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Wanted: Memories to mark Parliament Hill Lido’s 80th birthday

Do you have photos of treasured pool from through the years?

29 March, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

From left: David Josephs, Eleanor Kennedy, Nuala Muir-Cochrane and Joanne Raczinkaitis

IT is a landmark birthday for a landmark pool – and to help Parliament Hill Lido celebrate its 80th year, a group of dedicated cold water swimmers want your help.

Chairwoman of the lido users’ group Eleanor Kennedy, who has been swimming at the 60 metre-long pool for more than 15 years, is collating memories and photographs of people who have dipped in the waters over eight decades.

They will be used to create an archive and exhibition, celebrating the life and times of the Grade-II listed art deco building.

She said: “We want to speak to people who have swam here over the years – and raise awareness that the place is still going strong.”The lido, designed by Harry Rowbotham and TL Smithson from the London County Council, cost £34,000 when it opened in 1938. The City of London took over management in the 1980s – and in 2005 fitted a steel skin to it as part of renovation work to fix leaks.

Ms Kennedy, who swims every morning, says the lido is enjoying a renaissance as more people learn of the health benefits of cold water swimming. She said: “There are so many health benefits to cold water swimming: you use all the muscle groups, it is good for cardio-vascular exercise, improves your immune system and is great for your mental health – you get a real endorphins rush.”

Lidos are now seen as architectural treasures – and Parliament Hill Lido is a prime example. Ms Kennedy added: “It has essentially stayed as it was when it first opened, though it now has a great café and a gym. There is nothing better than walking in and seeing a 60m pool, open to the skies. You see the seasons pass – you swim in the sun, the snow and the rain.”

The lido also has a strong sense of community, she said. “There is a real sense of camaraderie among us – I have met some of my best friends there.”

And with a passionate group looking after the 80-year-old’s interests, the spectre of the City of London asking a private operator to take it on, an idea swimmers say lurked in the background for a number of years, has gone.

She added: “There can be 3,000 people in on a summer’s day, and we have a fabulous set of life guards who are really passionate about it, really passionate about keeping it publicly owned and the user group has grown from strength to strength.” A number of events are planned over the summer to mark the history of the pool, with the City’s Give It A Go day on July 12 offering the chance to learn more, and a party featuring a 1930s jazz band taking place on August bank holiday weekend.

l To share your photos and memories of the lido, contact dcarrier@camden

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