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Stirchley baths interpretation proposal final

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Stirchley baths interpretation proposal final

  1. 1. Stirchley Baths Interpretation Proposal 10 June 2013
  2. 2. Stirchley Baths Interpretation Proposal Prepared for Birmingham City Council by Simon Buteux and Dr Suzanne Carter Birmingham Conservation Trust P O Box 28 Birmingham B1 1TU Tel: 0121 303 2664 Email: 1|Page
  3. 3. CONTENTS 1. Introduction 2. Structure of the Interpretation Proposal PART 1: Physical Interpretation within the building 1. Aims and Approach: a light touch 2. Stirchley Baths: the historical resources 3. Stirchley Baths: timeline, stories, themes 3.1 The offer of the land 3.2 The search for a water source 3.3 Architecture and the building of the baths 3.4 The opening of the baths 3.5 The war years: dancing with Den 3.6 ‘You’ve never had it so good’: soap, swimming and saunas 3.7 The Mikvah: a Jewish ritual bath 3.8 Closure, campaigns and conservation 4. What’s in a name? 5. If walls could speak... 6. Where, what and why 7. Panel types: possible use of ceramic tile panels 8. Copyright of images 9. Budget PART 2: Interpretation through participatory activity 1. Presenting research and information 2. Talks and Tours 3. Performance-based interpretation 2|Page
  4. 4. Stirchley Community ‘Hub’ Interpretation Proposal “The baths, they may have come and gone, but memories live on and on”. 1. Introduction Stirchley Baths, a wonderful Edwardian building richly detailed in a baroque style, was officially opened in 1911 and closed in 1988. The building is now derelict. The essence of the HLF bid is to repair the building and bring it back into use, not as baths but as a community centre. The fact of this change of use provides one important starting point for the interpretation proposal. Although the building will not be a baths, the architecture of the building proclaims that it is a baths. This is shown in the types of spaces the building provides (particularly the space provided by the former swimming pool) and the way they are lit, in the detailing (for example the extensive use of tiles) and in features such as the chimney. Most obviously, the words PUBLIC BATHS are carved prominently above the entrance. A second important starting point for the interpretation proposal is that the primary function of the building will be as a community centre, not a ‘heritage attraction’. Most users of the building will be there for some reason other than enjoyment of the architecture and history of the building. The way that the interpretation of the building is handled must respect this. Although these points need to be stressed, they should not be overplayed. The change from ‘baths’ to ‘community hub’ is not without significant continuities. In some respects the baths functioned as a community centre, providing more than just a range of bathing facilities. It was a place to meet and socialise, a place to keep fit, a place of entertainment, for example dancing or boxing (the pool was boarded over for this). Functions such as these will continue, providing an important link with the past. Furthermore, change is part of the story of Stirchley Baths. In its early years an important function of the baths was as a place where people could take a bath to get clean, or where clothes could be washed in the laundry. The requirement for these facilities declined during the use of the baths, with a sauna and gym being introduced instead. Changes that are being introduced now, although much more radical than those that happened in the past, are part of a continuum of change in the use of the building as the needs of the community have changed. Likewise, although most users of the building will go inside for reasons other than to appreciate its heritage, extensive community consultation has shown just how important that heritage is to the people of Stirchley. For those alive today, the baths have always been there, and many over the age of about thirty remember when the baths were still functioning; the building evokes a rich variety of memories. The building is loved too for the richness and quality of its architecture, the craftsmanship and attention to detail. Derelict, the building stands as a symbol of decline, a sad reminder of past glories. Restored back to its former glory (and from the outside this will be very apparent) the building will be a symbol of a proud and vibrant community. People appreciate this; indeed, as community consultation has shown, they are passionate about it. Because of its heritage, Stirchley Baths offers qualities as a community centre that no new purpose-built community centre could hope to match. 2. Structure of the Interpretation Proposal This Interpretation Proposal makes recommendations on both the physical interpretation of the building and the interpretation of the building’s history through participatory activity. 3|Page
  5. 5. To enhance the physical interpretation provided through the capital works programme, we recommend involving and engaging local people as participants in project work, through tours, talks and drama, and interactive activities to create their own interpretations of the Baths’ heritage and share this with a wider audience through a range of different media, including digitally. The second part of this document outlines the participatory activities included in the Activity Plan which have an interpretative function or output. PART I: Physical Interpretation 1. Aims and approach: a light touch Taking account of the points made in the introduction, two main principles have guided this interpretation proposal. The first is to take a light-touch approach to in situ interpretation materials. Stirchley Baths has many stories to tell and to a considerable extent the building will speak for itself. Our aim