Swimming History Picture of the Week: The Blue Lagoon Bristol

The Blue Lagoon Bristol Lido Swimming Pool

When it comes to social history of swimming, the popularity of fresh air and sunshine in the 1930’s saw the doors opened to swimming pools up and down the country.

As the demand for places where people would feel comfortable sunbathing rose, so lidos were built meaning that swimming and sunbathing for both sexes became freely available for the very first time.

The association between sunshine and swimming was to be firmly implanted in the psyche of the British public and it has continued ever since. The introduction of the lido saw a move away from the early morning swim, towards a preference for bathing in warm sunny conditions. The development of the lido and the exodus of swimmers from the river into purpose-built accommodation although appearing on the surface to be of great benefit to swimmers, would ultimately have dire consequences for river bathers.

The lido era brought the sexes together in a new and unique environment, changing forever our image of the body. The Victorians had dressed to disguise the human form, but the lido put the body on public exhibition with costumes that left little to the imagination. Between the 1920’s and the 1940’s, swimsuit fashions, beauty contests, and extensive spectator galleries contributed to a rise in body consciousness.

Hollywood portrayed, on the beach and at the swimming pool, a vision of physical perfection to which successive generations have attempted to aspire.

The sexualisation of modern society and the commercialism that propels it, rose from the humble waters of the lido.

Read the full story in Chapter 5, Lidos Open, Rivers Close: Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture.

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