A terrific time was had with Eileen & John from the Stirchley Tea Dance Group last week. We traced waltzes, a jive and a tango onto paper as the first stage in making visual part of the dancing history of the baths. All of theses dances would have been happening at the baths in the 1940’s when they covered the pool for their non stop dance events.
I’m now working with waltz steps to make this into a design for the dancing mat that will go in the baths entrance foyer. It’s been great to meet other groups who are using the baths also – the jazz dance group – great energy! and the barn dance group; you could see what they do as a metaphor for community – everyone is working together to make something happen. We’re starting to plan the launch for when the mat is made and in place; a celebration of dance in the baths.
This Saturday 21st May Stirchley Baths presents a very special performance, for one time only, of Advance with Feathers. The live performance is the conclusion to a year long collaboration with artist Justin Wiggan who has created new work around the redevelopment of Stirchley Baths and the themes of hope, transition and future. At the performance you will also receive a limited edition 7″ vinyl recording of the new sound piece created.
Saturday’s performance will be a moving sonic experience for the audience who will be part of an installation of film, building materials and balloons while award winning opera singer Suzanna Purkis fills the main hall with voice from on high in her lifeguard chair.
Justin and the ‘Centre for Curious Sonic Investigation’ worked to produce the project with Kate Andrews, and several volunteers. Participants patients from Stirchley’s St. Andrews hospital, children from Cotteridge Primary School and the local community to collect words and sounds that participants associated with hope, transition and future.
Advance with Feathers has been funded by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund.
Book tickets here via Eventbrite, limited tickets will be available on the night but cannot be guaranteed.
The Planning Committee met in March following their visits to three nominated buildings for the 2015 Renaissance Award:
Fiddle & Bone
Eagle & Ball – BCU Student Union Bar
Stirchley Baths – Planning Committee’s comments:-
The work that the team have done on restoring the former baths and bringing it back into positive, community use was very impressive. The way that the community has been involved in the restoration as well as on going involvement is exemplary. Whilst there was discussion about the loss of the baths, there was an historical example of how the baths were temporarily over boarded to provide a dance hall! This interesting story shows how the space could be, and has been imaginatively re-used. The building appears to be well used by the local community and it has helped bring together various groups and organisations that would have otherwise never met. It has clearly had a hugely positive affect on the local community.
As part of the judging process, the Committee complete a judging form where they consider the condition of the original building, the restoration works and the completed project. Each Committee Member completes the judging form independently. The scores are then collated and help give some moderation to their considerations.
Summary & Recommendations
The Planning Committee were unanimous in recommending that the 2015 Renaissance Award be awarded to Stirchley Baths.
It’s billed as the world’s largest family history show. Gareth, Ron, Sandra and I visited “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” at the NEC early in April 2016 on behalf of Stirchley History Group. We hoped to link up with other societies, find out more about what records are available online and offline, stock up with maps and books and – as one always does at events like this – look out for the interesting and unexpected that might help us with our research.
The biggest stands were those run by the large commercial organisations that provide online access to census records and other vast archives of historical data. Their services, and especially their powerful searchable indexes, have made it easier than ever for anyone to research their own family tree. There were also numerous smaller stands run by local family history societies who have detailed knowledge of records for an individual county or region or other countries such as India and the United States. It was good to make contact with the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry which has a large archive.
What the adverts promoting genealogical research don’t tell you is that some of the discoveries waiting to be made in the records are likely to be unwelcome. Be prepared to encounter secret illegitimacy, the spectre of the workhouse, legally dubious marriages and those all too common cases where a child’s birth and death were registered on the same day. Nonetheless this kind of research opens a fascinating window into the world of social history and, in turn, local history. Tracking individuals and families who lived in Stirchley helps us to build up a picture of life in the area in former generations.
Of all the many eye-catching heritage features in Stirchley Baths none attracts more interest than the 1911 map on the café wall. At the show we were able to buy reprints of historical Ordnance Survey maps and to find out where to access a wide range of maps online.
The show was busy throughout and even the more specialist stands attracted many visitors. There was also a large programme of expert talks, many of which sold out. It was encouraging to see this level of interest in family and local history, and we came away with plenty of information to follow up and pointers to further research.
You can follow in the footsteps of many community members who are supporting Stirchley Baths by joining our fantastic volunteer team. The volunteer programme provides fun and rewarding opportunities to get involved with Stirchley Baths through heritage, arts and general centre support. The programme also provides training and social opportunities. When you volunteer 50 and 100 hours of your time, you will earn special volunteer swimming style badges!
To sign up to our volunteer programme and be added to our newsletter with the latest opportunities please fill out this Form.