is to provide interpretation materials that will enhance or further illustrate these stories, or will lead users of the building to stories that they may not have been aware of. We will aim to provoke interest and enquiry, and also point the way to where the curious may discover more. We will do this mainly through the use of photographs and enlarged facsimiles of original documents, with little or no explanatory text. A good example of this will be to put a facsimile (or recreation) of the original notice of admission charges in the foyer. This lists (in old-fashioned pence of course), the different prices for admission to the swimming baths, the private slipper baths and the Russian bath, for men and women, boys and girls, first or second class. The amount of information this simple notice conveys is enormous, and it provokes many questions too. It tells that the baths included not only a swimming pool but also private ‘slipper baths’ (what are they?) and a ‘Russian bath’ (what’s that?). It more than hints at the sharp distinctions of class and gender. And so on. Another light-touch (and fun) way that we propose to reference the heritage of the building and stimulate questions is through the naming of the various spaces and rooms. Outside it says that the building is a ‘PUBLIC BATHS’, but of course it no longer is. We propose to pick up this theme inside by suggesting that the rooms are named after former parts of the baths complex. Thus the two rooms situated over the former deep end of the swimming pool, designated as meeting rooms/flexible space on the architect’s plans for the community hub, would be called ‘THE DEEP END’. (“We’re meeting tonight at the ‘hub’, in the Deep End, see you at 7.00.”) A second principle guiding the interpretation proposal will be to use, wherever possible, the words of members of the community to provide interpretation. The interviews conducted as part of the extensive community engagement exercise provide a rich source of quotations and memories. We intend that short extracts from these are dotted about in unusual places on the walls (not where it has been possible to retain the original tiles). Example: “There was no hot water in our house and it was a lot easier using the baths at Stirchley than getting the tin one out at home.” Again, the amount of information contained in this short quotation is huge. It is much more engaging and thought provoking than a piece of descriptive text on an information panel describing why ‘slipper baths’ were provided and popular. The use of original documents etc. in facsimile (enlarged as appropriate), together with real quotes from members of the community, circumvents the issue of ‘different audiences’. A problem with conventional interpretation panels is who they are aimed at: casual visitors, heritage enthusiasts, children? To one group, one is ‘talking down’, to another one is making things too complicated and boring. Uncaptioned or lightly captioned original 4|Page
  6. 6. documents and photographs, together with room names and quotations speak directly to the viewer, who provides their own interpretation, and is hopefully stimulated to discover more. Given that the majority of the users of the community ‘hub’ will be members of the community using the building repeatedly for different purposes, the over-arching aim is to let people discover the heritage of the building for themselves, over a period of time. We will avoid a formal interpretation panel on one wall of the foyer, providing a potted history of the baths in one (indigestible?) lump. Rather we will encourage exploration and discovery. For regular users of the building this discovery may unfold over a number of visits. For those visiting the building specifically to look at its architecture and learn about its history, they will be encouraged to actively explore the building. While not all rooms with interpretation materials will be accessible to such a visitor, the aim is to place most of these materials in public spaces, such as the lobby, corridors and the café area. Of course, more extended detailed interpretation material will be required – resources where people can find the answers to their questions and deepen their knowledge. This will be provided in a variety of formats: leaflets, a booklet, a website, etc., as described more fully below. 2. Stirchley Baths: the historical resources The range of resources available to draw on for the interpretation of Stirchley Baths are summarised in the table below. At the time of writing, access was not possible to primary records held in the Birmingham City Libraries collections. RESOURCE The building before restoration and conversion The building after restoration and conversion Architectural descriptions of the building Original architects’ drawings The architects’ drawings for the restoration and conversion Private and public collections of photographs from the early 20th century onwards, from the period when the building was in use Record of photographs taken for various purposes since the baths closed Surviving notices, price-lists, signs etc from the baths Personal memorabilia Newspaper articles NOTES A temporary resource, captured in photos, film, sound, visitors’ impressions The building as it will be experienced by users Nothing substantial has been located. Short listing description from 1998. A wonderful resource. The drawings not only show the original appearance and layout of the building, but are very aesthetically appealing Show how the use of space within the building will/has changed Document the baths in use as well as changes such as the introduction of the sauna and gym. Unfortunately many that have been located are only presently available as poor-quality photocopies Providing a detailed record of architectural features and of the decay of the building These are often very telling documents for social history, showing for example segregation by gender and class Such as tickets, passes, awards, event programmes, etc (in addition to photos) A further source of photographs, also document key events and controversies in the history of the baths and the campaign to have them restored 5|Page
