Last week I was given privileged access into the baths (I did have to plead a bit!) so I could really get a sense of the physical space within the building to help us shape our interpretative proposal for the Heritage Lottery Fund Activity plan. Architect Mark Sloane patiently answered my many questions about what historic features were being kept, restored, reused and accessible for the public – what bits people would actually be able to see.
I came away feeling decidedly grubby, but confident that the essence of the building will be maintained through the restoration – that Stirchley Baths will always be just that – but re-purposed.
I couldn’t resist making another movie – this time with some sound effects! For those of you never to have made it to an open day – here is what it looks like inside – not just in the pool, but also in the slipper baths, Mikvah, sauna, changing room, corridors, front entrance and in the original ticket kiosk. Very sad to see what has become of the building – but so important to show how vital this Heritage Lottery grant is!
We gathered some great ideas from both parents and their children about the sorts of events that they might enjoy together; having fun and learning about the history of the Baths at the same time. These included quizzes and ‘spot the historic feature’ treasure hunts around the building. For the older generation, talks would be welcome, with Bengali interpretors on hand. Women only activities were also suggested as a way to involve the local Muslim community in the centre’s programming.
I also had a great chat with Margaret and Joe from Birmingham Karate Club who see the future move to the Baths as a great opportunity to recruit new members to the club and widen their audience further. They have been running the club from Stirchley Community Centre for 6-7 years. Here is a brief history of how the club has grown in the area, and the mix of excitement and apprehension they feel towards the transition from the Community Centre to the Baths.
Last week I met with the School Council – made up of 8 very bright pupils from years 3-6 attending Stirchley Community School. We talked about the Baths, looked at photographs and they came up with a list of questions they would ask a history expert if they met one (luckily I knew most the answers!)
They would want to ask:
How many people visited the Baths?
Why did it close?
When it was built?
How many baths were there?
What happens if the floor boards broke if people were dancing on them?
Were Germans allowed to visit the Baths during WWII?
They all agreed that seeing the building in its current state is a waste of a building and they thought it was important to restore it. If they went on a school visit they would like to learn some old fashioned dances, be ‘history detectives’ around the building and see an old bath tub! What a great 15 minute session!
Thank you to headteacher Mr Clifford for arranging my meeting with the School Council. He is very keen that the school and the Baths work in partnership in the future – including the new school film club and radio station reporting on the Baths project during its restoration period.
You may remember last week I blogged about the ideas generating sessions we have been doing with young Stirchley-ites around the history and heritage-related activities that might be possible at the Baths.
One of the ideas they came up with is for an intergenerational dance-themed project where older Stirchley residents could teach them dances of the 1940s, as illustrated in the wonderful pictures we have of Den Jones at Stirchley Baths, and the teenagers pass on these skills to school children – sounds like the making of a great community showcase event somewhere down the line! The members of the Tea Dance at Stirchley Community Centre I spoke with today are certainly up for the challenge!
I was a bit cheeky earlier and asked if I could film a dance that would have probably graced the floorboards of the covered pool back in the 1940s. John was more than happy to volunteer the services of the Tea Dance members who gave us a wonderful demonstration of the Palais Glide. Watch them in action:
(Apologies for another low budget movie)! We had a great afternoon at Stirchley Community Centre, where we were running our second Splash Back in Time reminiscence event.
Coming up in the next week or so you’ll hear a few stories of people dancing at the Baths. Massive thank you to John and the members of the Tea Dance for being such good sports today!
If you were out and about around the Baths or Stirchley Park on Wednesday between 7 and 8.30 you may have seen (certainly heard?) a group of 18 young people on a youth club evening out to…. Stirchley Baths!
The previous week I met 11 of the young people up at the Den Youth House in Dawberry Road where we talked about possible history and heritage-related activities that they might be interested in getting involved with as part of the restoration project.
On Wednesday, armed with flip cams, they interviewed each other talking about the Baths. Here is some very rough and ready footage – busy roads, lots of excitement – but some useful insight into how these young people view the Baths.
The girls were really interested in the black and white pictures of the dancing taken in the 1940s and came up with the idea of organising a night of dancing back at the Baths – for the community! It was great to see them talking about this on camera; about how they would enjoy talking to the older generation about the kind of dances they would have done there – and even learning some moves, and teaching older people some of their own!
Brian and Rowena from the Friends of Stirchley Park joined us to talk to the young people about possible future graffiti art work in the park which illustrated the history of Stirchley, including the baths. and we asked for a hands up who would like to be involved if the money can be raised? And that would be everyone then!
A massive thank you to youth workers Stuart and Martin for rallying up these brilliant young Stirchley-ites and thanks to everyone for their contributions.