Sink or Swimming
Yesterday, Thursday 10 April, saw the AGM of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Friends, as it's campaign to fight for the future of the baths enters a final countdown, http://birminghamcentral.blogspot.com/2013/01/plug-pulled-to-empty-moseley-road-baths.html. With only 18 months to save the pool, http://www.friendsofmrb.co.uk/2014/03/three-things-you-can-do/, the AGM was a chance to consider the work of the previous year and a rally call to all who care for and can help to fight to save the baths.
The AGM took place in the lovely ORT Cafe, http://birminghamcentral.blogspot.com/2013/04/printing-impression-old-print-works.html, opposite the baths, which is currently hosting a photo exhibition of the Baths by local photographer and regular swimmer Vivienne Harrison.
The AGM's first business was a proposal to amend the group's aims following a public consultation on what people were prepared to tolerate as a compromise to keep the pool open. Most of those surveyed wished to maintain swimming and preferred the baths to remain under council control but were open to other operators as long as public swimming remained. In light of the consultation the group's aims were changed from two pools to lobbying for swimming to remain at Moseley Road Baths. The pragmatic approach is a reflection of the current situation and the fight to ensure the baths remain open but it doesn't undermine the drive and determination that we want both pools to be open and the building restored to it's former grandeur.
The closed former Gala Pool
What remains is the stubbornness of Birmingham City Council in remaining resolute in making no mention of the baths and a determination that when Sparkhill baths re-open in 2015 Moseley Road Baths will close. There is a horrible irony in the new Sparkhill baths being one of the nine Olympic training pools from the London 2012 Olympics, Sparkhill to get former London 2012 Olympic swimming pool and the 'legacy' of the Olympics, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-26625866, being new pools but the loss of a well used and love local pool for Balsall Heath and surrounds.
All of the new pools are set to open by 2017 with the council retaining direct control of six pools and the remainder run by private operators following the model of Harborne's £12m new pool, http://birminghamcentral.blogspot.com/2009/06/olympic-pool-to-boost-citys-sporting.html , which is run on a 15 year lease by DC leisure, http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/birmingham-city-council-nine-swimming-6343056
The AGM heard that a meeting had taken place between the council and the Friends but they were waiting for the council's notes of the meeting to confirm what stance had been reached and of prospective talks between the council and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which might offer an olive branch to the baths future. In a climate where councils are increasingly unable to match fund bids the HLF might be better able to lower it's requirements for match funding and maybe offer a second chance for the council to engage with the HLF to secure the baths' future following the hard work of former Councillor Martin Mullanney, http://birminghamcentral.blogspot.com/2013/01/plug-pulled-to-empty-moseley-road-baths.html
After the business came the call to arms for those present, and maybe for you reading this, to help by utilising skills and contacts to help fight for the future of the baths. Dividing into groups key areas of work such as media, lobbying and liaison and events discussion ensued to see what we could do to help the Friends. If your reading this and have expertise or contacts that can help promote the baths and their future the Friends would be keen to hear from you, http://www.friendsofmrb.co.uk/contact/
The closure of the pool, putting aside it's important history, comes against a focus on swimming nationally and the importance of such a pool for young people learning to swim.
Wednesday's BBC The One Show programme featured children swimming at the Olympic swimming pool as Olympic swimmer Keri-Anne Payne reported on the high number of British school children unable to swim, http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04000fk/The_One_Show_09_04_2014/,
Photo's of the Olympic pool taken on the 30 March.
In May 2013 the Independent newspaper reported that just over half, 51%, of 7 - 11 years old could not swim the length of the a typical pool (5 metres), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/more-than-a-million-primary-schoolchildren-unable-to-swim-says-major-survey-8628153.html
This is a worrying statistic and the closure of Moseley Road Baths will surely lead to less children learning to swim locally with further distance to travel to Sparkhill, which will be the next closest pool.
David Walker, leisure safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “In our work with bereaved parents and coroners, RoSPA hears all too often how parents believed their children could swim, only to find out their abilities were little more than being able to float and doggy paddle.”http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/more-than-a-million-primary-schoolchildren-unable-to-swim-says-major-survey-8628153.html
In a young city with a richly diverse population we should be encouraging young people to learn to swim and make access easier not more difficult. This combined with the health benefits of swimming against a recent report on the vast number of fast food restaurants in Birmingham with 1,100 residents per fast food restaurant, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/with-one-fast-food-restaurant-for-every-1100-people-birmingham-takes-a-stand-against-the-takeaway-9231132.html
Coming soon the Friends will be hosting a Keep Moseley Road Baths Open Day which is a great opportunity to see the pool and why it's so significant architecturally, historically and why it's much loved and well used by local residents.
The fight to save the pool isn't over and the recent work by Wolverhampton City Council working with the Amateur Swimming Association and Sport England to keep Wolverhampton Central Pool open, even though it is a newer facility than Moseley Road Baths, shows that where there is a will there is a splash and a way, http://www.swimming.org/asa/news/facilities/west-midland-clubs-relief-as-competition-pool-stays-open/20172
For more information please see the Friends of Moseley Road website: http://www.friendsofmrb.co.uk/