Pooling our assets

Lidos are a bit like busses. There are none for ages and then suddenly four all turn up at once. Or that’s how it seems this week when a new book comes out on lidos that is in effect a user’s guide to 130 of the UK’s lidos and outdoor pools. The Lido Guide, by Emma Pusill and Janet Wilkinson, is a must have for every swimmer: it is both a practical guide and source of inspiration for future adventures. It is also a great source of information and knowledge if like me you have a fascination with swimming pools in the UK. High time we bought out a guide for all our UK pools. Then from time to time we could review our stock of public pools and know for certain how this impacts upon our participation in the sport and recreational pursuit of swimming.

Then there was major feature in the Observer last weekend on lidos announcing how they are enjoying a renaissance. The article featured photographs of some of the iconic pools that the UK has managed to retain and the story of how they have achieved this status. Most of the remaining lidos in the UK are now community run by an army of volunteers – people who have stepped up to save pools that local authorities no longer have any interest in running. These pools are the backbone of the lido scene in the UK. They are as diverse and individual as the communities that cherish them.

The feature also announced a major exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from the 20thth July 2019 to the 19th April 2020 called Into the Blue – the origin and revival of pools, swimming baths and lidos.

Gloriously it headlines that historic pools are undergoing restoration and architects are designing inventive new places to swim. Swimming is making a splash once again! This display promises to explore the architectural, cultural and social history of indoor and outdoor swimming baths and pools in the United Kingdom. Featuring drawings, models, photographs and film footage, Into the Blue reveals the architectural setting of swimming and bathing from Roman springs and Victorian bathhouses to contemporary swimming spaces. I can’t recall swimming ever featuring at the Victoria and Albert so we shouldn’t let the occasion pass without making every effort to go and see this celebration of our swimming heritage.

Then finally, well not quite, the pool water treatment advisory group (PWTAG) is also featuring lidos as one of a number of technical papers in our much-anticipated annual conference, further details can be found here. This year it is being held at Loughborough University; Holywell conference centre, organised in association with Swim England. PWTAG which sets the standards for the UK swimming pool water is using this event to also inform the swimming pool sector of our new partnership with Swim England. As befits our remit this paper to our conference will not only share the news of the resurgence of interest in historic pools but will look at how many are embracing new technology in filtration, disinfection and heating systems creating sustainable solutions for tomorrow.

I wish there was more time to tell you about all that’s going on in pools but sadly I have a meeting to go to. I live near Grange Over Sands which has a wonderful art deco lido, not used for 26 years. Just sitting there neglected, yet we have no public pools near us. We have put a community group together to have a stab at reopening this incredible piece of our swimming and sporting history and I have promised to help where I can, particularly with the technical elements. Lidos are different and we should all enjoy them however and in whatever ways we can.