Category Archives: Birmingham

Bright new future for Moseley Road Baths!

PRESS RELEASE

Baths exterior

BRIGHT NEW FUTURE FOR MOSELEY ROAD BATHS

The Moseley Road Baths Coalition is delighted that Birmingham City Council has taken the decision to keep Moseley Road Baths open for swimming until the end of March 2018. This is great news for swimmers and fans of the baths, and for the community of Balsall Heath.

The recently-formed Moseley Road Baths Coalition is made up of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Moseley Road Baths Action Group, Historic England, the National Trust and the World Monuments Fund. The coalition team has been working with Birmingham City Council to explore a sustainable future for the baths that includes swimming, for what is unquestionably one of Birmingham’s most important heritage buildings and one of the nation’s most significant swimming pools.

The decision to keep the building open for swimming gives the Coalition, working together with Birmingham City Council, time to develop an alternative way of keeping the pool open (either through transferring operations to a Community Interest Company or via another operator), and to work on plans to bring all of the building back to life – a complex task which will require significant investment, given the scale and complexity of the backlog of conservation and building works required.

Vivienne Harrison, Chair of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths said: ‘The Friends of Moseley Road Baths are delighted that Birmingham City Council have agreed to keep our much loved swimming pool open until March next year.  For over ten years, we have been campaigning to save this locally, nationally and indeed internationally important heritage landmark and we appreciate the recognition of our efforts.  Moseley Road Baths is a vital facility for local people, a much needed meeting point which builds bridges between different sections of a diverse community and which contributes to improving health and lives in an area of high deprivation.  Of course, much still needs to be done and we look forward to working with Birmingham City Council and our coalition partners to secure a long term future for Moseley Road Baths.’

Birmingham City Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Ian Ward, said:  ‘I am delighted that the Council has made it possible for people to continue swimming at Moseley Road Baths until the end of March 2018. This will enable the Council to work with local and national partners to find a way to secure the long term future of one of Birmingham’s most important buildings, enabling people to swim there for another 100 years.’

Lucy Reid, Assistant Director of Operations at the National Trust said:  ‘Moseley Road Baths are a completely irreplaceable part of Birmingham’s history and a vital part of the city’s own story.  Thousands of Birmingham people have learnt to swim in these Baths and we want thousands more to be able to do so – this decision by Birmingham City Council is the first step in making this possible. The Friends of Moseley Road Baths and Moseley Road Baths Action Group should be thanked and congratulated for their tireless campaigning and commitment to the Baths.’

Rhodri Evans, Historic England Principal Adviser Heritage at Risk West Midlands said:  ‘We welcome the City Council’s decision to keep Moseley Road Baths open until March 2018. Moseley Road Baths is one of only 5 Grade II* baths in England and the oldest still in use for swimming. It has been on our Heritage at Risk Register since 2005 and we have already funded an Options Appraisal outlining a number of potential future uses. The additional time will enable us to continue working with the Coalition and the City Council to find a sustainable future for this significant symbol of Birmingham’s civic pride.

Professor John Darlington, Executive Director, World Monuments Fund Britain said: ‘A panel of international experts supported our view that Moseley Road Baths is unexpected, distinctive and different.  A building which speaks of a social heritage that belongs to a broad group of people rather than of fine country houses and the privileged. In 2016 it was one of only two buildings from the UK to be placed on the World Monuments Watch list. We are delighted to be a part of something that will save the Baths for future generations.’

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Why is Moseley Road Baths special?

The baths are of great heritage significance and are an important part of our city’s identity.

Moseley Road Baths are the only Grade II* baths that predate 1914 and remain in use. One of the oldest of five Grade II* listed baths in the country, they contain some unique fixtures and fittings, including a complete set of 46 private washing rooms with baths (in use until 2004), and original oak ticket offices and attendants’ kiosks.  Also, possibly the only surviving steam-heated drying racks in a British swimming pool, and a three sided spectator gallery with unique balconettes in the Gala or First Class pool.  

 

So significant are the Baths that the Friends of Moseley Road Baths secured the interest of the World Monuments Fund, who added the building to their World Monuments Watch List in 2016 of 50 important buildings and monuments from across the globe.

 

Built to encourage Balsall Heath to join the Corporation of Birmingham in 1907, the baths and the adjacent library are full of glorious details and both interior and exterior are a real testament to the designers, manufacturers and workmanship of Birmingham and Britain at this time. It spoke of a huge civic pride of a city and its people.

 

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PRESS CONTACT

 

Claire Deeley 07484 500852 / claire.deeley@nationaltrust.org.uk

March Open Day – last chance to see?

Our Last Ever Open Day?

