All Change

Yeah, yeah, the continual promise of “jam tomorrow” as Lambeth leisure slides ever deeper into a complete meltdown…

After the frustration of finding out that our friends from @LambethLabour have missed the second deadline regarding the re-re-opening of Brixton Rec, I was cheered when the lovely Joseph from Greenwich Leisure Limited invited me in for a backstage tour of the new changing facilities at SW9.

The March 15th “absolute guarantee” from the Labour cabinet might have been missed, but from what I have seen from behind the polythene sheet of mystery at the Rec, the wait will just about have been worth it.

An army of builders is working behind the scenes at the Rec. Joseph and I could barely walk around the building site, such was the frantic activity-taking place. On time and on budget, ‘n all that…

First off, it’s worth emphasising that the new Rec is indeed new. This is no bodget and scarper makeover, as was the case back in the summer of 2007 with the £2.7m hash job.

All that remains from the old Rec changing rooms is the roof and the pillars. Oh, and the wooden benches, which have now been re-cycled and re-varnished, to be transformed into a hanging space for clothes – a nice touch.

The area has been completely re-tiled, with new cubicles, showers and toilets put in place. Plus a ‘vanity space’ – blimey. This is basically a workstation with mirrors and hair dryers. There is something similar down @BrockwellLido.

The difference at the Rec is that the vanity area is a mixed space. I’m not sure which of the sexes is the more vain, but I don’t anticipate that I’ll be spending longer than ten seconds in front of the mirrors each morning.

Once past the vanity space, and the basic premise for the new changing facilities at the Rec is still the ladies to the right, gents to the left as you walk in. This became slightly difficult to visualise, given that burly builders currently take up both Arthur and Martha areas.

It was around this part of the tour that I became slightly lost. Having never been behind the scenes in the female changing rooms, I can’t comment on what has changed. The gents however have lost some of the original floor space. The showers at the top end remain (completely re-tiled) but the space down the centre has now been given over to a family changing area.

You could probably fit a dozen of the current temporary changing areas into the new gents, so space isn’t really an issue. Providing a private area where Dads can take young daughters to get changed has to be a good thing.

I asked my fine guide it there was any possibility of taking photos. He was very diplomatic, but I think his job is worth more than meeting the whims of a lone blogger.

Likewise I pressed for an opening date. Given that two dates have already been missed, it is no surprise that the good man from GLL was slightly cagey.

You may just miss us, if the Lido opens on May 6th,” he jested.

Mid-May looks like the next deadline that has been set for the delayed job.

And so hopefully out of yet another Lambeth leisure cock up could eventually come a positive news story. The old changing area was a disgrace, the victim of many years of under-investment and funding from consecutive political administrations.

Meanwhile, I’m hearing encouraging news coming out of Brockwell Lido about plans for a winter swimming club. It may be the wrong time of the year to be discussing this, but if the plans fall into place, the lovely lido may not close at all come the end of this season.

Having first been asked to register for a possible interest in winter swimming at the lido during the BLU AGM back in October, the sums have now been costed, and a model based on the superb South London Swimming Club down at Tooting Bec have been put in place.

There is a meeting at the lido on the evening of April 22nd. The working model is based on the more swimmers that sign up, the cheaper the cost will be. It may not be possible to swim all winter down at Brockwell this year, as Fusion has plans to paint the pool at some stage.

Still – with finally, finally a new changing area at Brixton Rec almost complete, a winter swimming club at Brockwell, and the first bricks being removed and re-built at Clap’ham, leisure in Lambeth *may* just have turned the corner in what has been an incredibly trying winter.

My caution concerning Tesco in SW16 is another question entirely…

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