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Summary Friends of Moseley Road Baths

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths was formed as a response to plans by Birmingham City Council to close Moseley Road Baths. The first iteration of the campaign group was formed 15 years ago in 2004 in reaction the closure of the Gala Pool.

The campaign planned their own activity both on and off site to raise awareness and funds, this included music gigs with emerging bands, tea dances and art exhibitions. Lots of artists approached the friends over the years, both to gain access to the swimming pool building for their projects, but also to support the campaign. This process was ad-hoc in nature and was loosely curated by the Friends based on how they perceived the artists and proposals fitted with their ethos and the campaign.

The Friends felt the benefit of working with artists on the campaign was that it raised awareness of the campaign, attracted new audiences to the site (non-swimmers), attracted people to join the campaign and generated a buzz about saving Moseley Road Baths. Rather than being isolated one of activities, the Friends felt that artists projects gave the campaign huge boosts at points and helped build momentum for it.  

Interview with member of the ‘Friends of Moseley road Baths’, 21 05 2019

David Viney 
If you just please introduce yourself and tell me about your experiences campaigning to save heritage at risk sites. So in this case, it will be Moseley Road Baths.

Friends of Moseley Road Baths Member (FoMRB)
I’m a part of a group called Friends of Moseley Road Baths. And I joined what we might call the second campaign which was started in 2007. There was also the first one. The first one was around about 2004. I think when they closed the Gala Pool, and they were threatening to close Pool Two. In fact, the people who started that campaign are now grandmothers, and it’s their offspring who are campaigning again.

David Viney
In your opinion what value has Contemporary Arts activity added to campaigns to save heritage at risk sites?

FoMRB
It has brought in money and spread awareness, but it doesn’t have to be art. I mean, even if you have a cooking demonstration. That’s not art, but it brings in a particular audience and different groups to spread the information, news and to appreciate the building and maybe join the campaign. So, it can’t fail.

David Viney
So, new people, new money, raise awareness and new people to help support the campaign. 

FoMRB
Yeah

FoMRB
Well, it’s very interesting, you know, because we formed subgroups. We had projects we organised off site and projects on site. When things happened, my involvement would be to tell them what my role would be on the day or on the night e.g. take the money or count the money. So I never actually organised any of the things.

Projects including music, community activities. Welcome, Colleen. Yeah. Because of their community and local knowledge. And we have a number of gigs. Yeah. in different places. in the Bahamas, yeah. Okay, in support, and that really raised awareness. The bands performed for us for free. Some have become well known. We even had a 1940s Tea Dance in the Methodist church over the road.

Fierce Festival used the building quite a bit for various things, including projecting onto the outside. The Museum of Water, that was a big thing, and they’re traveling around the world with that and it brought a lot of people in. We did have hold an exhibition off site, at the Moseley School of Art, it was an exhibition about water and artists were invited to exhibit. Possibly, I think they were going to sell things. And if you’ve been into those rooms [at the school of art], they’re just filled with light, So people really put their heart into that, because it was a particular project, and particular water thing. The baths was also used as film settings and for pop videos.

Stans Café also used the baths and there’s a famous picture of them floating in the gallery of the Gala Pool. And there was a wondrous video for a group made recently. But it was really to promote their song. I don’t know if anybody said, well, what’s the background to that? You know, if so it wasn’t specific to the campaign. The other things were specific to help the campaign.

David Viney
Suppose I suppose it’s got to be recognisable as this place to help the campaign.

David Viney
There is an image of the swimmers in the empty Gala Pool. Could you tell me about that?

FoMRB
Yes. A photographer called Attilio Fiumarella and it was part of a competition he was funded through called ‘Some Cities’, which I think was in different UK cities. I’ve certainly seen work by different artists who were sponsored or had won the prize for competing in Some Cities. Some images were also displayed at Ort Gallery [Balsall Heath] at times.

David Viney
It was recent yes, maybe 2014?

FoMRB
Yes around 5 years ago. Attilio was directed to speak to me Initially, he talked to me and he had this advert [inset advert] I don’t know if you’ve seen it. I hope we’ve still got it, the Terracotta Army.

It was an A5 flyer in yellow, saying please turn up in your swimming costume I want a 100 people in there, I shook my head and said ‘you’ll not get that many’. But they turned up. Not only that, I don’t know if you know, he’s took portraits of people posing in various sites around building. Beautiful also shot on film, not digital – absolutely beautiful.

I had already been fielding lots and lots of photographers. Now, interestingly, we never charged, we just let them, and we used to come and accompany them around the building, as we [Friends of Moseley Road Baths] had access then. We then got a curious thing about some of these people are doing it for professional photography reasons and would be selling the images? We didn’t charge them because of course, Dave [City Council Pool Manager] was here. I just said to him, Dave, I’m bringing these people around from abroad from everywhere. There are some fascinating results on the internet.

