By Steven McGinty,
In September, the Govanhill Baths Community Trust (GHBT) was given £1.2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The funding will enable the Trust to begin the refurbishment of the Govanhill Baths, including the ‘Ladies’ pool’, the ’Teaching Pool’ and the Turkish baths and sauna.
The Trust’s chair, Alan Walsh, highlighted that this was a ‘breakthrough’ moment, explaining that:
“This award means that we can finally confirm the long term future of the project and begin work soon that will realise the aims of our 14 year fight to bring swimming back to Govanhill.”
History of the Govanhill Baths
The fight, referred to by the Trust’s chair, started back in 2001 with the high-profile campaign to save the Govanhill Baths. At that time, Glasgow City Council had indicated that £750,000 worth of refurbishments were required to keep the Baths open. However, they argued that there was no economic case as too few people used the Baths. And although these statistics were disputed, the Baths were eventually closed in 2001.
The impact of closure
In 2009, research was carried out into the impact of the closure on black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. The Govanhill area has a higher than average BME population (approximately 34.9%), therefore addressing social exclusion is a priority for the area. The research found that:
- Older people were negatively affected by the closure as they found it difficult to access other swimming pools. This occurred because of a lack of local transport to the Gorbals Swimming Pool (nearest alternative); fear over gangs and safety; and the cost of travelling.
- Very few women went to the Gorbals Swimming Pool. The majority of women noted that it was difficult to find ladies’ swimming nights.
- The Baths building had become derelict and vandalised.
- The majority of people, including a police officer, felt that anti-social behaviour in the area had increased. One of the main reasons cited was a lack of activities and facilities, particularly for children and young people.
Govanhill Baths Community Trust ‘in the community’
In 2005, the Govanhill Baths officially became a charitable trust. The aim of the organisation was to:
“…re-open the baths as a Wellbeing Centre and at the same time contribute to the wider social, cultural and built regeneration of Govanhill as a community through a range of activities.”
Over the years, the Trust has worked in collaboration with a number of statutory and voluntary sector partners, including the Govanhill Baths Advice Centre, Govanhill Housing Association and Development Trust, and Historic Scotland.
At present, the Trust runs a variety of community-based wellbeing activities and educational and training courses, primarily aimed at the residents of Govanhill. These include:
- Govanhill Baths Art – which includes using art to campaign, but also to improve the health and wellbeing of the community.
- Rags to Riches – an award winning upcycling project, which reuses materials creatively to create products of a higher value. The project provides workspace and educational programmes in topics such as dressmaking, bookbinding, and home furnishing.
- The Emporium – a charity shop which opened in 2011.
The impact of the Govanhill Baths Community Trust
An evaluation of Rags to Riches has shown the project to be a great success. It has brought a number of benefits to participants and the wider community, including:
- Providing high-quality apparel that can be sold to generate income for the Trust.
- Developing the abilities of participants and providing them with a sense of enjoyment.
- Increasing the Trust’s involvement with other community groups and participating in local events. This has enhanced the reputation of the Trust within the local community.
- Supporting community integration – for instance, after the event, most of the participants have kept in touch.
The Govanhill Grub programme, based in the GBCT kitchen, has proved to be successful at supporting a wide range of people in cooking healthy, affordable meals. It’s been particularly effective at bringing different members of the community together, and engaging women living in hostel accommodation or who have just moved into their own tenancy, as well as older men who live alone.
The GBCT is a great example of a community-led organisation. Although without its historic Baths, the community has been able to lead the way in delivering services to the people of Govanhill, the Trust has been able to move away from simply being a campaign group to becoming an important community asset. Hopefully, with this latest announcement of funding, the Trust will be able to reopen the Baths, and continue to be a positive force in the community of Govanhill.
If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also like to read James Carson’s post on regeneration in Glasgow’s Gorbals district
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