One of Birmingham’s historic gems, Moseley Road Baths, in Balsall Heath, is reopening the doors of the Gala Pool to the community to showcase its first ever art exhibition.
From Thursday 5 March to Saturday 28 March, the Gala Pool (with a newly restored roof) will host the free-to-attend ‘Specular Reflecular’, an immersive art installation which is part of Trust New Art, the National Trust’s Arts Council England-funded programme of contemporary art.
The exhibition celebrates the collective meaning the 112-year-old baths have had to many different people in the local community, in a spectacular and unique heritage space.
Throughout the month, visitors are invited to celebrate the stories and memories of swimmers, schools and local community groups in Balsall Heath, all curated by artistic duo Ben Sadler and Philip Duckworth (Juneau Projects).
To create it, Juneau Projects worked in partnership with nearly 500 swimmers, school pupils and Balsall Heath community members by asking them to paint over a series of individual frames taken from live action footage of the second swimming pool, which remains open for swimming.
Visitors will also be able to soak up the atmosphere sitting comfortably on the specially-created wave furniture which will be placed on the floor of the empty Gala Pool.
Swimmers still have the opportunity to practice their breast stroke and front crawl at Moseley Road Baths. Whilst the Gala Pool hosts the exhibition, ‘Pool Two’ still offers swimming – so guests are encouraged to bring their swimsuits along and enjoy a swimming session and the artwork under one roof.
The baths were under threat of closure for many years, until local people joined together to keep the pool as a community-run swimming facility. The Gala Pool has been closed for swimming since 2003, as it fell into disrepair. Thanks to investment from Historic England and Birmingham City Council, the restoration of the Gala Pool roof was recently completed, enabling it to be used for the first time as a space for Specular Reflecular.
A unique partnership involving the Moseley Road Baths CIO, the National Trust, Birmingham City Council, Historic England, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, and World Monuments Fund are working together to reimagine a new future for the baths.
Lucy Reid, Assistant Director at National Trust, said: “Through pioneering partnerships and working with communities the National Trust is playing our part in supporting places, like Moseley Road Baths, that matter to local people.
“The baths are of international heritage significance and we’re really excited that people will be able to see ‘Specular Reflecular’, a visually stunning artwork which is part of our Trust New Art programme, in the Gala Pool space.”
Kat Pearson, Trustee of Moseley Road Baths CIO, said: “Since opening in 1907, Moseley Road Baths have been at the heart of Balsall Heath life – generations of local people have learned to swim here. In recent years local people have campaigned to keep their pool open and although there’s still a long way to go, we’re proud with the progress that has been made.
“The baths offer a unique setting for ‘Specular Reflecular’ – a chance to acknowledge the past of this special place, the memories people have made here and to celebrate the future. We love that Juneau Projects placed swimming at the heart of the artwork and that they worked with so many people within our community to create it.”
Ben Sadler and Philip Duckworth (Juneau Projects) said: “We’re thrilled to launch ‘Specular Reflecular’ at Moseley Road Baths. Over the last year we have met hundreds of people who have helped create and shape the final animation and installation – it has been a brilliant journey.
We hope that ‘Specular Reflecular’ will reflect the warmth and friendliness we have received from the wonderfully diverse community that use the baths, and celebrate the building’s historic and current importance as a place to swim.
We were incredibly excited at the prospect of making a piece of art work for the baths – Ben swam at the baths as a child and his memories of floating in the pool, taking in the beautiful architecture and the raking light from the windows, are something that have always stayed with him.”
Support the baths by visiting the art exhibition or taking a swim. Find out more here: moseleyroadbaths.org.uk
For further information on Juneau Projects, please visit www.juneauprojects.co.uk