Reading deprivation day 3 is going quite well although not yet as creative as day 2. I did have to have a tiny dose of the shipping forecast to get me back to sleep when I woke up last night. I’m quite enjoying Radio 3. I started to try to cheat by messing about on parts of the internet that are only pictures, but decided that was against the spirit of the exercise.
I was intending to write about all the Doors Open Day venues in Glasgow that I went to this weekend, but really one stood out quite dramatically, so I’ll just talk about that one today.
Govanhill Baths is a traditional local swimming baths that was closed in 2001. Then, and since, there’s been a local campaign for it to stay open/re-open. It’s now in a tremendously beautiful stage of decay that had me kicking myself for not taking a camera. I did get a few snaps on my cameraphone but they don’t begin to do it justice.
The baths was built in 1914 and for many decades it was a centre of the community. It had 3 pools (so strange to see the pools without any water in them!), a turkish baths, the “slipper baths”, as in, regular baths like you would have in your bathroom (even when the Govanhill Baths closed, there were still some people locally who did not have a bath in their house) and also the “steamie” where you would do your washing.
My dad kept commenting that this was exactly like the Paisley Baths he knew as a child. He kept pointing out things like “that must be where the diving board was”.
As well as the building itself being quite fascinating, there was also an exhibition of photographs taken in the baths, of people in swimsuits in front of this crumbling backdrop. Really emphasised the interaction of buildings with community.
The tour leader (from Glasgow University Archaeology Department) was incredibly engaging and what came across most was a sense of community ownership.
One thing I really love about Doors Open Day is the mix of people you see at the events: the normal museum-and-gallery crowd spiced up with local people, art and architecture students and just whoever happened to be walking past. I think everyone was taken in by the tour leader and persuaded by the passion for the building.
Planning permission has been obtained to renew the baths as a community centre with meetings spaces, cinema, nursery, and yes, the pools themselves, although the first phase is sadly not going to be able to afford to put any pools back in use. Anyone got a spare £12.5 million?
One of the most innovative ideas is to use the old slipper baths as indoor allotments. The light in the whole building is fantastic, with giant skylights, so one can imagine this working quite nicely! One was planted up as a proof of concept.
Although aesthetically I love an atmospheric building with peeling paint – and I’m really glad I got to see it in that state – I do hope they achieve their aim of turning it back into a community hub for Govanhill. Especially the indoor allotments!