GOING GAGA FOR LIDOS ON THE RADIO

I recently had a serendipitous encounter at my local lido with a friendly stranger. He was stood loitering by the swim-suit dryer, recording the sound of it on his phone. Like you do. We got chatting. I quickly unleashed my lido geekery on him (when I’m not writing novels, I’m a nutcase about outdoor swimming and lidos)… and before I knew it, I’d agreed to co-host on his show all about London Fields Lido, on Hoxton.FM.

It was insane amounts of fun. I’m going back on again this Saturday (23rd April), at 3pm to talk all about Break Up Club and its mega-therapeutic sound-track. We’re after recommendations – if you’ve got a song that’s saved your broken-hearted ass – let me know and we might play it.

‘Til then, here’s a handy link to listen to my goofy radio debut here:

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If you don’t have two hours spare and you fancy dipping your toe in to some of it, here’s what we chat about and when…

Break Up Club and my novels: 10 mins 33 to 11

My next book after Break Up Club, and Lidos and their history, and : 12 mins & 46 mins

Peckham Rye Lido and Thames Baths: 15 mins

Darren Hayman, London Fields Lido and Thames Baths: 33- 36 mins

Brockwell Lido: 50 mins and 1 min 50

The Salad Spinner: 52 mins

Lido love, and literature and swimming: 1 min 8- 11

Lucy Blakstad and her film Lido:1 min 11, and 1 min 50

Heavy Petting: 1 min 16

 

 

LONDON AS IT COULD BE NOW

In a second ‘wild swimming’ related post, today I’d like to draw your attention to an exciting new venture being organised by a small group of people connected to London’s ad agencies.

The plan to build a swimming pool in the middle of the Thames.

Of course, everyone’s first thought when you mention being able to swim in the Thames is ‘yuk, it’s poo brown.’

But stay with me a minute.

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As this stunning photo from 1952 shows, swimming in the Thames isn’t a weird or revolting idea at all. It turns out we’ve been at it for centuries. There used to be pontoons all the way along the river, and even a ‘children’s beach’ along Tower Bridge (seen above), where kids who couldn’t afford to get to the seaside could go and learn to swim. As Caitlin Davies (author of a new book called Downstream:a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames) spoke about at the British Library last week, there’s never been any mention of the water being unclean in the history books. Only in 1960 did it formally stop happening, mainly due to safety reasons.

But that’s all about to change, if the Thames Baths – a brilliant wild-swimming venture following the footsteps of the Kings Cross Pond Club – gets off the ground. Its Director is Rainey Kelly’s Strategy Director Matt Bamford-Bowes, and it’s a very well-thought out plan which I think every man and his goldfish should pledge to support.

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The most important thing to mention about this pool is that it will be clean. I know. Thames. Fresh. Water. The mind boggles.

The water will be naturally filtered through an intricate system of reeds.  It will be safe too, with balustrades all around it. It will be warmed naturally, through a heat exchanger. It will be free to visit, and around £5-6 to swim in. You can see more at the Kickstarter campaign here. They have truly thought of everything.

The bath plans first came about as part of an Architecture Foundation and Royal Academy initiative, to find ideas that reconnect Londoners with the river, stirringly entitled London As It Could Be Now.  As well as Matt Rainey Kelly, the Baths vision is being realised by Studio Octopi; an architect firm who have revolutionised the layouts of many of London’s ad agencies. Architect Chris Romer-Lee had just been on holiday in Zurich, swimming in the river, and found himself asking, ‘why is there nowhere similar in London?’ (I couldn’t help thinking the same when I went to the incredible ‘Badis’ all the way along Lake Zurich – they are lovely). Anyway, Chris decided to ‘bring the idea home’, along with his colleague James Lowe. They’re both also now working on the Bring Back Peckham Lido campaign. Basically, what’s not to love.

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And as Guardian writer and swimming blogger Jenny Landreth put it so poignantly at the campaign event at the Royal Academy last week, ‘London is being stripped out from under our feet…swimming outdoors is a place to feel free… We need lidos in London now, more than ever. In the gloom after last Thursday, this is a really bright pocket of positivity.’ More brilliant words from Jenny here.

Here are the very latest designs of the different locations:

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Small point to anyone working in the South Bank area – One of the possible locations is in Blackfriars, very close to the new Bankside Omnicon building. Making it pretty much the perfect place to cool off during Summer lunch times… In 2017, when it opens. Unless they get their funding sooner, that is.

The deadline to pledge is this friday, so please do think about it, if you’re even slightly tempted.

There are a range of lovely incentives for pledging too, from lifetime membership, to a gorgeous limited edition ‘SWIM’ print, designed by Michael C Place:

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The last thing to say is that Kickstarter is only the half of it. The Baths are also open to finding ‘a carefully chosen partner’ to sponsor them. In case you know of any brands that want to “jump in”.

OF SOIL, WATER AND NOMINATIVE DETERMINISM

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This is Ian.

Ian Freshwater.

He is – I shit you not – the Project Manager of a new swimming pond that’s launching in King’s Cross very soon.

As a fan of nominative determinism, I couldn’t help but be tickled when I heard this last week at the British Library. Ian started his speech on ‘Wild Swimming in the city’ by telling us that he is the proud winner of an award from Camden Council. It’s official, he has The Second Most Aptly Named Job Title in London. I’ll tell you who got first prize in a minute.

As well as being the owner of that accolade, Ian is one of the people behind a brilliant new art-installation-come-lido in Kings Cross, called Of Soil and Water. Another example of how Wild Swimming itself is a rapidly growing phenomenon across Britain. And in particular, across the capital (more on that in a few days!).

Anyway, I was lucky enough to go along for a first swim and tour of The Kings Cross Pond Club today, and it was wonderful. You can’t beat the feeling of fresh-water under an open sky at the crack of dawn, as opposed to say, a chlorine-y assault on the senses in a stuffy, noisy indoor pool.

But swimming is only half the Of Soil and Water experience. You’re surrounded by cranes, workmen, building sites, by people gutting and transforming Kings Cross, from every vantage point. It’s very exposed. You feel like you’re on stage at times. (you certainly will once the Viewing Platform is full in mid-Summer). But that’s the point. You’re meant to contemplate, too. You’re meant to think about boundaries.

As the architects – Ooze – explained to us before we were allowed to jump in…it’s about the feeling of being simultaneously inside a miniature landscape, and a building site. It’s a dialectic between being inside nature and a city in transition. And yet it’s strangely harmonious.

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That’s not all. The whole thing is cleaning itself through a network of very clever reeds which I won’t even try and explain here. Suffice to say, ‘it’s a ‘living, breathing experiment… and it won’t be chlorinated. So no peeing in it…’ warned Ian Freshwater.

Which reminds me, I’ve not yet revealed who got Number One in The League of Most Aptly Named Job Titles in London. The winner was another liquid based one: Mr Lee King, who is genuinely the Head of Thames Water.

As a Copywriter with an overzealous awareness of fatalistic wordplay, I’ve been collecting other real-life examples over the years.

I’ll leave you with two favourites: my GP when I was a kid was called Dr Payne. And (sorry) Jennifer Leak, who is genuinely a breast feeding coach.

If you’ve ever come across any other nominative triumphs you’ve been itching to share until now, do feel free to add to the collection…

Failing that, you can take a dip in the lovely Kings Cross Pond from Friday 22 May 2015Keep an eye on the pondsite for more details.