  7. 7. Primary documentation Secondary historical accounts Personal memories, recoded as part of the community engagement Personal views on the baths, the architecture, the value of the building to the community and the individual Broader historical documentation, primary and secondary, relating to Stirchley Broader historical documentation placing the baths in wider architectural and social context Notably the minutes of the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council (to 1911) and the minutes of Birmingham City Council (1911present). Not currently accessible The most substantial is the ‘History of Bournville Lane Baths’ by Paul Raymond Jones (1981) Evoke the past in a particularly engaging and personal way Help to define what is most relevant for interpretation Help to place the interpretation of the baths in its local context 3. Stirchley Baths: timeline, stories, themes Drawing on the range of resources listed above, and particularly Paul Raymond Jones’ ‘History of Bournville Lane Baths’ (1981), this section provides an outline history of Stirchley Baths through a series of snapshots, draws out some of the key stories and themes that emerge, and suggests the documents or other material that could be used to illustrate the theme or story. Unfortunately at the time of writing access to some original documents is not available. 3.1. The offer of the land The documented story of Stirchley Baths begins in 1903 with the offer of the land, for the specific purpose of building public baths, by Cadbury Brothers Limited. The letter of offer survives (abbreviated here): Bournville, Near Birmingham. To the Clerk, Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council. September 18th 1903 Dear Sir, We have the pleasure of offering to the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council a piece of freehold land containing about 1,240 square yards for the erection of a public swimming baths, slipper or spray baths and washhouse. This building is to be erected at a cost of not less than £5,000... The plans to be submitted to us for approval. Your acknowledgement will oblige. Yours truly, Cadbury Brothers Limited. 6|Page
  8. 8. This letter is packed with information and needs only a little ‘interpretation’ (nobody needs to be told who Cadburys are, and we can work out that a ‘spray bath’ must be a shower, but what is a ‘slipper bath’? - we encounter that strange term again on the notice giving admission charges). It is amusing that Cadbury’s take care to ensure that the council should not try to spend too little on the baths. The letter poses the deeper question of why philanthropists such as the Cadbury’s are giving land for baths rather than something else? Why were public baths felt to be needed? Assuming that the walls of the foyer will be used for community notice boards, an obvious place to put a facsimile of this letter is as a ‘permanent fixture’ amongst the temporary community notices. It will involve a little bit of discovering amongst the other notices, but will be distinguished by being enlarged and on board. Other facsimile or recreated notices will be dotted around the notice boards in the foyer. These may include the following, resembling an advert: Slipper Bath noun British, chiefly historical a bath with one high end to lean against and the other covered over Oxford English Dictionary 3.2. The search for a water source In 1904, shortly after the offer of the land from Cadbury’s but six years before work would begin on the construction of the baths, a well and bore-hole was sunk on the land to find a source of water for the swimming baths. This was standard practice in Birmingham. For example at Moseley Road Baths the water supply was provided by a well with a bore-hole below. However, this had been dug with very great difficulty and numerous setbacks, taking 5 years (1898-1903) and finally measuring 727ft in depth (Beauchampé 2013). At Stirchley, after two years of work (the council cannot have been unaware of the problems that had been faced at Moseley Road), the decision was made to give up when the combined well and bore-hole measured 604ft deep. The project had already cost £919 10s, a huge sum at the time. The decision was made to use mains water instead, making Stirchley Baths one of the first in Birmingham to use a mains water supply. This is a good story, and what has been identified as the well-head remains in situ in what will be the café area (which we suggest is named the Well Café, see Section 5 below). Place Prospectors, who have been commissioned to develop ideas for original artwork for Stirchley Baths, have independently drawn attention to the potential of this, and have proposed that the top of the well should be covered with a large magnifying glass, through which may be read texts relating to a ‘sink or swim’ theme (i.e. triumph over adversity). 7|Page
