‘We need to take small steps and not a massive leap forward’

REVAMP Sabrina Richards, left, with Helen Downing-Emms of The Hilsea Lido Pool for The People Trust. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132779-4716)
REVAMP Sabrina Richards, left, with Helen Downing-Emms of The Hilsea Lido Pool for The People Trust. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132779-4716)
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When Portsmouth’s Hilsea Lido was put in the hands of the community three years ago, it was in desperate need of repair.

most of the site was overgrown, hazardous and falling apart – and a lot of time needed to be spent getting the place back on its feet.

Hilsea Lido Pool for the People, which took over from Portsmouth City Council, saw that it had potential, and got to work.

The community group took on the 67m swimming pool and The Blue Lagoon bar in a 99-year deal and agreed to manage the splash pool on the local authority’s behalf.

And thanks to the hard work of volunteers, many of whom from community service programmes, the place has been cleaned up.

The main pool, which had been closed since the summer of 2008 and full of dirty water, was brought back up to scratch earlier this year.

It’s not open to the public yet because there wasn’t enough time to hire lifeguards after the work was completed.

Instead a number of low-key events have been held.

But now the lido been given a huge boost after becoming a winner of The News Cash for Communities.

As previously reported, it’s been awarded a £28,510 grant that will be used to hire and train staff to supervise the facilities.

The pool will be able to host fun weekend activities for kids aged nine to 14.

Cash will also be used to fund new equipment including access ladders, swimming aids and kayaks.

Janice Burkinshaw, the lido’s grants officer, said: ‘We want to see the pool used a lot more and have a wider range of things that people can do.’

Thanks to a £50,000 grant awarded by Sport England, the pumps in the pool’s plant room were refurbished last year.

New showers and lockers were also bought and Portsmouth Water contributed some pool water.

Plans for the future include setting up an ambassadors’ club for children.

Youngsters would be invited along to learn more about the history’s lido and on-going development.

They would then be given Hilsea Lido wristbands which they could go away and sell for £1.

All the money raised would then go back into making improvements.

People could sponsor a window pane that has a QR code on it.

You would then scan it using a mobile phone, which would send you to a website with a collection of people’s memories.

Something similar to Pompey in the Community’s Respect Programme could be set up in which youngsters would learn about and take part in a variety of sports.

Sabrina Richards, chairwoman of Hilsea Lido Pool for the People, which is made up of six trustees, said: ‘We feel that young adults in the north of the city lack leisure facilities in which to socialise and develop skills.

‘We hope that by opening the lido we will help meet their evident need, as this summer they were swimming in the moat and sea creek as the lido was not open.’

Sabrina said there was still a long way to go, and things would only come together if the community continued to show support and fundraise.

‘It’s a big project,’ she said.

‘When we do hopefully bring back public swimming next year, it’s not going to be open all day from 11am until 6pm – we have to make sure that message gets across.

‘We will do what we can in terms of what funds we have.

‘We need to take small steps towards success, rather than a massive leap forward.’

The trust, with an extremely tight budget, has to find a way of purchasing things that a lot of modern swimming pools have – such as lane dividers and 10m diving boards. The nearest pool with similar-sized boards is in Southampton.

‘We have got 4,000 followers on Facebook and we’re not even open yet,’ Sabrina said.

‘A lido is about being social and playing.

‘It’s like being on the beach on a bank holiday.

‘That’s why people like them.’

When asked if she thought the lido could ever become as popular as it was back in the 1930s and 1940s, she said: ‘Lidos are as popular as they have even been.

‘During the summer, Chris Evans was on the radio and he said he was absolutely amazed at the support people were giving to lidos.

‘People are very precious about their lidos.

‘They’re a very special place.’

Helen Downing-Emms, the trust’s vice-chairwoman, said: ‘The long-term plan is to be open to the public during the summer and have a programme of activities throughout the year.

‘The pool has space for 750 swimmers and there’s capacity for around 1,000 spectators.

‘We have had to spend a lot of time and effort making improvements.’

The trust has set itself a 10-year project to get all the work done – as that’s the time frame it was given by the council to get public swimming back up and running.

The buildings have now been declared structurally safe and relationships have been built up with local businesses.

The trust has worked with the University of Portsmouth’s architecture and interior design students as well as Highbury College in Cosham, on designs of how the lido should look in the future.

The lido’s 80th anniversary is in 2015, and if everything goes to plan then a huge water show with professional performers could be held.

Sabrina said: ‘We want to recreate the glitz and the glamour that was found at the lido back in its heyday.’


HILSEA Lido was officially opened on July 24, 1935.

The swimming pool, cafe and splash pool were designed by engineer Joseph Parkin and the total cost for the complex was £36,000.

Constructed over seven months as an employment initiative, it was designed to provide leisure facilities for the new housing developments in Hilsea, Portsmouth.

The pool is 67m long, 18m wide and 4.6m deep. It originally used seawater, converting later to freshwater, and there were two large fountains in use.

The pool also included three diving boards, water slides and water polo.

The lido was a training venue for the 1936 Summer Olympics and afterwards the British diving team gave a demonstration there to 3,000 people.

During the Second World War, the main pool was closed to the general public and handed over to various military units.

Between 1946 and 1951, a miniature railway ran along the lido site.

In 1974, the lido was used as a set for the Bernie’s Holiday Camp scene in the film Tommy. The original cost of using the main pool was 6d for adults and 3d for children.

Last year, the former splash pool was replaced with a new one called The Hilsea Jubilee Splash Pool. It was built with two shallow water pools, play features, new toilets, seats and picnic tables.

It cost the council £332,000 and was opened by editor of The News Mark Waldron as well as the former Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Frank Jonas.

· If you want to donate or become a volunteer, email info@hilsea-lido.org.uk or call Sabrina Richards on 07903 823347.