 

With Moseley Road Baths due to close in June 2017, the next open day on Saturday 18th March could well our last event at the baths for the foreseeable future.

Come along between 10am and 2pm for tours of parts of the building that are usually closed to the public and, more importantly, to find out how you can help us in our campaign to keep our pool open!

Can you spare a few hours to help out during our open day? If so let us know by emailing contact@friendsofmrb.co.uk.

How You Can Help Now!

The Moseley Road Baths Action Group is working hard to find a way to keep our pool open, liaising with Birmingham City Council as part of a coalition led by the National Trust, and including Historic England and World Monuments Fund.

In order to show that there is demand for swimming and that the pool can continue to operate outside city council control, they need your input.

Please take a few moments to fill in the survey below and help us to keep swimming at Moseley Road Baths.

Keep Moseley Road Baths Open Day

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths are hosting a ‘Keep Moseley Road Baths Open Day’ on 8th March, 10am-2pm, to mark the 108th Anniversary of the building opening its doors to swimmers.  We hope to demonstrate just how wonderful and relevant the building is, in spite of Birmingham City Council’s plans to close the facility in 2016.Open day poster 2015Whilst the building itself opened on 30th October 1907 for washing and laundry facilities, swimming pools at the time were only used in warmer months, so it wasn’t until Spring 1908 that swimmers were able to take the plunge.  During winters, pools were usually emptied and boarded over for social activities, including dances, billiards and card games.  Moseley Road Baths was also used as a Casualty station during the Blitz.

On the day there will be an opportunity to take a tour of areas of the building which are normally closed to the public – previous tours have been really well received and we encourage visitors to take lots of photos!  With the building due to close its doors for the last time next year, this may be one of the last opportunities for the public to see areas such as the Gala Pool, Laundry Room, Boiler House and original Water Tank.  As well as members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, we are also pleased to welcome former employee John Berrill who will be on hand in the plant room to answer questions.

Swimmers of all ages can head into the water for a free fun swim on us, with floats and toys in the pool between 9:15am and 11:15am.  This will be on a first come, first served basis, so arrive in good time!

Members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths will have a stall where postcards and our book will be available to buy, and visitors can learn more about our campaign.

110 Swimmers take the plunge!

After a hugely successful gathering of swimmers and pool supporters for a unique photo shoot, Attilio is now set to unveil his work to the world this Thursday.

In a truly humbling display of just how well loved our local pool is, photographer Attilio Fiumarella and the gang over at Some Cities succeeded in getting 110 swimmers together to stand in the empty Gala Pool in their swimming costumes on a sunny Sunday morning to show their love for the building – and dismay at its proposed closure.

The shoot was a massive boost to the campaign against the proposed closure of the building – earmarked for September next year.  There was such a fantastic, good natured atmosphere – it was so lovely to see so many pool users coming together.  Attilio captured a real cross section of the community who gather at the pool each week.  The event really illustrated what a diverse bunch we are – babies and toddlers lined up next to pensioners, keen lane swimmers next to ‘Strokes’ pupils, club swimmers alongside the Aquarobics devotees and members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths next to pool staff.  That unique community is what we stand to lose if the pool closes.

The powerful images from the photo shoot were picked up by local news outlets, and soon the story grew to become the third most read story on the BBC News site, it was covered in the Daily Mail and we even gained coverage of our ‘Warrior Spirit’ as far away as Scotland!  Twitter went wild with the #100swimmers hashtag, and we even got a Tweet from Jeremy Vine!

Thanks to everyone who helped to spread the word and who shared their images and thoughts on the day.  Esther Barnes documented the shoot and has produced some lovely images.  Matthew Walters was one of the ‘Terracotta Army’ who took advantage of the event to take some gorgeous shots of around the building.  Proof as ever that this building continues to inspire.

Attilio’s image from the photo shoot will be unveiled this Thursday July 31st, from 6.30pm, at The Old Print Works, over the road from the baths – and all are welcome – whether you participated, spread the love online or only saw the story in the press.  Attilio will be there to answer questions about the project.

IMG_4169The Friends of Moseley Road Baths want to extend a huge thank you to Attilio for his vision and talent in bringing the project about, the team at Some Cities for supporting such an ambitious and exciting project, Ian Edwards (pictured above with his loudspeaker!) for his expert direction of the swimmers, to the crew who were running round supporting Attilio, to all of the swimmers who gave up their morning to stand around in an empty pool, and of course, thanks are also due to the pool staff for accommodating the event.