  9. 9. This feature has been identified as the site of the well, although this is not certain. Formerly surrounded by an iron railing and containing an iron spiral staircase, it was used as an access point to the basement. Unless original documents can be located which tell the story briefly and clearly, short text along the following lines might be appropriate at the entrance to the café area. The Well Café In 1904 work began on sinking a well to find water for the swimming pool. The digging went on for two years, and the bore-hole reached a depth of 604 feet without finding water before it was decided to give up. Instead, the baths became one of the first in Birmingham to use mains water. The possible site of the well, later reused to provide access to the basement, survives in a corner of the café. We will not point explicitly to where the possible well is – visitors can discover this for themselves. 3.3. Architecture and the building of the baths The architect who won the commission to design the baths was John P. Osborne, who was appointed in 1908. Pleasingly, Osbornes architectural practice still exists today, and have been able to provide (with copyright restrictions) copies of the original drawings. These drawings are not only hugely informative but are works of art in themselves. It is suggested that a selection of these are enlarged and displayed on the walls of the within the building, with short captions (although difficult to read as reproduced here, the writing is clear on the originals and will be even more so on enlargements): 8|Page
  10. 10. Architect’s plan for Stirchley Baths, 1908. The steam or Russian Bath (top left) did not prove to be popular. The Scholars’ Room was for school children. (Image copyright of Osbornes Chartered Architects. Not to be reproduced without permission) On this plan all the key features of the baths can be located: the swimming pool, the men’s and women’s slipper baths, the laundry and so on. The only elements that might need some interpretation are the Russian Bath (not named as such on the plan) and the ‘Scholars’ Room’, which is not a term we would use today. The following mocked-up panels, located at appropriate points throughout the building, should speak for themselves: 9|Page
  11. 11. Stirchley Baths were designed by John P. Osborne in the ‘Edwardian Baroque’ style. Osbornes is still a flourishing architectural practice today. (Image copyright of Osbornes Chartered Architects. Not to be reproduced without permission.) Thanks to the survival of the original architects’ drawings it has been possible to rebuild the once missing cupola (small dome) on top of the stair tower at the end of the pool opposite the chimney This cutaway drawing, one of the original architects’ drawings, shows the heating system for the baths. The massive coal-fired boiler can be seen beside the chimney. 10 | P a g e
  12. 12. The room you are in was once the Men’s Slipper Baths. It is in the middle of the building and gets its natural light from the roof, as this cutaway drawing shows. (Images copyright of Osborne’s Chartered Architects. Not to be reproduced without permission.) 3.4. The opening of the baths The opening of the baths is best represented by the key which was presented by the architect to George Cadbury Jr., and is now in the keeping of Birmingham Museums Trust. A suggestion from Place Prospectors is to commission a new key, to be presented on the occasion of the re-opening. It is proposed that both keys are displayed in a suitable case in the foyer, possibly on the ticket kiosk. If displaying the actual keys is not practical, photographs are an alternative. Stirchley Baths were opened by George Cadbury Jr. on July 25th 1911. This ceremonial key was presented to Mr Cadbury by the architect, Mr J.P Osborne, to mark the event A caption describing the original key is suggested above. 11 | P a g e
  13. 13. The opening of the baths created several jobs. The council minutes provide details of these. A mock advertisement could be placed amongst the notices on the community notice boards. The range of the jobs – including a laundress – provides further clues about the range of functions performed by the baths, to add to those provided by the admission charges. Readers will draw their own conclusions about how the different jobs were valued, based on the rates of pay offered. Amongst the things to be discovered is the very different pay of male and female bath attendants although the job description is the same. SITUATIONS VACANT, STIRCHLEY BATHS, 1911 Assistant Engineer and Stoker Responsible for taking charge of swimming baths, opening, closing and locking up. Must be a good swimmer. Salary 36s per week. Male bath attendant Must be a good swimmer and prepared to teach school children to swim. Salary 25s per week Female bath attendant Must be a good swimmer and prepared to teach school children to swim. Salary 15s per week Female money-taker Salary 15s per week Laundress Salary 2s 6d per day 3.5. The war years: dancing with Den In the early years of the baths the swimming pool was used only in the summer and boarded over during the winter months. During the First World War the baths remained open but with reduced hours. Soldiers and refugees could use the baths free of charge. For the first year or so of the Second World War the swimming pool was closed and the building was used as a first aid post. In 1941 the pool was reopened. However, the most vivid memories that people have of the baths in the 40s and 50s are of the times when the swimming pool was boarded over and used for dances. This is captured in recorded interviews and the quotations extracted from them (below). It is also captured in two splendid photographs, to be reproduced on panels and mounted in the corridor approaching 12 | P a g e
  14. 14. the main hall (it is presumed that the use of the hall for sports etc. will preclude the mounting of panels on the walls of the hall itself). Dancing at Stirchley Baths to Den Jones and his orchestra, 1940s 13 | P a g e
  15. 15. 3.6. ‘You’ve never had it so good’: soap, swimming and saunas In 1911, shortly after the baths had been opened, Kings Norton and Northfield became part of Birmingham, and Stirchley Baths were renamed Bournville Lane Baths. The sauna was a gift from Finland to Birmingham in 1964. The washing baths were closed in 1977. 14 | P a g e
