Mermaids in search of tales at Bramley’s historic baths

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Bramley Mermaids Club performing in Bramley Baths. Photo by Lizzie Coombes.

By Carolyn Eden

Swimmers of all ages are being asked for their memories of an historic Leeds baths.

The Memory Aquarium project is collecting stories about the 111-year-old Bramley Baths, which will be shared online and at community events.

The stories are being used as inspiration for creating a new performance Mermaid Tales, using live theatre, film and animation, which will take place at Bramley Baths on November 28.

Contributors include Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, who regularly swims at the baths and was heavily involved in the campaign to save Bramley Baths when it faced closure in 2011. It eventually transferred to community ownership.

Zoe Parker, from Yorkshire Life Aquatic, said: “We are interested in memories of the Baths from the 1940s or earlier and up to the present day. We’ve heard some brilliant stories already, but we know there are so many more out there.”

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Bramley Baths being converted into a dance hall in 1952. Photo courtesy of Bramley Memory Aquarium.

The baths used to have special rooms for bathing and washing clothes, but due to a lack of heating, the pool was drained during the winter months, boarded over and transformed into a dance hall.

Jeanne Major, 83, said: “I spent my life in Bramley Baths when I was in my teens and I used to go dancing there with my first boyfriend. My father used to be outside the door, waiting for me.”

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Jeanne Major listening to audio stories recorded in shell-style earpieces at a previous Yorkshire Life Aquatic Mermaid Gala in Bramley Baths in September, 2013. Photo by Lizzie Coombes.

People will have the opportunity to add their own memories of the baths on the day by writing their story on the walls of the swimming pool and can take part by leading groups and attending workshops.

“This is the place where the memories come together with the magic of mermaids – water is where they meet,” said Miss Parker.

Tracy Basu, CEO of Bramley Baths, said: “There are so many wonderful stories so this is just a fantastic opportunity to share these stories with everyone.”

Lucy Meredith, from Yorkshire Life Aquatic, said: “We love Bramley Baths and are delighted to be leading this project.”

Stories are also being gathered after the event and some will be stored as part of the West Yorkshire Archive.

Tickets at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mermaid-tales-tickets-18982523238 or through Bramley Baths.

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