Why we swim…

After years of campaigning it can be easy to take the baths for granted.  So it was marvellous to get this e-mail through from Amy Williams, a new swimmer…

I live in nearby Kings Heath and can cycle to Moseley Baths as there are cycle stands outside. It’s such a beautiful building and reminds me of learning to swim under light curved ceilings as a child. It has a feel of generations of people bringing in their hearts, souls and minds to be washed clean of their daily concerns and revived ready to face the world again.

I’ve just returned from a swim this morning. I started 2013 with the aim to improve my health and stamina while seeking a chance to meditate on daily obstacles to my dreams. I find swimming is the best recommendation for gently easing into enjoyable exercise. I started out with two lengths a few weeks ago and today, despite the snow, I’m back for 10 lengths. I hope to get into a regular pattern of twenty lengths on a Monday using the Be Active scheme which is free to use.

The pool side cubicles make it safe and private to change. There’s even one with a baby seat and to accommodate disabilities. The pool is small enough that you can achieve a number of lengths but large enough that you feel you aren’t kidding yourself. The temperature is warm but not tiring there are warm jets from the sides giving pleasant sensations of relaxation as you work on your stroke. The showers are super warm so that you can leave feeling ready for the world and the journey home.

Staff are friendly and helpful with knowledge of lots of schemes to get you involved with attending; whether Be Active, Strokes for lessons, ladies/men only, parents, disabilities. Plus, as I needed a rest before cycling home, I popped into the library next door to sit down and read. As it happened I had a chat with another ‘newcomer’ to Birmingham (we have been here several years) about getting to know the local community and making friends. We’d come to the right place as there was a ‘Local History’ corner and shared knowledge of local cafes to grab a bite to eat.

I’m surprised that the Baths are seen as ‘history’ of the past. They are making the history of the ‘now’ and the ‘future. The complex is large and beautifully constructed. It would be great to create an urban spa with sections for exercise, learning, bathing and treatments, sauna and steam room. The old city centre Eye Hospital has been refurbished and modernised wonderfully and I could see Moseley Baths taking step in that direction but accessible to the whole community. Recreating the new complex at Harborne but using urban regeneration to bring together the old and the new. What an opportunity and now is the time to invest!

Public ‘campaign tactics’ meeting

The big question around the closure is ‘what now?’  Whilst it’s easy to be defeatist when told that there is no money, every time the Council has tried to shut the building down they have failed.  We have every reason to believe, with £50,000 having just been spent doing the surveys and sums to put together a viable business plan, that they will fail once again.

We are hosting a meeting to discuss campaign tactics and to formulate a strategy (no big speeches – we promise!).  We want to make sure that different groups of swimmers and residents are represented.  So, if you work at a local school, we want you there.  If you are passionate about Women Only swimming, please come along.  If your children are on the ‘Strokes’ programme, turn up and get involved.  In fact anyone who wants to reverse the Council’s policy on closing the building for swimming and wants to get proactive in the nitty gritty of the campaign, please come along.

The meeting is at:

Anderton Park Childrens Centre, Dennis Road, Birmingham, B12 8BL

30th January

7.30pm

Hope to see you there!

Badges

Lobby the Council – bring a placard!

Last year several hundred people, including local school pupils, wrote letters to the Council asking that the Baths reopen for swimming.  A consultation exercise for the HLF bid found quite overwhelming support for swimming in the building.  We’ve received so many messages from people upset that swimming may stop at Moseley Road Baths.  It’s clear that local councillors are not representing the very clear wishes of local people and failing in their duty to provide swimming facilities.

So, just to make them aware of the strength of feeling and to coax them into committing to the future of the building as a public swimming pool, we will be lobbying the:

Hall Green District (constituency) meeting

next Tuesday 22 Jan

12.15pm at the Council House, Victoria Square

We appreciate that this is a mid-week lunchtime, but if you can commit to come along, make a placard etc. then this would be wonderful in demonstrating the opposition that exists to the Council’s policy towards the building.  We know you are a creative and vocal bunch, and the press do so love a pretty picture, so please do what you can!

We Want To Swim! demo - Summer 2011

The case for investing in swimming

We’ve been so heartened by the response that we have received so far from people furious at the news that the Council wants to close Moseley Road Baths for swimming from 2015.  This is particularly frustrating, as they were so close to submitting what looking like being a successful bid, which would have secured the building for another 25 years and made it a viable Heritage and swimming facility.

Pupils banner

Councillors are making the case that they have no money, and have had the gall to cite the equal pay case as the reason for being unable to find the £3million to match fund the bid.  In reality, £3million, to be spent in two years time, over the course of two years, to secure a building for 25 years and to attract £5million to a ‘deprived neighbourhood’ sounds like good financial sense to me (especially when compared to £12million for Harborne Pool and millions spent on the new library).  The alternative is to do unplanned ’emergency repairs’ that can escalate dramatically and eat into other budgets.

