This blog was written by Matt McKeown, Communications Coordinator at Power to Change.
The heatwave we’ve experienced these past few weeks has made global warming seem more like a lived experience than a scientific theory. Restless nights and 30-degree temperatures in my office has brought home to me what it might be like to live on ‘hothouse’ earth – a very real phenomenon predicted by scientists if we collectively fail to tackle climate change.
But, escaping the hot weather can’t mean locking ourselves away in air-conditioned rooms powered from unsustainable sources of energy. That would just exacerbate the problem. So, what would be the social and environmentally conscious way of cooling off in the heat? I decided it must be a visit to an outdoor community-run swimming pool.
Now, I’m not claiming that lidos and swimming pools run on a community enterprise model are the big solutions we’ve been waiting for to help us reduce global carbon emissions. If only it was that simple! But, they are rather unexpected examples of organisations doing significant and valuable social impact work and fostering stronger communities.
Hilsea Lido is one such example. This community business in Portsmouth was taken into community hands in 2010 after a pressure group formed to protect the lido from being demolished. The group took on the facility on a 99 year lease from Portsmouth City Council and we supported them at Power to Change through our Trade Up programme.
Along with its adjoining café, this self-proclaimed ‘pool for the people’ has now regained its rightful place at the heart of the Portsmouth community. Along with the health and wellbeing benefits the pool offers (especially in a scorching heatwave), it provides education, employment and volunteering opportunities for young people in this particularly disadvantaged area of the country.
Much of the artwork around the Lido walls was designed by young people not in employment, education and training and the original clean-up of the derelict site was done by young offenders.
It’s not alone – Jubilee Pools in Penzance, Tadcaster Community Swimming Pool, Withington Bathsand Moseley Road Baths are all examples of swimming pools that are operating on a community business model and in a way that delivers positive social impact. Many are run by the community, for the community through community share models, community benefit societies or volunteering and as such they build community cohesion and engagement.
With the crisis in local government funding making the maintenance of public swimming pools increasingly more challenging, community-run swimming pools are offering a fantastic way of keeping swimming pools open and delivering their positive social benefits to a greater number of people.
Find more social enterprises and community businesses to visit over the summer months with SEUK’s social summer campaign #SocialSummer2018 – which Power to Change is delighted to support. And remember, buying social or choosing a community business can help address some of the most pressing issues we face as a society – whether that’s health & wellbeing or climate change.