The versatile interview

Last week, as I sat in front of the television to see me interviewed on BBC London News I didn’t know what to expect.
Not that I didn’t remember what I had said, only that I had said quite a lot of things, and as television times are notoriously short with all probability much of what was recorded would not have made it through the editing.

But that was clear from start. In fact when the BBC journalist Matthew Cooke called me asking me to interview me about Forest Hill Pools I didn’t agree to that, but as we chatted about the recent events surrounding swimming pools in Lewisham and I told him that Forest Hill Pools was only one of two “shells” of Victorian Pools in Lewisham, both opened to the public within the same two weeks in 1885, both in an awful state of disrepair, an idea for an interview with a different slant came up.

So we recorded this interview in the alleyway between Ladywell Road and Lewisham High Street, me pointing at back of the derelict Victorian Ladywell Pools. There I spoke for a few minutes touching on various issues around swimming pools and historic pools.

Here’s in brief what I said:

  • swimming in historic pools is a unique experience for some non negligible quasi-holistic reason (link) ;
  • Lewisham Council is responsible for the disrepair of Forest Hill Pools, by displaying surprise at discovering that a 123 years old pool that they neglected to maintain has some problems that could cost a packet they only look silly and hypocritical;
  • on the other hand maintenance of historic buildings should not be met by sports and leisure budgets and unfortunately funding to maintain historic buildings is hard to come by and there is no legal responsibility to maintain historic buildings in good shape;
  • we may be living an epidemic of demolitions of historic buildings because the mantra in local government is that any building that is over 30 years old is only good for the scrap-heap;
  • this leads to the loss of some really fantastic buildings like the former Hither Green Hospital , a local architectural gem demolished a few years ago to make space for a housing development (this is the part that made it into the news);
  • we do need new pools and we need more budget for this and to use it to maximum effect, unfortunately as the population grows the new facilities only shrink when compared with the old ones, old Forest Hill Pools and its forecast replacement being a perfect example of this trend;
  • enough swimming pools to satisfy population needs are important because they are not just an asset for competitive sport, they offer an opportunity to keep fit to anyone and they are just about the best way and sometimes the only possible way to exercise for many people suffering from a series of very common conditions like asthma, arthritis, obesity…;
  • an investment in swimming pools would reflect positively on the budget for the NHS and to fail to see this shows extreme short-sightedness.
  • With all this to say I didn’t want to be boxed into something that I am not, I was also aware that many people in Forest Hill just want the old pool to be taken out of its misery. If the Council can’t keep it in good order than maybe it’s better to knock it down and build a modern one. I find it impossible to disagree with that.

    In a different situation I probably would have stood for old Forest Hill Pools, in fact if the Friends of Forest Hill Pools would not have fought along many years to keep the old one up, today there wouldn’t be a pool to speak of there. The pools were first saved from closure some 12 years ago, and in case somebody forgot only three years ago the Mayor approved a consultant’s report advising him to keep only 4 pools in the Borough, and Forest Hill was not one of them.

    The fact that the pools will now be replaced is an achievement of those efforts, sad to see that something that is a bit smaller is what’s on offer but at least there’s something on offer.

    Going back to the interview. I think that the peculiar characteristic of it was that unlike my past media passages this time I wasn’t campaigning for anything specific, I didn’t have to push one message through, so I was particularly relaxed, I had a quite clear idea of what I wanted to say but not a prepared speech, just an ad lib improvisation on someting I’ve come to know quite well.

    I was really more interested in giving the image of the two Victorian pools and their parallel lives and dismissals, I find that quite poetic, unfortunately news editors are more interested in a quick point. Never mind, I was aware that my poetic image probably would not have made it entirely so a few quick points to choose from were provided, one made it into the news and I’m quite happy with it.


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