  16. 16. One can discover so much about the baths in the post-war years by studying the poster on the previous page, helped if necessary by the few facts provided in the caption. The continued importance of the washing baths in this period is apparent, and will be reinforced by the quotations painted on the walls. The viewer can work out for themselves that Stirchley Baths was the only public baths in Birmingham to boast a sauna. A large facsimile of the poster can be mounted on a wall just beyond the ticket kiosk (see Section 7 below), so that there is a chronological progression from the foyer, where items relating to the opening and early use of the baths are to be found, towards the interior. Visitors will discover (or remember) about the existence of a Stirchley Swimming Club and swimming passes from the memories painted on the walls (Section 6). Continuing the idea of letting original documents speak for themselves, small panels with original certificates, passes etc, will be included, uncaptioned, along the lines of the example below: 15 | P a g e
  17. 17. 3.7. The Mikvah: a Jewish ritual bath In 1972 a Mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath, was constructed in the area formerly occupied by the women’s washing (slipper) baths. It had its own separate entrance from the outside (see photo). It was rented separately and was run by the Jewish community independently of Birmingham City Council. The Mikvah was opened in February 1973 by the Chief Rabbi, with the Lord Mayor in attendance. Approaching the interpretation of the Mikvah is difficult and sensitive. Consultation with the Jewish community will be required. One possibility is to draw attention to the former doorway into the Mikvah – a sort of ‘secret doorway’ – as a ‘way in’ to interpreting the Mikvah. Possibly a small exterior panel could be fitted or slightly different coloured brickwork, identifying the doorway and what it was for. It is also suggested that the room behind this door is given the name ‘Mikvah’, which should prompt curiosity (see Section 5). The separate entrance into the Mikvah, which replaced the women’s washing baths in 1972 3.8. Closure, campaigns and conservation These three linked themes will be dealt with largely by using newspaper cuttings and photographs, displayed on a plasma screen in the foyer. This format will provide flexibility to change the content. The illustrations below give a very rough idea. Obviously the photographs relating to the restoration of the baths remain to be taken! 16 | P a g e
  18. 18. 4. What’s in a name? It is proposed that the principal rooms and spaces (not toilets, stores etc.) are named after the function that the room/space had when the baths were first built. The lead is taken from the words PUBLIC BATHS over the entrance. For users and visitors the names recall the history of the building, in a quirky, light-hearted way. Compromises have been made for the sake of catchiness, thus Slipper Bath Gallery rather than Men’s Slipper Baths. The Well Café refers to the retained feature in this space, identified as the possible site of the well, and puns on the word ‘well’ (as in ‘well-being’). Some names may not catch on but that is not too important – the only cost is the price of a sign on a door. Mikvah, recalling the Jewish bath installed in 1972, and Well Café (this space was originally the laundry) are exceptions to the rule of using names relating to the original functions of the rooms. Deep End, big room (Flexible space) The Pool Deep End, small room (Main Hall) (Flexible space) Mikvah Scholars’ Kitchen (Kitchen) (Office) Slipper Bath Gallery (Gallery/ Multipurpose Community Space) Ticket Kiosk (Staff Reception) Foyer (Lobby) The Well Café (Internet café area) Baths Manager (Flexible Space: Meeting/Enterprise Room) The Hot Room (Flexible space) Baths Attendant (Flexible Space: Meeting/Enterprise Room) 17 | P a g e
  19. 19. 5. If walls could speak.... The idea is simple. Rather than explaining in formal prose what the washing bath facilities, for example, were like – how much they cost, how long you got, how deep the water was, whether soap was included, and so on – these facts emerge from a series of short quotations, taken from interviews with people who used the baths. These are much more interesting and engaging, and quite often funny. The quotations (the examples below just give some idea of the possibilities) can be handpainted, or will used applied lettering, directly onto the walls (new surfaces only, not the tiles), making good use of colour, in unusual places – high up, low down, round a corner, but always where they can be read without difficulty. They are there to be discovered, unexpectedly encountered, although it could be fun to hunt for them too. They will be authentic voices and memories from the past that have become part of the architecture. In general the quotations will be situated in or near the places to which they are relevant – quotations about swimming in or near the pool, for example. The naming of spaces according to their past function when the baths were in operation – ‘Slipper Baths’, ‘Deep End’, etc. – will give further context to these memories. However, the fact that the quotations are not fully contextualised or explained will contribute to their effectiveness. Take a quote such as, “When me and my dad was segregated we used to talk over the cubicle”. These words effortlessly conjure up childhood, going to the washing baths with one’s dad, and the bond between a father and a son, the more so because they are slightly ungrammatical, as real speech so often is. Reams of explanatory text can’t deliver half as much. If an information panel tells you that the period allowed in a washing bath was half an hour, you will probably forget it, if you haven’t switched off already. Compare, “we’re not coming out until we’ve had half an hour!” (you can hear the indignation). Hopefully, the quotations will lead some people to want to find out more. There will be plenty of resources available for this – leaflets, potentially a book, the website etc. If you really want to, you will be able to track down the full interviews from which the quotations are taken in the archive of transcriptions that will be part of the archive available on the website (as will the recordings). Below, the quotes are grouped according to subject. The resource of recordings is already substantial and growing; these are only examples to illustrate the possibilities. The foyer “There was a lady by the name of Edna that used to be on the desk at the front, she lived in the next road to me Nan” The washing (slipper) baths “We were grateful to go, weren’t we, ‘cause we’d got no hot water in the house” “We used to go to the washing baths once a week – you were allowed half an hour” “No frills. You sat in a wooden chair waiting your turn” 18 | P a g e
