In 2003 I took a part time job at a local swimming pool to earn some money whilst training as a film maker. The building had so much potential…
Social history is my first love, so working in the Grade II* listed Moseley Road Baths was pretty special. It could also be completely demoralising, with the ongoing threat of closure and redundancies as the cost of vital repairs went up and up. In 2006 I got on board the newly formed Friends of Moseley Road Baths, connecting with others who shared my belief that a renovated building could be so much more than just a swimming pool, but a symbol of pride and a space of connection within Balsall Heath.
20 years later, I am putting my energies into the development and delivery of an arts and culture led heritage programme of activities at Moseley Road Baths. This sits alongside a £33m capital works programme in the Baths and neighbouring library, secured after years of tireless campaigning by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and our allies. As the ‘Partnerships and Participation Development Officer’, my role defines who we work with and how, placing local audiences at the heart of this £500,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund supported programme and therefore centring their voices in the building’s longer term development.
During 2023 we delivered four pilots – creating a Living Room in the empty Gala Pool; reimagining the role of libraries through performances in Balsall Heath Library and hosting our ‘Exchange’ Festival; employing six local Young Curators to curate the stories of the building through producing their own ‘Bathcast’ podcasts and reopening the ‘Slipper Baths’ for visitors to come and bathe in their own bath cubicle. Each pilot has featured some really targeted, brilliant programming, connecting people in new ways with the heritage of the building and its people.
We are now taking findings from these pilots to develop a longer term programme of activities which we hope the National Lottery Heritage Fund will support to enable work to continue from 2025 onwards. What I have been part of over the past year reinforces my belief that when we are rooted in our heritage, communities can come together to make meaning and joy in a way that feels essential for navigating the world right now. We’re building our village – creating, connecting, crying and cuddling – and I love it.