Slippery SW9 Slope

No Slipping, No Swimming

Day 1 in the Rotten Borough since Labour led @lambeth_council privatised leisure, and we didn’t get off to a great start. With St Reatham and Clap’ham pools both padlocked on account of interference from the private sector, a young blogger’s thoughts turn towards Brixton for the daily dip.


Best make it quick however. Time and kiddie piss pool tide wait for no swimmer, certainly not in the Rotten Borough anyway. If you want to swim in Lambeth, your only option is now between 7-9am, and even then you have to jump through hoops and be frog marched around the gym in your shreddies.

A £2.7m refurbishment doesn’t buy you much these days. Actually, it doesn’t buy you anything, except further closures. And so less than two years since The Rec was declared “buzzing” (ha!) I approached the backstreets of SW9 early on Monday morning with some trepidation.

I wasn’t alone. Nope – I REALLY WASN’T ALONE. Swimming is alive and well in Lambeth (sort of) in the sense that plenty of people want to swim, but they ‘aint exactly got a lot of choice where they choose to take their dip.

The overcrowding wasn’t helped when I finally made it up to the sixth floor and the back room old gym changing rooms. Your glass is either half full, or half empty; the Muscle Mary’s in the gym certainly took the latter option, feeling hard done by that half of their locker room space has been taken over by some poncey swimmers.

Likewise I wasn’t too enthralled about having to stretch into my Speedoes in an environment that is essentially a makeshift shoebox.

Compounding the lack of space problem is the lack of drainage. Gym boys don’t generally drip, and so there is no need for irrigation. Swimmers however tend to flood the place, unless there is a drainage system.

Ah – I see what the master plan is here – a brand new pool is going to be built in the Rotten Borough, based on the overcrowding and flooding now taking place in the temporary (yeah, right) changing rooms.

But onwards. Or even downwards. I was frog-marched through the gym, and down two levels of stairs before I could enter the waters of Lake Brixton. Personal hygiene is off the agenda. Having a shower prior to my bathing would have led to the carpet en route to the pool rotting faster then the Rotten Borough is under the right wing Nu Labour administration.

Forty lengths followed. At least I think they did. I lost count halfway through, having been forced to navigate a one-way system that resembled the South Circular during rush hour.

Back up the stairs, past the sniggering Muscle Mary’s, and yet more wet under foot carpet. I hope Lambeth Council has a budget to replace all that rotting shag pile.

Time for a shower, time to think again. Day 1 in the Rotten Borough since Labour privatised leisure in Lambeth and the bloody showers weren’t working. A GLL maintenance chap was frantically trying to unblock the mess (the showers, not a pimped out leisure policy.)

The poor chap was struggling, so much so that he had left his internal radio on.

Incoming call, incoming call…

“Dave, come in Dave. This is reception.”

“Go ahead reception.”

“Dave, there’s a customer here with a pre-paid Lambeth Leisure Card. He wants a swim. It’s five past nine. Shall I let him in?”

“Reception – tell him to clear off.”

“Dave? Sorry? Clear off?”

“Reception, you heard – tell him to clear off. We’re closed.”

“Dave – that’s a bit crap. You sure?”

“We’re closed. Over and out”

And so I left Brixton Rec just as the shutters were coming down for the day. The newsagents around the corner had just opened. Let’s call this La La Lambeth Land Meridian Time.

I walked past Reception to see a queue of customers about to be turned away with their towels and trunks. I also saw a sign proclaiming ‘Free swimming for the U16’s and U65’s!’ I didn’t see a sign explaining (apologising?) for the privatisation of leisure in Lambeth.

Same again tomorrow?

Best set that alarm clock for La La Lambeth Land Meridian Time.


5 thoughts on “Slippery SW9 Slope

  1. My swimming housemate has given up on trying to swim in Lambeth and pops across the river to the Queen Mother Sports Centre in Westminster which is about the same distance but has the advantage of (a) being open and (b) valuing its customers. Extraordinary idea.

  2. So angry and frustrated! I’m Andrews swimming housemate who after 14 years of pleasure and misery using Lambeth pools, has finally given up. It’s too early to say how successful the membership move to Nuffield and the Queen Mother will be but my first visit was a success with reasonable room in the pool and organised system and friendly staff (not that the staff at Clapham and Brixton were not friendly) and great promise as well as hot water and lots of it in the showers and keys in the lockers.

    I never really went back to Brixton much after the last upgrade and changing room debacle preferring to stay at the decaying Clapham and it is so galling that everything closes at the same time and at a time that swimming is supposedly being encouraged.

    I knew that the 8 weeks upgrade (yeah right that will really happen on time) followed by severe overcrowding would be a miserable and stressful experience for me instead of relaxing and health promoting. I am so glad I am not putting myself through it.

    Surely closing all the pools and sports centres with the resulting lack of provision and overcrowding is also a stupid idea at the beginning of the year when many people take on new membership. Trying to to get a regular swim in Lambeth at a regular time has for many years been made as difficult as possible. Women only swims and private lessons in peak times amongst other things have left pathetic lanes which are too narrow to pass in.

    I’ve given up on the feedback sessions and customer suggestion forms which were ignored. I was ashamed I didn’t go to the last Clapham meeting to tell the council organisers what I thought of their organisation but it just didn’t seem worth my while to waste more of my time. All I can say is I’m glad I finally jumped ship, come on in the waters fine. Good luck to you onion blog and my fellow Lambeth swimmers.

  3. The pool in Streatham was absolutely fantastic until it was closed by the council. We miss it every weekend. And every morning when I would have gone for a swim before work. Grrrrr.

  4. Hi Jason!

    That’s bloody awful – the pools were the last things to close due to snow here – even the schools they were attached to closed, but the blue juice remained open.

    Happy days. Perhaps you should move to Cornwall?

    Hope all’s well

    Much love x

  5. Cornwall? Cripes. Steady.

    Swimming here ‘aint great right now, but… Cornwall? I’m sure it’s rather lovely, all that sea water swimming.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *