On the evening of Friday, October 30th 2015 Moseley Road Baths Friends Viv Harrison, Jen Austin and Michelle Bint took part in the BBC Radio WM programme Haunted (a Halloween special edition of the station’s regular Sunday morning show Hunted), which included a section where WM reporter Debbie had to find hidden clues at the Baths. Listen here to the appropriately scary and spooky welcome which we gave her as she searched the women’s ‘slipper’ baths and Gala Pool.
The Friends have been in regular contact with Birmingham City Council since the announcement that the building has made the World Monuments Fund ‘2016 Watch List’. We want to ensure that the Council are doing everything within their power to maintain the building, despite lack of funds for major improvements. So far, we understand that lighting is being improved, areas are being tidied and quotes are being obtained for thorough cleaning of areas within the building which do not have public access.
Further delays with Sparkhill Baths
The re-opening of a new, rebuilt Sparkhill Pool will not happen until Spring 2017 after yet more delays as a result of asbestos on site. The Birmingham Mail reported on 19th November that:
Cabinet member for contracts Stewart Stacey (Lab, Acocks Green) said: “Sparkhill Pool is not going as predicted. “As happens with many older buildings, the asbestos was much, much worse than anyone thought it would be and more than was visible when the contract was signed.”
Demolition work is now expected to continue for the next few months, with construction due to start in March 2016 ready for a May 2017 opening. It is 18 months behind schedule.
Moseley Road Baths Open Day, October 31st 2015
Following the recent announcement that the Baths was to be included on the World Monuments Fund Watch List we decided to hold an open day at the end of October, which would also tie in with Moseley Road’s 108th birthday. Having taken part in Birmingham Heritage Week just six weeks earlier we were a little apprehensive that we’d struggle to attract many visitors this time (between 80-120 is usual for our open days). We were therefore amazed when around 240 people showed up; making this easily the most popular event we’ve stage since our formation in nine years ago.
Plans to run four guided tours quickly expanded to seven, additional MRB information sheets were hastily photocopied, extra copies of our Pool of Memories book were brought in as the enthusiasm and excitement of visitors made the Friends’ volunteers forget their exhaustion.
Centrepiece of the day was a re-enactment of the Opening Ceremony, staged in period costume thanks to our friends at Balsall Heath Local History Society. Particular thanks to Martin Mullaney who played the rôle of Deputy Lord Mayor Alderman Reynolds and gave excellent speeches both at the front of the building (to a crowd of up to 80) and then in the foyer, which likely hasn’t been so crowded in years, to the backdrop of a string quartet playing Edwardian period music. The ‘dignitaries’ (architect William Hale, Baths Committee Chairman William Davies, Baths Department Superintendent Job Cox, Resident Money-taker Mrs Hidden and a representative of Moseley Swimming Club ladies section – or Mark, Carl, John, Helen and Philippa as they are better known) each received replica 1907 tickets (or at least our approximation of what one might have looked like) despite the unexpected arrival of a placard waving suffragette (Fran Delaney) and a local factory hand desperate for a wash (Chris Crean)! The re-enactment ended with the cutting of a splendid Victoria sponge cake, decorated with Moseley Road Baths birthday greetings.
Amongst our many visitors were Balsall Heath Councillor Victoria Quinn and her husband, outgoing Council Leader Sir Albert Bore. Our thanks as ever to the staff for whom nothing seemed too much trouble, and to the public who came from Balsall Heath, Birmingham and beyond to visit Britain’s finest still operating Edwardian swimming baths.
To mark Moseley Road Baths’ recent inclusion on the World Monuments Fund Watch List as well as the building’s 108th birthday, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths are holding an Open Day on Saturday, October 31st 2015 from 10am-4pm.
Moseley Road Baths Open Day gives the public a chance to learn about the history of this threatened Grade II* listed building, with access to normally closed areas such as the gala pool, private washing bath departments, laundry room and cold-water storage tank, as well as the boiler and filtration rooms. A highlight of the day comes at 2pm with a re-enactment of the opening ceremony following which Edwardian-period musical entertainment will be provided in the tea room and birthday cake partaken. Later, at 3pm, members of the general public who so wish may undertake a guided tour of the building. For those unable to attend the re-enactment, additional guided tours will take place at 11pm, noon and 1pm and pre-booking is advised. Entrance to Moseley Road Baths Open Day is free, and refreshments will be available in return for a small donation to the Friends of Moseley Road Baths. Additionally, Pool of Memories, the Friends’ book on the history of the baths, will be on sale for £10.
