Updated: Sep 12
The Guardian reports: In 1936, Sir Josiah Stamp, then Governor of the Bank of England, made a speech at the opening of the Morecambe open air baths. “When we get down to swimming” he said, “we get down to democracy.” That sense of importance was not misplaced. Some 80 years later, on a brilliant blue, baking hot Saturday, similar grand emotions were evoked, at the re-opening of Saltdean Lido.
Five miles east of Brighton, Saltdean is a coastal village with the lido sitting proudly right on the seafront. Built in the 1930s, the pool was a glamorous part of the Saltdean “offer”, its main building curved like a cruise liner. The story of it shutting is a familiar one to lido historians, full of benign neglect. The space was measured up by developers, but the community’s eyes were still on it. “As a keen swimmer, architectural heritage lover and local resident there was no way I was going to lose [it] to flats” said Rebecca Crook, director and co founder of Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company. The company fought to get control of the pool, and won. And after seven years, thousands of dedicated volunteer hours and the raising of £3m, here we are. A sparkling main pool restored to its original 40-metre length, refurbished surroundings and a paddling pool. It felt absolutely ace to be there.
The restoration of Saltdean is part of a wider story – public interest in open-air swimming has boomed in the last decade or so. Jubilee Pool in Penzance reopened last year; Charlton Lido in south-east London has extended its opening hours; there are campaigns to restore lidos to Bath, Peckham and Reading; and to build a new one in the middle of the Thames in central London. These are exciting times for lido lovers, those who want to be outside but don’t have access to wild swimming locations. Who appreciate the actual value of sun on skin. Who want somewhere to learn, or practice, or make community. Who recognise these places, still, as classless and timeless, where status is irrelevant because no amount of cash will buy you a better swim. Those of us in cities and towns who just want a moment’s escape from air con or inside. more…