IT’S been a magnet for people for almost a century and now this attraction is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Martin Cox, from the Blue Lagoon, talks about the rise of this community asset.
The Hilsea Lido - and what used to be known as the Bastion Gardens - has been open since 1935. Together with its adjacent café, now called Blue Lagoon, and its famous dancefloor, the location was a mainstay of daytime and evening entertainment for decades.
Many people will remember taking a boat or canoe out onto the lagoon and navigating the waterside weeping willows or jumping from the old black and white bridge.
Generations of Portsmouth people have memories of swimming and sunbathing at the lido which also received the odd famous visitor.
There’s the photo of a very young Sean Connery climbing out of the pool in the 1950s and the filming of the movie Tommy brought Ann Margaret and Oliver Reed to the Lido in 1974 supported by Portsmouth residents as extras.
However, at the turn of the century the whole area was showing its age and earmarked for complete redevelopment.
With the council abandoning plans for refurbishment in 2006, local people got together to save the lido and in 2009 created the Hilsea Lido Pool for the People (HLPP) Trust.
Five years of hard work and fundraising resulted in the reopening of the pool in 2014 with the council funding the redevelopment of the splashpool to create two community assets which are again open for summer 2018.
Sitting between these two outdoor features is the Blue Lagoon, a venue built at the same time as the lido and originally known as Hilsea Café. In the last few decades it became an event venue and was famous for its live music, party nights, northern soul events and Sunday big band performances.
These events declined in popularity and regularity during the difficult years but the HLPP Trust has now licensed the venue to new operators for 2018. With new management in place, a tearoom now operates from the Blue Lagoon with a sunny patio, barista coffee and home-made cakes and it’s been pulling in the crowds.
Private parties continue to be a feature of many evenings and the new management, a local family, are bringing back the popular public events. The Sunday big band has continued throughout the turbulent times with band leader Dave Pearson planning to celebrate 20 continuous years of performances at the venue in 2019 with other music events also held to accompany the Sunday roasts.
The Northern Soul night returned at the end of May and was such as success that it will be repeated on July 28. Live music evenings are planned and there’s even daytime baby yoga starting later this month.
With the new bike pump track on the other side of the lagoon proving to be a magnet for local youngsters and the wakeboarding facility in use almost every day, the whole area has a feel of resurgence and can again be enjoyed by the local community. Considerable landscaping of the area will be a major part of the sea defence work currently under way and will further attract walkers runners and cyclists to the new pathways between raised borders, with seating for the less energetic.
The Lido swimming pool and the Jubilee splashpool are now open for the summer season and the Blue Lagoon tearoom is open every day. We hope to welcome the people of Portsmouth once again!
For more go to hilsea-lido.org.uk and bluelagoonhilsea.com
PROVING POPULAR WITH PORTSMOUTH PEOPLE
For Debbie Manning, the Blue Lagoon will always hold a special place in her heart as it’s where she met her husband Pete.
They were at a singles night when they locked eyes and fell in love.
Keeping in the Blue Lagoon theme, they married on the Blue Lagoon beach in Turkey on August 8, 2008 and held their reception back at the Blue Lagoon in Hilsea. The pair say they are delighted to see the venue back on track.
Debbie, from Paulsgrove, said: ‘It is so nice having the Blue Lagoon back open and seeing it popular once again. When we were younger we would all take our children there and we hoped our children would be able to do the same and keep it going. It is so good to see it busy again and back up and running.’
Debbie, who works at QA Hospital, and Pete, a dockyard worker, enjoyed the live music last weekend.
She added: ‘We have also tried the breakfast and it was great. It’s definitely going to be a haunt again!’