  20. 20. “They used to come in and turn the tap on with a big key and you would get about a foot of water if you were lucky” “Four pence it was and you would get a little bar of soap, and there was an attendant and she used to put about ‘that much’ water in“ Because we were kids after 20 minutes there would be a KNOCK KNOCK and a ‘come on, time’s up, times up!’ and my friend would say ‘we’re not coming out till we’ve had half an hour!’” “I used to share a bath with my dad. They were big roll-top baths, cast iron, massive things” “When me and my dad was segregated we used to talk over the cubicle.” “My first bathroom at home was when I got married in 1964 and went abroad” “I used the washing baths until I was about 17, probably about 1972 when I stopped using them. It was the only place you could go to have a bath.” The swimming pool “You had to swim a length without stopping to get a free pass” “In them days you had to wear a hat and goggles” “I swam for Stirchley Swimming Club ...still at it today. I used to love it, you couldn’t get me out!” “We used to get certificates. One I remember is 25 meters and you got a free pass to go in the baths for so long, which was a great help ‘cause my mum was a widow.” “The girls’ changing rooms was upstairs on the balcony, so you could stand there and watch people make a fool of themselves” The war and dancing “They boarded it over so they could use it for a first aid place in emergency and bombing” “In the war me and my girlfriend (she’s now my wife) used to go dancing when they boarded the baths over.” “We liked waltzes and quicksteps - you couldn’t believe that you were dancing on top of the swimming pool!” “When I was fifteen I used to go with a friend and we loved to dance.” “The boys were quite plentiful and we used to love it when you got tagged” “We missed it when it stopped. It was lovely, used to get packed for the dancing. 19 | P a g e
  21. 21. The sauna “She used to give you the most deep Swedish massage that you could possibly imagine – I think it was probably quite avant-garde for its day” “I went a few times and still remember the sort of burning and tingling, in a good sort of way. 6. What, where and why Where interpretation panels can be fixed is governed to a considerable extent by the wall finishes. Fixing panels to original tiling/brickwork (blue on the plan below) will be avoided, as will attempting to paint or fix quotations onto this. This would cause unnecessary damage. It is also prudent to avoid using the walls of the Pool/Main Hall, as this will be used for sports. The only surfaces that will be used for mounting panels (including ceramic tile panels – see 8 below) and writing quotations will be those that will have a new surface finish of plasterboard and skim (red on the plan below). Finally, the most publically accessible areas (such as the foyer, corridors and café area) will be favoured over the least accessible (such as the kitchen). The last rule will be more rigidly followed for the panels than the quotations; it will be fun to have the occasional quotation appearing unexpectedly in the odd corner of some of the ‘Meeting Rooms/Flexible Space’. Wall Finishes Plasterboard & skim lining ▬▬▬▬ Fair-faced blockwork ▬▬▬▬ Original tiling/brickwork ▬▬▬▬ It is envisaged that the foyer area will contain the greatest concentration of interpretation materials. To summarise, this will include a plasma screen, which will be used, in addition to other purposes, for the display of slide shows relating the closure of the baths and the subsequent restoration and conversion etc. There will be facsimiles of 1911 admission charges and ‘situations vacant’ (the baths staff), mixed in with the notices on the community notice boards. It is also intended that the two ceremonial keys, from 1911 and a new one to be commissioned for the reopening, will also be displayed in an appropriate bespoke case. 20 | P a g e
  22. 22. Finally, the entrance mat with ‘dancing feet’, proposed by Place Prospectors, will form part of the ensemble. The use of varied media, avoiding conventional ‘information panels’, is considered to be a strength of the interpretation proposals for the foyer. There will also be other physical structures around the building which lend themselves to a ‘sense of discovery’. These include usage of any existing signage (“Walk Don’t Run” and “Deep End”), the reconditioning of the original pool ladders which can be used creatively around the building, and a Perspex window over the old pool (covered with a wooden hatch) which will provide a visual reminder of the building’s use as a swimming pool. It is proposed that two time capsules will be visible at the bottom of the pool which will incorporate some lighting. One time capsule will date from the 1960s and will be retrieved from the current community centre, and a new capsule dated 2014 will be created to continue this legacy and community history. 