Photo of Bramley Baths by SphericalBoy
Yesterday an announcement was made that the Council has found funds to allow Bramley Baths to open for 60 hours per week. This is a reduction of 20 hours per week, and a big step forward from the previous compromise of 29 hours per week. It means that the pool will open during the day and mid-evening, enabling school children to use the pool along with other residents.
Read full coverage of the news at The Guardian here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/leeds/2011/mar/23/bramley-baths-opening-hours-boost
The Bramblers Association would like to give a BIG wet high-five to everyone who has campaigned, talked, negotiated and swum in pursuit of a better deal for Bramley Baths. WELL DONE YOU!
The Bramblers Association is committed to supporting the baths in the long term, and ultimately to increased revenues, better promotion of the service & a return to full 80 + hours per week opening times. The Bramblers Association will be pressing the Council to test the idea of 7am opening and 10 pm closing on weekdays backed by proactive communications, to allow residents working 9-5 to use the pool around their work and family commitments. We will be actively encouraging the Council and Bramley Baths to pursue a user-centric approach to the services offered, and to continue testing and revising these in step with potential customers.
John Baron of the Guardian, reporting on Bramley Baths’ tweetup last night.
Bramley Baths meetup last night was excellent. Thanks to everyone who tweeted* & facebooked about it, and to those who turned up, baked cake (mmmmMarie), talked, listened and swam. Many people on twitter are getting in touch to say how much they enjoy the pool, how they learnt to swim there themselves, or that their children use it regularly.There are potentially thousands of stories out there as yet untapped, about Bramley Baths’ influence on lives lived in this area. There is no shortage of vocal support but as last night’s modest turnout demonstrated,we need to convert the wave of brilliant supportive comments into active, regular, sustained visits to the pool.
It was interesting to hear more about the challenges Bramley Baths face - from people using the pool, from members of staff, and from the local Cllr who is campaigning to extend the opening hours beyond the proposed 29 per week. I’m not convinced by any of the arguments laid out by the Council so far to justify the reduced hours, but I am yet to see the full & detailed economic case which I will continue to press for & share here once I have it.
It goes without saying that the Baths need our support if they are to survive. There are many questions still about how best to support the Baths as it appears not to be a simple case of needing increased footfall or better promotion (though this still needs interrogation). Swimming pools, it seems, do not make money and have to be heavily subsidised. Bramley, has only a small gym to help subsidise the pool.
But what if…..more people could be gathered in the pool at certain times - i.e. an increase in group activities or water-sports, like synchronised swimming (ha!), water polo or a late night session for people to lie on a lilo and read a book … in other words programmed activities that allow you to fill the pool with more people than you could during the swim-only sessions?
What if, as @SunshineBakery suggested last night, the high staff costs are offset by training up volunteers as lifeguards? What if, as @TamsinConstable suggested, the pool was open early in the day for pre-work swims, or late at night for those who want to swim once they’ve put the kids to bed? What if the gym was open earlier, later and longer - especiallly as @MarieMillward pointed out, during holidays like Christmas (it was closed during Christmas 2011 apparently) - to help bring more gym users into the building at times that suit them?
What if the pricing was tested and reviewed - would people pay a little more to swim at popular peak times? Would people spend a little more on drinks & snacks if interesting options were available (and the machines were not broken?).
I’m sure the team at the pool and at the Council will already have made better suggestions but we are not privy to this process. So, we are asking the Council to furnish us with the detailed facts & figures, to allow those of us interested in doing so, to consider how to acheive a better financial model.
So far, all the solutions have been put together without any sort of public conversation - a real two-way conversation with a range of residents. A laudable campaign is being led by members of the Council and the local MP Rachel Reeves to ensure school-children still have access to the pool. It’s a great start, and a right and proper priority to address but there is the longer term issue that this largely addresses subsidised visits, rather than direct income (although adults will bring children back to the pool for family visits). It seems like a short term fix and another question that some residents would like an opportunity to discuss.
It seems as though the basic questions a failing organisation would ask itself, have not been addressed, or cannot be addressed. The straightforward questions raised last night, about footfall, targets, & what might represent a sustainable business case..were met with spin.
A participant last night also pointed out that the Council has cited Armley Leisure Centre as a major reason for the 30% drop in footfall. But what was the increase in footfall to Bramley Baths when Armley Leisure Centre closed for refurbishment? A temporary rise and then later a drop in footfall would presumably have been anticipated and should be reflected in the figures?
@SpaceAcademy asked about private-public partnerships and it appears that this is being explored as an option by the Council. This would basically mean that the pool would be managed by a community organisation or group of individuals. We will know more about this and how it could work after a meeting the Council is holding this Friday.
It was clear from last night’s meetup that the residents gathered together are not particularly interested in the politics of the situation, but in finding sustainable solutions.
I believe we may lose this amenity if we do not take practical, organised steps to support it locally, to galvanise demand, to stimulate fresh ways to generate increased revenues.
So, in lieu of the detail promised by Cllr Hanley last night,here’s how you can help. The staff told us that the quietest times are first thing in the morning or from 2-4pm daily, so please start swimming or using the gym or steam room more often & ideally, at off-peak times when there is less demand. Tell people about it, photograph it, *blog about it, dig out your old photos of swimming lessons there and post them on your facebook page….
Use it or lose it. (I will if you will…)
*If you tweet about the baths, please use the hash tag #bramleybaths or #bathup so that we can collect & organise public questions and comments Thanks!
John Baron of Guardian Leeds also covered the tweetup and has been following the activity around Bramley Baths HERE.
Martin Wainwright, Northern Editor of The Guardian, learnt to swim at Bramley Baths and talks about taking a swim there in this week’s edition of the Northerner blog.
A tweetup in an Edwardian swimming pool, on a school night? Outrageous…
Come & meet other tweeters from Leeds, at one of the city’s loveliest architectural gems; one of only 14 original bathhouses in the UK that are still open to the public.
9th March, 7pm
Meet upstairs in the spectators gallery which overlooks the pool. The format is..there is no format really: say hello, talk, talk some more, laugh hopefully. This is an event aimed at twitter users, to meet in person, but you don’t have to be a Leeds tweeter to take part. If you’re interested in meeting new people, in finding out why people like to tweet, or you simply want to see inside this unusual building, then come along!
Bring a flask if you would like a drink. Bring swimming clothes if you want to jump in the pool afterwards. Wear Edwardian clothes if you want to promenade!
When you arrive, mention to the receptionist that you are with the Bramley tweetup. They’re expecting you, and will let you in for free to use the spectators gallery. If you want to hop in the pool later, or sweat in the Russian Steam Room, it costs £3.90 for a swim or £6.40 to swim + steam.
Bramley Baths is easy to find - look out for a tall Victorian brick chimney. We’ll post a picture of the outside of the baths next week.
Parking is available (for cars, and two bikes). There is reserved parking for disabled drivers, induction loop, changing cubicles on poolside, pool hoist (chair).
For everything else, visit the Council’s website / message @frangraham / email firstname.lastname@example.org or post some sort of urgent missive here.
See you next Wednesday?