Today was a lovely day, the kind of day which reminds you why you were bonkers enough to get involved with something in the first place. It’s been over three years since the campaign started to save Withington Baths and I was reminded of how many other passionate people there are up and down the country hell bent on rescuing and preserving the magnificent water palaces which Victorian and Edwardians gifted us and which potty councils are so hell bent on closing.
The 110th birthday of the tremendous Victoria Baths is being celebrated this week. You might remember them from the BBC series Restoration, on which they won £3m and completed some of their restorations? They’ve a whole series of events planned, including filling their gorgeous pool – which now hosts dry events like fairs and weddings – with water. Long term their vision is to fill this pool permanently, but initially and hopefully imminently the VB team will revitalise their long closed Turkish Baths.
Even the Lord Mayor of Manchester popped along to unveil a stunning new stained window looking down on the pool. I’d never actually seen their pool filled with water, apart from on photos, it looked amazing! Why councils want to close these amazing places, I’ll never ever understand.
Team Love Withy Baths were invited down as part of the Historic Pools group to network with others already running their own pools and also meet people just starting out on the same crazy journey. I didn’t make it down for the morning session but skilfully managed to pitch up just in time for cake. Marvellous timing 😉
It was very cool getting a tour down into the basement to see the archives, from photos, certificates and posters to beautiful written memories. All are carefully stored in air-controlled temperatures to museum standards, so when people hand over the treasures they love, or that their parents loved, they know that the Victoria Baths team will take the utmost care of them.Afterwards, we’d been asked it’d be ok for a few people to head over and explore our Baths, not quite so grand and imposing at Victoria, but just as unique and special to us. During our initial campaign, it was very heartening for us to visit other pools which community groups were running and it’s great that our story can now give others confidence and inspire them to keep fighting for their pools and heritage buildings.
26 people headed over! People from all over the country, from Aberdeen to London, Blackburn to Birmingham. We gave a mini presentation in the sun on our new terrace (it’s about time we had some sunshine after all this summer rain!) and fielded lots of questions about all aspects of our campaign and set up. That’s the great thing about this sort of network, when you really need an answer on something, there’s usually someone with one to hand, hugely important when you feel like you’re really up against it. Lots of business cards were swapped and good connections made, an excellent day.But perhaps most importantly, a vote was cast and yep, it was another unanimous thumbs up on the Farrow & Ball ‘Folly Green’ for the pitched ceilings of our part-renovated Bathhouse – result!