7. Panel types: possible use of ceramic tile panels For some of the panels – those showing the original architects’ drawing and possibly those showing the photographs of dances and the 1966 Summer Time-Table – it is suggested that ceramic tiled panels could be used, with the images printed directly onto the tiles, rather than conventional display panels. The image below, showing a product of the company H & E Smith (who supply the matching period tiles for the London Underground), provides the general idea. The pattern and colour scheme of the tiles would replicate that of the original tiling from 1910, which will be extensively retained elsewhere within the renovated building. The cost of providing these ceramic tile panels is only moderately greater than that of conventional display panels, but the effect will be to achieve something durable, attractive and with the feel of being ‘part of the building’. The proposed panels would use replica tiles based on this colour scheme and pattern. 8. Copyright of images Copyright of the original architects’ drawings lies with Osbornes Chartered Architects. Osbornes has kindly given permission for these drawings to be reproduced and displayed in 21 | P a g e
  23. 23. the Stirchley Community Hub without charge, but with the condition that they are acknowledged and that the captioning makes clear that Osbornes is a thriving architectural practice today. Contact details: Osbornes Chartered Architects, The Balconies, Hanley Swan, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR8 0DN. Tel: 01684 311303. (Attention Robert Bridge). 9. Budget The physical interpretation outlined in Part I will be funded through the capital works budget. See breakdown below. 1 Panels, Vinyls, Digital Wallpapers, Tiles £5,900 2 Stirchley Ballroom dance steps entrance mat £1,250 3 Display cases for ceremonial keys and time capsules (1911 if acquired) and 2014 £4,000 4 Magnifying glass and artwork for well/borehole £13,000 5 Orientation signage interior and exterior, including room names £8,000 6 Removable floor panel (with lighting) in pool area £1,000 7 Recondition of the original ladders to be repositioned and used creatively around the building £1,500 8 Copyright permission to reproduce original architect's drawings (free) and other images £350 9 Fees: Interpretation scheme preparation, design and installation (fit out) £10,000 SUB TOTAL £45,000 Risk/ contingency TOTAL £5,000 £50,000 The cost of activities outlined in Part II are incorporated in the Activity Plan budget. PART 2: Interpretation through participatory activity The interpretation of the building and its history can be combined with participatory activity and involve both volunteers and project participants. At Stirchley Baths there is an opportunity to actively involve local residents in the research and presentation of historical information; indeed one of the proposed legacies of the project is the formation of a Stirchley local history group. Involving local people in the development of resources will encourage a greater sense of community ownership for the building and increase engagement with the Bath’s heritage. The following recommendations for interpretation also feature in the project’s Activity Plan. They meet BCC’s learning and participation aims for the HLF-funded project, as well as provide an element of interpretation, both during restoration and after. 22 | P a g e
  24. 24. The activity has been broken down into three sections to reflect different types of interpretative activity:  Presenting research and information  Talks and Tours  Performance-based interpretation. The numbering below is consistent with the Activity Plan. Key:   Interpretation (I) Community Participation and Audience Development (C). 2. Presenting research and information The emphasis in this section is involving people in the creation of interpretative material. This will be print or object-based, or a digital output. All digital outputs will be presented on where there is already a wealth of audio material (interviews with local residents; memory sharing). Recommendations are: I:1 The after-school Film Production Club at Stirchley Community School have expressed an interest in making regular monthly updates on the restoration project to post on as well as on their own school website. Stirchley Happenings will show their film night audiences the films. This will reach a wide audience. (Digital Output). I:2 Work with a new Stirchley Local History Group (set up for the benefit, and lasting legacy, of the project) to produce an illustrated glossy leaflet about the historic importance of the Baths. This content can be also used on (Digital Output). For example, the research and leaflet could follow four themes: The Public Baths, The World Wars, Leisure, Health and Fitness, and Closure, Campaign and Community. This would be part information/part promotion for community centre room hire, and available in the café as well as community venues. I:10 Development and writing of a 'Big Book' on the history of the Baths to be available in SB café, at the library and in parent and toddler groups. This could be based on characters developed as part of the story-telling resource. I:12 Development of short film (using green screen technology) to include BSL interpretation and subtitles. The scripted narrative could include the information available to the public at the Baths (i.e. leaflet, graphics). This can be available on and on desktop of computers in the internet café. (Digital Output). I:11 SB internet café homepage link to digital history resources on the history of the baths; screen saver uses historical images. (Digital Output). I:14 Time-lapse photography film to be produced by a volunteer to show before, during and completion of restoration project. (Digital Output). 23 | P a g e