Or, the Council could allow this building, situated in the heart of Balsall Heath, to fall into disrepair, and for the area to see its high street become increasingly run down.  A glance over at Stirchley Baths gives an idea of what we could expect.  There is so much hand-wringing over ‘regeneration’ and ‘civic pride’ – the answer is literally on our doorstep.

But surely this is ‘austerity Britain’, and we all have to tighten our belts?  Speaking with one regular swimmer yesterday who relies on swimming for her health, and who is currently battling to retain disability benefits, closing the only local pool to her would lead to a further deterioration of her health.  As cuts bite elsewhere swimming is a cheap, accessible way to improve physical and mental health, prevent isolation, and build the kind of cohesive, supportive community that politicians dream of.

Let’s also not forget that many school pupils in the area are failing to meet the standard for being able to swim a length by the time they finish primary school.  When both pools were open at Moseley Road Baths there was a full programme of school swimming.  Now kids just get a taster, maybe a term a year.  Nothing consistent, not enough to gain the confidence to learn this crucial life skill.  This isn’t about chasing the Olympic dream.  It’s about meeting the national requirements.

Reopen Moseley Road Baths!

Last Autumn when the Heritage Lottery Fund bid was being submitted, I was part of the consultation exercise conducted by Birmingham Conservation Trust.  They were quite overwhelmed by the responses they received.  School teachers were discussing how the building could be used for Science lessons, dancers wanted to use the Gala Pool for performances, students came and practiced their photography there.  I’ve lost count of the number of people who have been in touch wanting to use the building for filming.  And everyone is eager to see some kind of permanent history exhibition there that teaches kids and adults alike about this marvellous building’s history.

So this COULD be viable.  It COULD be something people would travel to visit.  It COULD be a real source of pride for Balsall Heath and Birmingham.  Unfortunately our local councillors just continue to bring shame to our area, with no vision, no commitment to the neighbourhood and no idea of the needs of local residents.  If today’s reaction to the news is anything to go by, they have a shock in store….

Council announce intention to close Baths for swimming

14th January 2013

On Wednesday 9th January, three local Labour councillors, Lisa Trickett, Victoria Quinn and Tony Kennedy, and the Deputy Leader of the Council Ian Ward, met with the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and announced that they saw no long term future for swimming at Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath.

Friends of Moseley Road Baths represent pool users and those who care about the building and the future of swimming in the city and have campaigned hard over many years for the future of this well used Grade II* listed Edwardian swimming pool in inner city Birmingham, described as a “gem” by English Heritage.

Recently the council’s passed up the opportunity to attract several million pounds of Heritage Lottery funding to restore the building, on the basis that the council has no money to match fund. Instead they say they are committed merely to preserve the fabric of the building.  The Friends of Moseley Road Baths believe that swimming is a vital part of its future as a heritage building.

The Group’s Secretary, Rachel Gillies, said, ‘If these councillors were to walk into this facility in their own ward then they would see how busy the building is.  The fact that they would even contemplate closing it for swimming when there is such a high demand shows how out of touch they are with the electorate and how ignorant they are of the need for a facility where people of all ages can come and get fit.’

Closing the facility for swimming would leave local schools without a place to swim, meaning that a majority of local pupils would not meet the national standard for swimming proficiency.

There is a proposed new pool in Sparkhill.  Work however has yet to start. Even with that pool up and running, local schools and residents will not have enough swimming time (especially for women-only swimming which is in high demand).

The Friends are also committed to continued public ownership of buildings such as Moseley Road Baths. These are an asset to the City and belong to all of us.  Jen Austin from the group questioned the consequences of moving the building to a Trust: “At the moment we are able to have a dialogue with elected councillors and present our views. How would this democratic right and accountability be preserved if our pool is run by an independent trust?  “The Friends of Moseley Road Baths urge the council as our elected representatives to listen to the wishes of their constituents. We believe the community want to keep this building not just for its heritage but also as a swimming and sport facility.”

We challenge their decision and will be deciding our strategy this week at an open committee meeting in Balsall Heath.

Council fail to submit HLF bid

We learnt earlier this week that the Council’s bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for Phase 1 of restoration work to the building will not be put forward as they have decided that they will not be able to put £3million match-funding towards the £8million bid.  The full text of their letter to us is below.  We will be issuing a press release shortly.

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with your comments.  We know that there has been a huge amount of support for this bid and hundreds of people have been involved in the consultation exercise.  We will be working hard to make sure that your views are heard.

Letter from Council re. HLF bid - 11/12/12