Category: Stories of the baths

Music, stories and love at Stirchley Baths

Clare Fleck, Trevor Hughes and Lois Murray: Love at the Baths performers
Clare Fleck (left), Trevor Hughes and Lois Murray: Love at the Baths performers

Love at the Baths was inspired by the large photograph in the reception corridor which shows a dance taking place on the boarded-over pool during the war years. It made Lois Murray, who leads the Stirchley Pop-Up Choir, wonder about romances that might have begun at those events. Her researches and musical knowledge led to the concert on Saturday 16 February with love as its theme. Audience guests included Gerald and Jean Lyndon who remembered those dancing years, and Alan Jones, son of bandleader Den whose music kept those feet dancing all those years ago.

While narrator Clare Fleck brought the history of Stirchley Baths – and some thoughts about love – to life through her readings, the music of the era was brilliantly performed by singer Lois and piano accompanist Trevor Hughes. Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave” provided a commentary on the introduction of mixed bathing in 1927! The music of Irving Berlin, Glenn Miller and – in the second half – George Gershwin evoked the spirit of the age. If the beautifully-restored Edwardian era Stirchley Baths could speak, surely these are the kinds of things it would want to say.

All the profits from the performance went to the Memory Café which helps people with memory loss to reconnect with their past and enjoy the present. Thank you Lois, Trevor and Clare for helping us all to do that through this performance.

Animating the History of Stirchley Baths

During October half term we welcomed back film maker Scott Johnson to run some more film challenges as part of the Heritage Programme here at the Baths. This time we opened the opportunity up to a younger age group too, and worked with children aged between 6 and 16 to create two animated films which depict the history of two periods in the Baths’ history timeline; setting the scene for their construction and opening (1903-1911) and the war years (1939-45).

Scott showed us films from the the early days of shadow puppet animation back in the 1920s; looking at how the first animations were made, and Suzanne briefed them on the history of the Baths. Inspired and understanding the challenge they had been set, our young participants then started to develop characters, plots and narrative in order to tell the story. This was followed by a few creative hours cutting out the shadows and backgrounds for the scenes.  Then the stop motion animating began…

Here is a gallery of pictures…

animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
animation at stirchley baths
Sport in the main hall of stirchley baths

Some facts!

There were:

  • 119 cut outs
  • 1564 pictures taken
  • 68 hands removed (from pictures taken!)
  • 20 animators and 3 helpers

The challenge was then thrown into Scott’s court with two days to edit the films, add the sound effects and recorded narration ready to premiere at our red carpet celebration event on the Friday evening. It was great to see most of our participants and their families enjoying the popcorn, movie and Q & A session with the young animators.

We hope you also enjoy the results!


A few reviews…

  • Incredible work in such a short time! It was lovely seeing the cut outs of the scenes after. Brings the history of the building to life.
  • Great film, very enjoyable. Good to see the kids getting some creative time.
  • 5/5 wins best animation film!
  • FABULOUS!!! It’s obvious that a lot of hard work and creativity went into this production. Very proud.
  • It was fun. 100/100
  • It was amazing. I really enjoyed it. (Gracie, aged 11)
  • I loved it! (Ramsey, aged 6)
  • What a brilliant project. The kids loved it and learnt new skills and we all learnt loads about the history of the baths! More please! (and for grown ups)
  • Brilliant workshop, film premiere, well done everyone!

The adults want to know when they can have a turn!

Another gallery of pictures, this time of the evening…

Stirchley Baths Animation

Thank you to Scott for superb facilitation and working his ‘movie magic’ with the films, and to everyone involved in the sessions; especially to volunteers Esther and Alex who supported the workshops.


Who taught you to swim? Heather Clarke and Stirchley Baths 1975 – 1976

Heather Clarke visited the refurbished building recently. She first worked here in 1975 and went on to teach generations of children to swim at various pools – including Tiverton Pool.

Below is a video of heather and some photos from the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Do you remember Heather? Did she teach you to swim?

Heather in 1981, photo taken by Paul Jones
Heather in 1981, photo taken by Paul Jones


Winni Shaw inside the ticket booth – photo taken in March 1988 by Paul Jones
A photo of the ticket booth – taken in Match 1988. Not sure who the person in the booth is. It isn’t Kathy Fracoviac, who Heather mentions in her video.
A black and white photo of a group of people seated in rows.
This is what Heather said of this picture. “l recognise them all but not everyone’s name, At the top man wearing glasses was George Rawlings ( Supervisor) l think next to him was Alan Wallings other two not sure, Below wearing the glasses lifegaurd Pat Byfield, and Joan Butters ( Area Supervisor )
not sure of others names
Bottom row David Teale (Area Supervisor ) myself and Paul Jones7
The event for this photograph was our lnterdivisional Swimming Gala between all of the Baths in Birmingham There were 3 Divisions all competeing against each other”



Jenny learned to swim at Stirchley Baths after nearly drowning in Spain

Jenny Barnwell

Jenny Barnwell was taken to Stirchley Baths as a five-year-old by her parents as soon as they arrived back in Britain from a holiday in Spain.

Jenny had been paddling in the Costa del Sol sea when she was sucked into the ocean by a wave. Luckily, she was “spat back out again” but the terrifying experience made her parents enrol her for swimming lessons.

Jenny wrote this on her hand to support the Stirchley Baths community hub project: “I learned to swim here in 1960 after a close shave – I nearly drowned in the sea at Costa del Sol.”