  25. 25. I:18 Run a design competition for students from the Birmingham School of Jewellery to make a 2014 Ceremonial Key for the reopening of the Baths. The winner would win the commission to make a new key which would be displayed along with the original key dated 1911 (if a permanent loan can be arranged with Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery). C:5 Work with local young people to design and test a quiz around the inside and outside of the building suitable and engaging for other young people. This can be used on special heritage event days. C:6 Work with local families with children aged under 5 to create a family-friendly activity/trail inside and outside the building which can be used on special heritage event days. 2. Talks and Tours Face to face interpretation through guided tours of the building, talks, and special heritage day activities can provide memorable experiences and a greater depth of understanding. However, this is often dependent on the quality of the guide or speaker. A training programme has been proposed to ensure that staff and volunteers have a good knowledge of the Baths and its history. The recommendations are: I:3 Year one. Special by invitation 'hard hat’ tours for current community centre users and other local groups to help them feel part of the project/process (programme for March, April, May, July, August, October when there are no public tours. These tours could be monthly depending on the stage of the build and will be delivered by the contractor Mansells. I:4 Year one. Special heritage event days: public ‘hard hat’ tours during Architecture Week (June) and the annual Heritage Open Days event (September). Participation will depend on how accessible the building is during conservation works. I:5 Years two and three. Programme monthly pre-bookable public tour around the Baths (15 max group size) to be led by volunteer guides. This would fit in the dedicated monthly provision. I:7 Years two and three. Two public talks by Steve Beauchampé, local expert on the history of Edwardian Baths in Birmingham. One talk could be aimed at local people whose first language is not English (with Bengali and Urdu interpreters. This may be a women's only session to maximise numbers), the other talk for general audiences; both local and from further afield. This may tie in with a special event day. 24 | P a g e
  26. 26. I:13 Years one, two and three. British Sign Language Interpreted tour on arrangement during monthly special heritage day slot. To be promoted through DeafPlus and Deaf Cultural Centre, Ladywood. I:15 Year one. Two events where the public can ‘meet the expert’; talks by craftsmen and manager of the building site. This forms part of the programme of activities led by the appointed contractors Mansells. 3. Performance-based Interpretation Story-telling through characters, music and drama can be a very powerful tool. Using the real memories of local people and oral history recordings in the creation of an interpretative piece can add a real sense of poignancy and engage emotions. There are three specific recommendations below; but other creative practitioners will bring their own ideas and approaches over time, subject to funding. I:9 Develop an interactive, immersive story-telling session for children aged 2-5 and their parents and KS1 children on the history of the building and its uses through characters, soundscape (period music, traffic and factory sounds and voice recordings), costumes (flat caps) and other props. This will also include a craft session which children will use to deliver a story. For delivery on-site as part of Parent and Toddler Group activity at SB, at Stirchley Library, and on heritage event days. To deliver 11 hour sessions over 3 years. The box of props developed can also be used on site during facilitated school visits. I:16 Subject to funding. Critically acclaimed composer and vocalist Andy Garbi makes acoustic templates that capture the sonic characteristics of an enclosed space to preserve what a building "sounds like" at the precise time and date when they were made. He wishes to use this technique to record spaces in derelict buildings before restoration/conservation or redevelopment work begins. He would like to include Stirchley Baths, alongside other heritage buildings in Birmingham and across the UK. His compositions will provide another way to interpret the building and may lead to a public event to share this with a wider audience. I:17 Partnership project with the Drama Department at the University of Birmingham to create site-specific performances which interpret an aspect of the Baths during their spring module in 2016. Conclusion This Interpretation Proposal recommends four main guiding principles at Stirchley Baths Community ‘Hub’. These are:   To take a ‘light touch’ approach to in situ interpretation materials. Letting the building’s architecture and heritage features speak for themselves To use, wherever possible, the words of members of the community to provide interpretation. The memories of local people provide the essential link to Stirchley’s past that history books are yet to capture 25 | P a g e
  27. 27.   To actively involve local community members in the research and preparation of interpretative material to encourage a greater sense of ownership for the building To create an interesting and fun environment which includes; humorous and heart-warming quotes, art installations, pool ladders being reconditioned as shelving, a ‘Situations Vacant’ poster from 1911 hidden amongst modern community notices, and a hatch which creates a window into the pool. All these interesting features allows visitors to ‘discover’ the history of the baths, to experience and learn something new each time they visit and engage with its heritage on different levels. Stirchley Baths was, and will be again, a very special place, located at the heart of the community and for the community. An imaginative presentation of its history and the creation of a ‘heritage experience’ will engage both regular users and infrequent visitors. Stirchley Baths deserves nothing less. 26 | P a g e