As an example have you seen the one picture that’s flushed in a blue?

[interview paused to google for image]

People would contact us and say we’re going around the world and photographing places that were decaying. It was a bit dismal, but interesting on some level.

 

David Viney
I’m suppose if you’re on the World Monument Fund Heritage at Risk site, people can find you quite easily.

FoMRB
Absolutely. And then there was someone from one of the university’s, a photography teacher, who decided that he wanted to bring a group and then we had to involve Dave [City Council Pool Manager], then the council suddenly realised they can make money out of this and started to find people to film but well, it didn’t kill it. But of course, they had to pay.

David Viney
But it could kill off access for people that are passionate about heritage and architecture, it could kill off the non-commercial

FoMRB
Of course, of course. But yeah, the non-commercial. But then the meetups started the Instagram [igers] came too.

One of the things I didn’t mention was about the woman who was commissioned to make some music, by the [Birmingham] Conservatoire, somebody can give you her name. Have you heard about that?

David Viney
I know there was a sound sculpture made, because [Viv] talked about it. But I don’t know the name of the person that was commissioned.

FoMRB
There was a guy who was composing with sounds Yes. I don’t know how far he got. She [Birmingham] Conservatoire was commissioned, and she must have been a prominent student, it was her last year, she was just leaving the Conservatoire. The theme was around demise and renewal. Okay, that was very exciting. Yes.

David Viney
So thinking about the broad range of arts activity we have discussed . Was any of it specifically planned to be part of the campaign?

FoMRB
Yes some of it was specifically planned and often artists approach us to use the venue or to use the building for their project, but also to the part of the campaign. All the ones I mentioned.

David Viney
That’s brilliant. So they knew about the campaign when they approached and wanted to support it. So it wasn’t planned by FoMRB to go find the artists, they approached you

FoMRB
Yeah, in the second campaign. So I’m also talking about the ones that went ahead. Some approached us and didn’t quite fit for whatever reasons.

David Viney
So in the context to campaigns to save at risk heritage sites, do you think it’s better to plan activity as part of a structured programme or allow activity to happen organically in an unplanned way? So we kind of just touched on that.

FoMRB
I think we have to do both.

David Viney
So thinking of the arts activity that happened, and I think we answered this already. But again, it’s good to reiterate it. So did it bring new people to the site?

FoMRB 
Definitely so, non-swimmers

FoMRB 
Two girls from Australia? Came and lived here and I’m sure they put the sounds under the water

David Viney
Did experiencing arts activity in the baths change your perception of what the space could be and what the building could be. Because obviously, as a member of the public, you come in, and you think it’s swimming baths, but, when you put something else in, it disrupts your perception of the space, I think?

FoMRB 
Yeah, that’s, you know, that’s how it should be.

David Viney
So thinking about that arts activity that we just discussed. What impact did you think you had, in your opinion?

FoMRB 
Well, to me as an older person it’s very, very interesting. Because obviously, there’s different art projects which have a different audience, although they also overlap. Yeah. So then they [those audiences] get to know it [the baths and campaign] through the art scene.

Do they have lasting impact? I mean, we talk about them as thought they are gone in a puff of smoke. They gave the campaign huge boosts at points. It is very interesting. where people get to know about stuff, you know, we still bump into people and they say ‘Oh, is it open?’ or ‘I hear it’s going to be opened again.’ You know, that’s good.

David Viney 
So again, so I mean, I said that. So I mean, in your opinion, what impact do you think those arts events achieved?

FoMRB 
Oh, undoubtedly, a buzz about saving Moseley Road Baths. But things might have gotten lost in the message that pool two was open throughout the campaign to save the building.

David Viney
Why would you encourage the use of contemporary arts activity in campaigns to save heritage at risk?

FoMRB 
Because it will attract people who wouldn’t otherwise have physically gone to those buildings. Virtually they may have gone, and they may even know about the campaign. Its important to actually get people into the building.

Interview ends 25mins

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Canute the King at Moseley Road Baths, Birmingham 1993. http://www.stanscafe.co.uk/book-stan-in-context.html

Artist : Tim Etchells, Title : Will Be, http://wearefierce.org Credit : Photograph Meg Lavender 2015

 Attilio Fiumarella, 2014, www.attiliofiumarella.com

 Attilio Fiumarella, 2014, www.attiliofiumarella.com.

Mike Jones, Carters News Agency, 2016 (image form Mail online)

Music fundraiser poster, image courtesy of Freinds of  Moseley Road Baths. Year Unknown.