Naturists Campaigning for Naturism

A Lido Revival?

I have been catching up with numerous podcasts from the BBC recently and a couple had a surprising relevance for naturism. Surprising because while Auntie have given us programmes about naturism before, these podcasts were from Peter Day’s World of Business. Far removed from naturism yet both programmes had something to say that could benefit the lifestyle.

This year (2011) feedback from the various (naturist) social networks suggested that a number of riders at the World Naked Bike Ride in London would like to have a ‘post-ride event’ and there was a debate about what kind event it should be (nude, clothed or clothes optional) and where? I will leave the first part of the question to another time, but one of the suggestions for its location was The Serpentine Lido, in Hyde Park.

According to that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, the word lido is thought to have entered the English language when visitors went to Lido di Venezia, a long sandbar that separates the Venice Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. In 1857, sea bathing machines were placed there leading to the development of the Italian resort industry (in contrast Margate, Kent got its bathing machines in 1805). Anyhow, in 1935 the Edmonton Lido opened and this is thought to be the first time that the word ‘Lido’ was used to mean a public, open-air swimming pool and its surrounding facilities. Outdoor swimming has had a much longer history in the UK however; the Emmanuel College, Cambridge has had an open-air swimming pond since1690 for instance but the heyday for such places was the 1930s.

One of the later examples was opened in Victoria Park, Hackney in 1936 and had a planned capacity of 1,000 people with a huge swimming pool, changing rooms, diving boards, a chute, a cafe and a shingle ‘beach’ for patrons to enjoy free three days per week. Swimming had enjoyed a long tradition at the park and the East End Lido, as it became known, replaced two ponds, which despite their substantial size (One, opened in 1876, was 650ft long and 127 ft wide, and six feet deep containing three million gallons of water.), still became polluted in hot weather. After the Second World War though, the lido’s sparkle dimmed as holidays abroad became affordable and ever more popular, as a result of which many were closed and eventually demolished, a fate shared by the Victoria Park Lido in 1990.

Thus we come to Peter Day’s programme about South American businesses making a global impact. The one that caught my ear was about a company called Crystal Lagoons. Day spoke to its owner, Fernando Fischmann, a biochemist and real estate developer, who dreamt of creating a lagoon where visitors could enjoy all kinds of water sports in a safe environment when much of the Chilean coastline is rocky and dangerous, and the sea is cold and inhospitable. Except the technology to support the very large pool he had in mind was outlandishly expensive and uneconomic. So Fischmann began his research.

Crystal Lagoon’s solution isn’t cheap. The website admits that a five-hectare lagoon would cost US$400,000 per hectare for a standard pool before the earth and other works needed to complete the project. Plus there is an additional charge of US$3,500 per month per hectare for maintenance, which – again according to the company’s website – is one-fifth of the cost of maintaining a golf course. But, as the website also states, a lagoon with a host of water sports and other activities available, would be somewhere for the whole family to go to and not just golfers. Just as there are public golf courses, it is not impossible to have a public lagoon!

During his interview with Peter Day, Fernando Fischmann stated that a project for Victoria Park, London is being negotiated. So! Is the lido on its way back? Who knows! We are not there yet but if the project does go ahead and is a success then there is no reason why others couldn’t follow.

What made me listen harder was the thought what a facility like a lagoon could do for naturism in London if it was opened to naturists, who at the moment are reduced to skulking about in the long grass in order to be discrete when they sunbath naked. What they cannot do is walk around, play Frisbee (or something similar) or take a swim to cool off; or simply put, act normally. Such behaviour can only add to the suspicions of those who think naturism is a cover for something more sinister, unaware of the truth. If naturists can be open about their naturism then surely, those with no thought of participating in nude recreation themselves, will have fewer qualms about it happening around them. A lido would be just the kind of facility that would allow people – naturist or textile – to enjoy the summer together and surely that’s what everyone wants to do. Now, all we need to do is persuade the would-be operators of the “Victoria Park Lagoon” to let in naturists. We can only do that if we can show that the buff pound is just as important as the clothed one and for that, we need your help.

An edited version of this is blog will appear in the July issue of H&E Naturist.

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