Please note that Pool 2 will be open for public swimming throughout the day and those who have never previously swum at Moseley Road Baths are especially welcome to come along and enjoy a dip in this historic Edwardian pool that Birmingham City Council currently intends to close at the end of 2016.
Moseley Road Baths is both a local and national asset under threat of closure.
The following press release was issued by Abdullah Rehman of Balsall Heath Forum and a member of the Moseley Road Baths Working Group, following the news that Balsall Heath residents voted in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan.
‘On the 8th October 2015 the community of Balsall Heath went out to vote on the Balsall Heath Neighbourhood Development Plan which was designed to transform their area.
The aims of the plan included improvements to the main thoroughfares; protect historic buildings and reopening of their train station also, creating a town square on Moseley Rd and improvements to the Ladypool Rd.
The question on the ballot paper was;
“Do you want Birmingham to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Balsall Heath to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”
This led to an overwhelming 22.28 percent turnout with 90% of residents saying ‘yes’. The turnout of 2,228 residents coming was higher than in many other council elections. zzzz
It makes me proud to be from a community who led a campaign 21 years ago to reclaim the street from pimps and drug dealers, to a new chapter which seeks to empower and puts residents in control of their ‘place’.
We are now the first neighbourhood plan for the city.
I would like to personally thank all my colleagues at the Balsall Heath Forum, local active residents, political parties and all volunteers who helped with promoting this new chapter for the neighbourhood.’
Please see a few quotes below.
Joe Hollyoak- Architect
“I am delighted we have finally got to the end with the right result after 4 years of work” “It is another significant achievement for Balsall Heath.”
Councillor Victoria Quinn
“The Balsall Heath community has shown through the Neighbourhood Plan and the vote that they shared an identity and cared about the place where they live.”
Former deputy leader of BCC-Andy Howell
“92% yes on turnout of 22%- that turnout is higher than some Council’s elections” “I’m quite proud of the local electorate for that.”
Councillor Jamie Mckay
“Huge congratulate to Balsall Heath Forum, a shining example of local leadership and community action.”
Councillor Matt Bennett
“Very pleased that Birmingham’s first Neighbourhood plan has been approved by referendum. More to follow I hope. Well done Balsall Heath Forum”
“Balsall Heath gets Neighbourhood Plan! Local democracy looks to the future in Brum!”
Councillor Tony Kennedy
“The huge majority in the Balsall Heath Referendum is a powerful mandate to drive the next phase of the area’s renaissance, we have already secured £12 million investment for a site on the Moseley road and opened up the river Rea; we must now secure a railway station and the other priorities in the plan. I thank and congratulate everyone who worked so hard to reach this day.”
I would personally like to thank all partners, political parties, local councillors and above all the community and residents for support and hard work during the past four years. We will now plan ahead to deliver on the plan and help shape the neighbourhood in the vision of the community who live in ‘OUR PLACE!’
It was announced on 15th October in New York by World Monuments Fund President Bonnie Burnham that Moseley Road Baths has made the WMF’s 2016 World Monuments Watch List.
It is one of only two buildings in the UK selected for inclusion on the 2016 World Monuments Watch List. The list is published every two years in order to focus attention on sites of architectural significance around the world that are under threat. The Baths gets a full feature on the WMF’s website, explaining why it was chosen.
Supporters fighting to keep the Baths open have welcomed the news as recognition of the architectural importance and social significance of the Edwardian building.
Moseley Road Baths is the oldest of only three Grade II* listed swimming pools in Britain. It was opened in 1907 and the building is believed to contain the only surviving example of a laundry room with its original drying racks. In an age before laundrettes, local people would have used the room and the racks for their clothes washing.
The ground floor includes a set of pre-war private slipper baths, said to be unique. There are no other examples remaining of this type of bathing facility that was used by local people until 2004. The cubicles contain cast iron baths, some with ropes still hanging over them to help people get in and out as well as the bell system used to call attendants if bathers were in difficulties.
