Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Lido Love

When I was asked to write a piece on Lidos for Lido Music I wasn’t entirely sure what I could say about Lidos that I haven’t already been wittering on about on my blog. You see, in an effort to put off the pressing things I should be dealing with in life I recently set myself a to-do list. In amongst learning to ride a bike at the ripe old age of 33 and posing for a still life class is to swim every Lido in London.
Then it came to me, exactly what I want to tell you about the wonder of swimming in a Lido, in a city. It is this and it has become a precious thing to me.
I feel like I am going on holiday.
I grew up on the Devon coast where being in the water almost became your home away from dry land. From an age that my mum would probably argue was too young my dad chucked every single one of us into the pool at Brixham’s Dolphin holiday camp.  That old fashioned teaching technique of literally sink or swim. Out of four children two of us became water babies, the others still doggy paddle if you manage to get them in the water.
The pool itself, despite being set in a Pontin’s that we would sneak into, was a Lido. That concrete expanse of shallow through to the murkier deep, unheated water and surrounded by concrete steps that stacked up like an auditorium. It was not only where I learnt to swim but where I was taught how to whistle and stay statue still if a bee landed on you. Where we were allowed a coke in a glass bottle from the bar, where we saw Big Daddy wrestle. After a day spent attempting lengths underwater or choreographing lonely synchronised swimming routines we’d climb into the back of the cherry red cavalier still in our swimming costumes and burn the back of our legs on the leather seats, the remaining drops of water turning to steam as we’d rock from bum cheek to bum cheek to avoid the heat.
So despite living down the road from The Dolphin, every time we rolled out the towels it felt like going on holiday. The constant sound of splashes, choc ices for treats and the pool. Always that beautiful pool. Looking back on that now I wonder if, as a child, I ever really grasped how lucky we were to grow up there.
The Dolphin sadly burnt down in 1991 and it was never reopened. I took one last look around at the charred chalets and tennis courts when it did. The pool was sealed off, but through a crack I could see black water and dead leaves. My childhood resembling an oil slick. Even now I sigh at the memory.
Through this self-imposed challenge of swimming London Lido’s I have clawed back some of that feeling I had when I was a carefree child. Of being under the water and amazed that I can still hold my breath enough to reach the other end, the smell of pool water drying on my skin as I lie poolside like a shattered mermaid, of being ravenous starving hungry (that true hunger you only really get after a swim). Of standing at the deep end, knees locked and ready to dive even though I know I am terrible at it and most likely I will fail but not caring anyway.
And of course with London I find myself travelling to places I’ve never been to before, a feeling of the new in a city so old. Sunday morning I found myself on a train to Richmond. Swimming costume on under my dress, towel rolled up under my arm, clean underwear for my return on my bed where I frequently abandon them out of forgetfulness. I love train journeys to unvisited destinations, my nose is pressed up against the window to peek in back gardens, deserted building sites and dirty rivers. I’d never been to Richmond before, just like I’d never been to Tooting Bec until I visited their Lido the other week. I know there’s a pool waiting at the other end of it for me, just like I did when I was a child.
I like taking all these watery holidays.
Hannah x

Hannah writes the From Desk Till Dawn blog

Parliament Hill

Tooting Beck

Bixton Beach

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Taking the Waters

Below is an extract about Parliament Hill Lido by Caitlin Davies from her book 'Taking The Waters, A Swim Around Hampstead Heath'. Published by Frances Lincoln.   Photographs by Ruth Corney. Photos are copyright and may not be reproduced without the permission of Ruth Corney You can buy the book HERE

