Mak­ing a splash down at the lido

As the open-air the­atre sea­son gets un­der way, Yvette Hud­dle­ston meets the com­pany hop­ing to make a splash at Ilk­ley Lido.

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

OPEN-air the­atre is very much part of the sum­mer arts scene. De­spite the un­pre­dictabil­ity of the Bri­tish weather, per­for­mances take place in all sorts of venues, from cas­tles to parks and ru­ined abbeys.

Few are usu­ally pre­sented in swim­ming pools. Un­til now, that is. Next week, a young London-based site­spe­cific com­pany, Listed The­atre, will be pre­sent­ing a per­for­mance at Ilk­ley Lido as part of a short tour of out­door swim­ming pools around the coun­try.

The play, Listed Lido, is a piece of doc­u­men­tary the­atre cre­ated from in­ter­views with peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with the four art-deco li­dos in which the com­pany are per­form­ing this sum­mer.

Artis­tic di­rec­tor Jes­sica Man­ley ex­plains the think­ing be­hind Listed The­atre.

“ We were a group of drama stu­dents who were all in­ter­ested in site-spe­cific the­atre – but we wanted to do some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent. There is a lot of site-spe­cific the­atre go­ing on at the moment but what we had no­ticed was that while many of the pieces were ex­cel­lent, they weren’t re­ally site­spe­cific in the sense that they were quite of­ten fairly con­ven­tional the­atre that was be­ing per­formed in an un­usual place. What we wanted to do was to cre­ate the­atre that was dic­tated by the site or even ac­tu­ally about the site.”

The group then started to con­tact or­gan­i­sa­tions who were cam­paign­ing for listed build­ings (hence the name) or try­ing to save a prop­erty that was ei­ther un­der threat of de­mo­li­tion or of be­ing con­verted into some­thing else.

They got a tremen­dous re­sponse and one of the first places they vis­ited was Broomhill Pool, in Ip­swich.

“The pool is ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful,” says Jes­sica. “And al­though we knew that we wouldn’t be able to ac­tu­ally per­form there, we started do­ing devel­op­ment work, with the idea of go­ing on tour with the project.”

They gath­ered peo­ple’s mem­o­ries of Broomhill and then went through the same process in­ter­view­ing peo­ple at other li­dos.

“Time and again, we found how much peo­ple val­ued their li­dos. It’s not just about nostal­gia ei­ther; it is about bring­ing a com­mu­nity to­gether.”

At all the li­dos we vis­ited, there was this sense of a kind of ex­tended fam­ily.

The play is based on ver­ba­tim ma­te­rial with the pro­duc­tion framed by six young of­fend­ers ar­riv­ing at the pool to work there as part of their com­mu­nity ser­vice. Their rehabilitation also in­cludes car­ry­ing out re­search into the lido’s his­tory.

“That idea came about when we went to Broomhill be­cause we ac­tu­ally met a group of peo­ple there who were do­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice,” says Jes­sica.

“Most of them said that they re­ally val­ued be­ing a part of a project like that and how great it was to see their hard work mak­ing such a dif­fer­ence to the place.”

The cen­tral story is about a cou­ple who meet and fall in love at the pool and how it con­tin­ues to play an im­por­tant part in their lives, while other nar­ra­tives in­ter­twine from dif­fer­ent eras.

“It was the sto­ries of the peo­ple we in­ter­viewed and the pas­sion they ob­vi­ously had for their lido that drove the piece,” says Jes­sica.

“At all the li­dos we vis­ited, there was this sense of a kind of ex­tended fam­ily.”

Also in­cluded in the piece are de­scrip­tions about what it feels like to swim, the ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects it can have and how be­ing in wa­ter helps us to con­nect with na­ture and the el­e­ments.

“One quote that stays with me came from some­one I spoke to at Toot­ing Bec Lido in London,” says Jes­sica. “He said ‘a day with­out swim­ming is not a good day’.”

The com­pany hope to tour again next sum­mer; they have al­ready been in­vited by other pools around the coun­try.

“If it helps to pre­vent more li­dos clos­ing down, that’s great,” says Jes­sica.

“It is re­ally im­por­tant, oth­er­wise we wouldn’t be do­ing it.”

Listed Lido is at Ilk­ley Lido on June 29 and 30. Listed The­atre is a com­mu­nity in­ter­est com­pany. For tick­ets, call 07576 169620 or visit www.list­edthe­

DIF­FER­ENT STROKES: The cast of List­edLido.

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