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Lido memories, 2020
by Anna Fairchild, April 2020
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
The great outdoors
In the spring of 2020 we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation: a global pandemic,
which has brought severe restrictions on movement and use of open and public spaces
that many of us have previously taken for granted. Physical distance between people
outside our immediate families is determined by a space of 2 metres, across which
it is estimated the Covid-
In 1926 Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim across the English Channel,
beating the existing (male) record by two whole hours. Six other women followed this
record in 1928. Magazines of the time extolled the benefits of outdoor pursuits such
as swimming and rambling, and we can imagine how this achievement might have created
a heightened desire to celebrate the freedom of exercise in the great outdoors in
Then in 1929 the American firm, Jantzen, developed and launched a range of new swimming
costumes for women, with the slogan, “The suit that changed bathing into swimming”.
Early examples of these pools in the 1920s were designed in the classical style with pillars and columns, like the Blackpool baths, opened in 1923 and compared at the time to the coliseum in Rome. From the air, the baths resembled a Greek or Roman amphitheatre, with curved, stepped terracing for spectators and a deck for sunbathing. We can imagine how the continental appeal of this might have allowed visitors to imagine they had travelled far beyond their local swimming baths!
Later, during the 1930s, oval or rectangular designs emerged, influenced by the
Art Deco movement. At the baths at Weston-
Fig. 1 The Bath South Shore, Blackpool
Fig. 2 Weston-
These constructions were made possible by inter-
The outdoor swimming pool at Hitchin in Hertfordshire was opened in 1938, just beforethe
outbreak of the Second World War, and was influenced by these new ideas about design.
With its symmetrical layout, Art Deco-
Fig. 3 Hitchin Outdoor Pool c. 1938-
Over the three summers of 2017, 2018 and 2019 I made a photographic and film record of the 1938 hexagonal fountain at the Hitchin pool and of aspects of the outdoor changing room; both were relatively unchanged features since my visits in the 1970s and this began to form what would later become the project Lido Memories.
The fountain was always the focal point of the original entrance to the baths in the 1970s. The ticket and turnstile entrance still divided male and female bathers as they entered the pool buildings; the three tiers of the hexagonal fountain were visible through the arched entrance gate. Water could be seen cascading down form the smallest top hexagonal tier onto the larger middle and then third tier,and into a pool at the base. The flow of the water and its reflective colours glistened in multifarious ways that responded to the speed of the water and the ambient weather and wind conditions on any particular day.
It seemed to me in the 1970s like a portal to another continent, with its turquoise
painted interior and its continentally-
Fig. 4 Blue Shadow, 2018 Anna Fairchild, from the series Lido Memories, 2020
Sand pebbled fountain edges meeting the bright turquoise water edges gave the illusion of Mediterranean shorelines and crystal blue clear water. It felt as though if you stared long enough, you might actually be somewhere else entirely, standing at the edge of the Red Sea or The north African coast.
Fig. 5 Shoreline, 2018 Anna Fairchild from the series Lido Memories, 2020
In the diminishing heat of the late afternoon one would enter the changing rooms,
listening to the fading sounds of laughter and conversation of the last remaining
bathers, which echoed inside the changing room cubicles; rows of hastily re-
Fig. 6 Lime Echo, 2019, Anna Fairchild from the series Lido Memories, 2020
The muted emerald light filtered into the humid space through the green corrugated plastic roof, accentuating the feel of a temporary shelter in a tropical garden.
In 2019 late summer plants move with the warm wind, projecting dappled shadows like a Mediterranean outdoor cinema. The soundtrack is the last fragments of laughter in the remains of the day.
Fig. 7 Asbestos Memory, 2019, Anna Fairchild, Film still, from the series Lido Memories, 2020
These faded remnants of sound and imagery, smells and materials are what often return
In the spring of 2020 we find ourselves indoors and with very limited access to outside space and social interaction. It is in this confinement that we perhaps find ourselves thinking about places and experiences in the past, often triggered by smells, sounds or changes in weather patterns that we have started to notice more closely; looking across hedgerows and up at the sky and the vast unimaginable distance where we can daydream or recollect things or experiences.
We may inevitably come back to thinking about how the world has changed so suddenly. Perhaps more than that, in this strange period, is considering our potential to create memories in the here and now, which we may look back on in the unimaginable future ahead of us.
Fig. 8 Lockdown Safari Daydream, 2020, Anna Fairchild. From the photographic series Lockdown Safari, 2020
Lido Memories | Anna Fairchild | 2020