Photo by Ruth Corney

The Parliament Hill Lido – also known as the Gospel Oak Lido – was built during the golden age of lido construction, as part of a government drive to improve the nation’s health, and especially that of the working class. The aim was to produce a fitter nation with a far better ‘National Physique’ – and what better than to build outdoor pools?
Between 1930–39, at least 180 lidos were built in Britain, adding to the fifty built the decade before. And it was the London County Council that led the way. ‘I promised the people of London that the new LCC would make London a “City of Lidos”. Here we are,’ announced Herbert Morrison in the summer of 1937.
The LCC then submitted proposals for a chain of five open-air swimming pools, with the Parliament Hill Lido situated on 2.5 acres of land once known as the Salisbury Plain. It was designed by two LCC architects, Harry Rowbotham and T.L. Smithson, who designed all thirteen of the LCC’s lidos built between 1906 and 1939.
The press kept people fully informed about construction plans. Readers were repeatedly told the size of the pool – 200ft by 90ft – and its capacity, 650,000 gallons of water. There would be separate swimming hours for men and women and, most daringly, set hours for mixed swimming as well.
The pool would be open every day during the summer, when for five days a week men and boys could swim for free in the early mornings. On the remaining two days it was the turn of girls and women. The lido would also open for mixed bathing from 10 a.m. to closing time on four days a week and bank holidays, at a charge of sixpence.
The raised terrace around the pool was built as if for people to watch a performance, and on opening day on Saturday 20 August 1938 there was quite a show. Five hundred people packed the poolside as the Secretary of the Football Association, Stanley Rous, gave the opening address. He seemed a little confused as to why he’d been invited, saying he could see no connection between football and swimming, but ‘a great deal of money has been spent here and I for one feel that if 34,000 people learn to swim here in the next few years, it will have been money well spent.’
This was followed by a roll of drums by the Metropolitan Police Central Band and then a graceful double dive by Flying Officer C.D. Tomalin of the Highgate Diving Club and Miss J. Dixon of the Mermaid Swimming Club. The diving display also included ‘an hilarious mock life saving episode,’ according to the Ham & High.
The Mayor of St Pancras thanked the aquatic generosity of the LCC, while an LCC representative said it was about time the very poor had access to the sort of facilities normally only available to the very rich.
The ceremony over, the crowds waiting outside were finally allowed to enter; the doors opened and in they trooped cheering. No mention is made of any lifeguards in the press reports, and the lido was probably run by a park keeper; a white-coated individual who dealt with the machinery and who was unlikely to have known how to swim. But two ‘Keep-Fit’ instructors were present on certain days, with free ‘advice and hints’ on swimming, diving and life saving.
Yet while the lido opened with great fanfare, World War II was already on the horizon. The press had announced air raid precautions, the first million civilian volunteers had enrolled, shelters were being erected and plans made for the possible evacuation of children. Even before the lido opened, people were filling sand bags from the construction debris. ‘They had dug up where the pool would be,’ remembers Paul Thorogood, ‘and extracted soil to dig a hole, and there was a great heap of it near the railway line. People filled bags with sand or whatever it was. I was about seven years old and someone chucked a brick at me and I still have the scar today.’
During the long hot summer of 1939, London lidos still swarmed with life. But when war was declared in September, one by one the nation’s lidos began to close. The Parliament Hill Lido took a direct hit during the Blitz when, on 13 September 1940, incendiary bombs caused seventeen local fires. The last fell on the lido at 10.13 p.m., but the fire brigade managed to extinguish each blaze within twenty minutes, and the lido remained open.
This was much to the relief of local children. ‘In the summer of 1943 I visited the lido most days,’ recalls Roy Naisbitt, ‘I was thirteen and I remember how lively it was, full of children and families. I don’t remember people ever swimming up and down or across the pool, just a mass of people going in all directions, splashing around and enjoying themselves.’
When war ended in 1945, life remained hard for most people, the country was poor and food and clothes were still rationed. Few households had televisions or cars, and lidos became urban resorts for post-war babies. Leeroy Murray remembers his first visit to the Parliament Hill Lido in 1948 when he was three years old. ‘I sat down at the shallow end and I looked at the vast body of water that seemed to go on forever, it was a whole world. And then gingerly I got in.’

Photo by Ruth Corney

Photo by Ruth Corney

Photo by Ruth Corney

Friday, 17 August 2012

New Remix Single. ISAN and The Hardy Tree

We think these two remixes (bottom of post) made for the Lido project are very special and we would like to present them to you as a single.

As well as being the label that is to release the CD of Lido, Frances Castle is The Hardy Tree. The Hardy Tree produces small music that never wants to be big. I only mean that as a compliment in times like these. Like me, Frances is interested in place and location in song and also like me she tells stories using lyrical and instrumental music.

Only a few songs on The Hardy Trees first album use words, but when they appear they are precise, teasing and beautiful.                                                                                                                                

The Hardy Tree take you on little journeys. Not big ones, beautiful little ones. The first Hardy Tree album was my favourite release of last year.

Back in the late nineties when I was in Hefner we became infatuated with electronic music. Me and John Morrison would buy confusing, pretty music on labels like Wurlitzer Jukebox, Earworm and Static Caravan. My friend Glen ran Tugboat and put out the first ISAN record. We played it in the tour van.

It was music that I didn't understand completely and that made me love it more. I'm always looking for music I don't understand. I don't want to know why I like things.

