1954 while on a state visit to Bath, Emperor Haile Selassie was awarded the title Freedom of the City; the highest official honour a city can bestow on an individual. The award represents the symbolic freedom for the individual to be able to parade proudly through the streets and seals the connection between the state and the people.

Today he is still worshipped as God incarnate by the Rastafari movement with Fairfield House a site of pilgrimage for many from the Ethiopian, Rastafari, and African Caribbean communities.

Latest News

Browse all
A collection of Ethiopian artefacts that were looted by British soldiers during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868 are set to be returned to Ethiopia following a poignant handover ceremony at the prestigious Athenaeum Club in London on 8th September 2021. The objects were procured by the Scheherazade Foundation through auctions and private dealers.
9 Sep 2021
Artefacts looted in Maqdala in 1868 to be returned to Ethiopia
Speech by H.E. Ambassador Teferi Melesse Desta at the Ethiopian Investment Forum, held on 2 September 2020.
2 Sep 2021
Speech by H.E. Ambassador Teferi Melesse Desta at the Ethiopian Investment Forum
Press Briefing by Billene Seyoum, Press Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, on key highlights of the week and recent developments in Northern Ethiopia (Afar, Amhara, and Tigray Regions) - 26 August 2021, Addis Ababa 
26 Aug 2021
Transcript | Prime Minister’s Office Press Briefing – 26 August 2021
Press Briefing by Billene Seyoum, Press Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, on key highlights of the week and recent developments in Tigray and Northern Ethiopia - 20 August 2021
20 Aug 2021
Transcript | Prime Minister’s Office Press Briefing – 20 August 2021
Press Briefing by Billene Seyoum, Press Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, on key highlights of the week and recent developments in Tigray 12 August 2021
12 Aug 2021
Transcript | Prime Minister’s Office Press Briefing – 12 August 2021
Reaffirming our commitment to the protection of refugees, we request the UN Human Rights Commission to correct the biased and partial opinions of its rapporteur. We also call the Commission and other international humanitarian organizations to help our efforts of rescuing the refugees from the imminent danger they are in and assist our efforts of investigating the issue.
7 Aug 2021
A Response to the Statement by the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Regarding the Situation of Eritrean Refugees in Ethiopia
The Government will take all the necessary measures to ensure that these sacred places and other institutions are well protected and call on the international community to condemn this heinous act of the TPLF.
6 Aug 2021
Press Statement on Protection of Cultural Sites
The Government of Ethiopia has been committed to the Unilateral Humanitarian Ceasefire that it has declared on 28 June 2021 in a bid to give respite to the people of Tigray and make use of the farming season. Regrettably, the TPLF has failed to reciprocate.
6 Aug 2021
Statement on preoccupying issues in Ethiopia and the way forward
Press Briefing by Billene Seyoum, Press Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, on key highlights of the week and recent developments in Tigray.
5 Aug 2021
Transcript | Prime Minister’s Office Press Briefing – 5 August 2021
Full statement submitted to ITV News in response to their report "Tigray conflict: Food will run out for thousands in Ethiopia without aid relief, UN warns" (30 July 2021)
30 Jul 2021
Statement to ITV News on the Government’s Response to the Humanitarian Situation in Tigray
Press Briefing by Billene Seyoum, Press Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, on key highlights of the week and recent developments in Tigray.
28 Jul 2021
Transcript | Prime Minister’s Office Press Briefing – 28 July 2021
The Government of Ethiopia has been working tirelessly in collaboration with development partners to ensure continued supplies of food and medicine to those that are in desperate need of it. It will continue to work with its humanitarian partners to prevent breaks in humanitarian operations and for assistance to reach all affected communities.
22 Jul 2021
Tigray Region Humanitarian Assistance Update