There are two swimming pools, one of which is still in use by local people and schools throughout the week. Both have ornate, cast-iron girders supporting the roofs and the now disused Gala Pool is lined by glazed brick dressing boxes. Only one other pool in Britain still has these; wooden partitions were more common in Victorian and Edwardian periods.
The application for World Monuments Watch listing was submitted by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths (FofMRB). The group has been campaigning to keep the swimming pool open since 2006. Dates for closure of the building have been announced by the owners, Birmingham City Council, on numerous occasions but each time, action has been postponed. FofMRB members have raised the profile of the Baths with a series of arts events and open days while a number of organisations have used the building for filming.
An application for Heritage Lottery Fund support was due to be submitted but this had to be abandoned after Birmingham City Council withdrew its support. The building is now expected to close before the end of 2016.
Commenting on the inclusion of Moseley Road Baths on the 2016 World Monuments Watch, Mark Gunton, Treasurer of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths said, ‘Obviously we’re delighted to have been included but we know that this isn’t the solution to the crisis facing Moseley Road Baths. We still have to work hard to get organisations and individuals to commit to saving the building, keeping it open as an active swimming pool and to finding additional activities to make it a viable concern. The great thing about the Watch listing is that it focuses attention on our campaign and hopefully will help to open new doors for us so that we can protect this wonderful part of Birmingham’s history’.
The Friends of Moseley Road Baths will be marking the building’s inclusion on the list through a celebratory event on 31st October, which will also mark 108 years since the building first opened its doors to the public. More details will follow soon!
the future will be confusing…
Many of you will have seen this neon text hanging from the facade of Moseley Road Baths. This is part of Fierce Festival’s ongoing residency at the Baths, following on from last month’s ‘Slip’ exhibition.
Will Be (2010)
presented by Fierce Festival
Playing with the performative aspects of language and the dynamic relation between form and content, the phrase ‘the future will be confusing’ is spelled out in different coloured neon letters. Presented in a disorientating rhythm of colours, the words make an uneasy promise about the nature of the future before us… As with Etchells‘ other neon pieces, Will Be draws on the artists’ fascination with the speed, clarity and vividness with which language communicates narrative, image and ideas, and at the same time its amazing propensity to create a rich field of uncertainty and ambiguity.
Tim Etchells is an artist and a writer based in the UK whose work shifts between performance, visual art and fiction. He has worked in a wide variety of contexts, notably as the leader of the world-renowned Sheffield-based performance group Forced Entertainment. www.timetchells.com www.forcedentertainment.com.
Festival Director, Harun Morrison writes:
‘It’s a work by an internationally renowned theatre maker and visual artist called Tim Etchells. He has installed these ambivalent texts on contemporary and listed buildings all over the world. We felt the text would be appropriate because the future of the baths is indeed and remains uncertain.
The text is purposely ambivalent and avoids bombastic sloganeering. It resists being nauseously positive – like a bad self-help manual. Nor is it doom mongering. In a way one could read it as joke aimed any individual or group that takes the authoritarian position of purporting to know how the future will unfold!’
On Thursday 8th October, residents of Balsall Heath will have the opportunity to vote on whether the City should use the Neighbourhood Development Plan to help decide planning applications. Many local people will know that the area has not been best served by planners in the past, so this is an opportunity to vote on plans which have been developed by local residents.
Local Film Maker Haqi Ali has made a short film about Thursday 8th October’s Referendum based on interviews with local residents. You can hear why they think that voting yes is a good idea.
The Neighbourhood plan is available to read online at www.balsallheathforum.info. It includes the following policy regarding Historical buildings (apologies for the small text, we recommend using a large screen to view).
Balsall Heath residents are eligible to vote at the the same polling stations used for local and national elections. Whilst the plan does not specify usage for the building, it does put emphasis on the building being protected and maintained by its owner. The Baths is already registered as an ‘Asset of Community Value’, so the hope is that the plan, if passed, will secure the building (in planning terms at least) for the use of the community, and hold the Council to looking strategically at the historic buildings along that section of the Moseley Road.
At 9am on Saturday 5th September, Mark Gunton and Chris Crean, from Moseley Road Baths to deliver copies of the Pool of Memories book.
Pictures were taken at each library on the 42 miles and 4 hour round trip.
Thank you to all the library managers and staff who accepted our donations.