I aspire to make music as good as ISANs and when the opportunity came for Robin and Antony to remix one of my tunes I became very excited. I would have assumed that I was too linear for ISAN. I gave them the keys to my house to see what they would do.

King's Meadow from Darren Hayman on Vimeo.

When some people remix they destroy your home. They pour red wine in your bed and sleep with your girlfriend. Others do just a little bit of light dusting.

When ISAN remixed King's Meadow they carefully moved all the furniture from one room and placed it in the other. They didn't break a thing. They just moved everything.

 - Darren Hayman

ISAN and Hardy Trees' reworkings of my Lido music can be downloaded free from the link below.
Frances, Claypipe and the Hardy Tree can be found at

ISAN can be found at

Monday, 13 August 2012

Free Lido Remix - We Show Up On Radar

I first met Andrew Wright aka We Show Up on Radar at a dodgy gig we did together in Nottingham where the promoter refused to pay VAT.

I met him again at a another dodgy gig in Nottingham where afterwards I got car-jacked and put in hospital for a few days.

It's a laugh innit?

Andrew has also been mastering some records for me recently and helped pull the January Songs project last year into something digestible.

This is his take on Black Rock Baths. You wouldn't guess it from this but the original is quite plaintive and restful.

More of Andrew's music can be found here

Andrew plays in london on the 7th September

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Drowned in Sound Review

Lovely review of Lido from Drowned in Sound HERE
To anyone bemused by the Olympic opening ceremony, wondering what nurses, blacksmiths and Mr Bean had to do with Great British athletics, here’s a slice of sporting heritage from ex-Hefner frontman Darren Hayman. Taking a break from his horny underdog persona, the Essex singer has written a tribute to Britain’s open-air swimming pools - lidos - and recorded it without a single vocal. 'If I am known or liked for anything at all in my career then it is for my lyrics… I see words as incisive, accurate tools,' he claimed when he announced the project. It’s a triumph then that Lido is so precise and delicious, its instrumentals perfectly evoking warm memories of paddling under blue skies in chlorine water.
With the same homemade production as The Ship’s PianoLido is an hour of acoustic-electronic pop, each track swathed in nostalgia like Boards of Canada gone busking. Each track has also been influenced by an actual lido, with ‘Parliament Hill’s violins, beats and bells emerging from the roar of boys’ showers - one of several recorded for the album that must’ve netted Hayman some sort of restraining order. ‘Tinside’ is exquisite, just banjo and mellow accordions, and features the sound of the caretaker lashing the kids with a cold hose; the lido equivalent of a wave machine. Though obviously drawn from Hayman’s Thatcherite childhood, the era he’s targeting is a vague one - ‘London Fields’s plucked guitar and old keyboards could be a Seventies sitcom title.
Lido doesn’t just stay in the capital, and features enough musical variation to fulfill Hayman’s assurance that you won’t miss the lyrics. There are occasions, however, where he commands so much emotion that his reedy vocals would be a bonus: ‘Saltdean’ and its bittersweet keyboards could easily carry one of his venereal anecdotes, as could the sad shuffling banjo of ‘Black Rock Baths’ and its obvious verse-verse-chorus pattern. But it’s a tiny niggle, and Lidoworks best in its own quaint spirit, remembering the public pools as the hubs of the community they used to be.
And in some places, still are: ‘Stonehaven’, named after the Olympic-size heated seawater pool in Scotland, uses stylophone-led electronics from Hayman’s short-lived duo The French; one of the most promising projects of his career. It’s a bopping five minutes of experimental pop, juggling glitch with folk guitars and cementing the atmosphere Lido’s been striving for - people playing in city centres, innocent times that aren’t quite yet over. Hayman’s channeled this mood into music and the result is a delight, his compositions as sharp as the lyrics he’s dispensed with. Later this year he’ll release The Violence, an album about seventeenth-century witch trials that’ll no doubt feature lines about stakes, gibbets and ducking stools. Until thenLido proves a strange double truth: that a group of people isn’t necessarily a mob, and that you can be idiosyncratic without speaking.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Jubilee Pool Video

Jubilee Pool - Darren Hayman from Darren Hayman on Vimeo.

A video for Jubilee Pool. A song from Darren Hayman's album Lido.

Available on Claypipe and WIAIWYA records.

Jubilee Pool available for free here

Directed by Mark Jenkin.

Selected footage taken from 'Jubilee Pool' (2003) by Nick Harpley

Lido has just had a 4 star review in Mojo! (However they failed to mention that the vinyl swimming pool blue version is available from WIAIWYA)