What a brilliant time we had at our 150th birthday party!!
Fittingly, the fun started with our younger members with the opening of the Children’s Art Exhibition on Friday 30th July.
The Reading Room was decorated with their fantastic artworks, some created with a little inspiration from the workshops led by our member and artist Marion Gardyne.
Later that day we held the first of our talks. There was a packed room – as packed as it could be under COVID-19 restrictions – for Mandela, Glasgow and the Arlington.
STV journalist Bernard Ponsonby led a conversation with Brian Filling, Honorary Consul for South Africa and Chair of the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation, to mark the 40th anniversary of Glasgow granting the Freedom of the City to Nelson Mandela, who was still in prison at the time.
Water polo, street art and talks
Saturday saw the the first water polo match at the Arlington Baths Club in at least 20 years, as Western Baths and Glasgow University battled it out, in the original home of aquatic football.
Our street gala later that afternoon saw Arlington Street outside the Baths come alive with circus skills, samba drumming, and communal creativity. We’re going to treasure the artwork created by many hands that day.
The evening talks took us on a journey through time. We raced through 150 years of the Arlington Baths Club from its founding, though many ups and downs, to the present day at Swimmers in the City.
Dr Ailsa Boyd took us to Spain in her detailed – and beautifully illustrated – talk on The Arlington, Alhambra & Owen Jones: 19th century Islamic architecture & design uncovering some of the inspirations behind our Turkish Baths and the books and exhibitions that brought those ideas and decorative patterns to Victorian Britain.
In Victorian Style Leisure and Pleasure, Ann Laird, the Convenor of Friends of Glasgow West, gave us a historical snapshot of the wide range of sport and other activities enjoyed by local residents, all around Woodlands, Park and the West End, showing us what the Victorians and Edwardians did for fun!
Memories, films and music
Sunday saw us host our first-ever Memories Cafe in the Reading Room, offering long-standing members – of which we have quite a few! – the chance to look at some old photos, memorabilia, and have their photos taken with the cups they won in the past!
As well as a chance to chat over past, they also enjoyed free tea, coffee, sandwiches and cake.
For the younger members there was a screening of Finding Nemo – complete with popcorn of course – in members’ lounge.
The movie theme continued with a programme of archive films in which we could glimpse Scotland’s ambitious work piping fresh water to its citizens; evolving architecture with a post-war plan to modernise Glasgow; the closure of Glasgow’s tram network; and addressing public health needs with the foundation of the NHS. The finale was the old favourite Pleasure Palace – a BBC documentary offering a look at a day in the life of the Arlington in 1997.
Then it was time to experience the sounds of the past in Arlington Echoes, vintage recordings on shellac performed or composed by former Arlington member including the earliest known recording of an Arlington member.
The programme included:
- Performances by Bransby Williams, actor & impersonator, best known for his portrayals of characters from Dickens,
- Works by Sir Frederic H. Cowen, conductor and prolific composer of orchestral pieces, operas, choral works and ballet suites, sung by Dame Clara Butt, Luisa Tetrazzini and Essie Ackland.
- The Symphony in F major ‘Polonia‘ and Mazurka for violin and piano by Emil Młynarski, conductor of The Scottish Orchestra (forerunner of the RSNO) and composer.
We went right back to the beginning with The Burnets & the Baths, a whistlestop tour by Niall Murphy, Deputy Director of the Glasgow City Heritage Trust, through the legacy of the Burnet family, one of Glasgow’s great architectural dynasties. Starting from the 1840s, they left a century long mark on the city producing some of its best known buildings including Arlington Baths.
Our final talk was Celebrating the City, a chance to hear from Andrew McConnell, Director of Glasgow Building Preservation Trust about the very popular Doors Open Days. This annual programme of free open buildings, guided walks and talks in September – in which the Arlington Baths takes part – is now in its 32nd year.
And we rounded off our amazing weekend with Pondside Performance, performed by international opera singers Julian Tovey, Linda Ormiston and musician Robert E Melling. As well as a programme of Victorian and Edwardian entertaining songs to celebrate the musical heritage of the club, some songs from the shows, the audience joined in at the very last, a rousing rendition of The Hippopotamus Song (Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud) by Flanders and Swann!
Sharing our story
As well as being a celebratory weekend for members we also wanted to use the Annivesary to share our story more widely. STV News visited on Thursday to chat to members and staff. And, as a special present, we got a great splash in the Sunday Post.
Throughout the weekend we welcomed members of the public on tours of the building. Here’s tour guide Julie in a very special birthday weekend outfit!
Here’s to the next 150 years!