Swimming in the Archives

Friday 9th June saw the first event as part of Scarborough Film Festival, a curated series of short films on the theme of humans' relationship to swimming. Swimming, especially in the sea, has grown massively in popularity over recent years, and as part of the selection we provided some edited footage of outdoor swimming from our archives. 

The films shown highlighted the variety of ways people have swum across our regions and included: 

Scarborough 1927-1938 (1927-1938) Early footage of Scarborough and the many seaside leisure activities available to locals and tourists in the 1920s and 1930s. One of the highlights is the South Bay Swimming Pool, which is shown as a hive of activity. There is a high diving board, which people joke around on and dive off whilst others bob about in the water and play games. https://www.yfanefa.com/record/8132 

Sheffield Spartan Swimmers (1933-1934), tells the story of the swimming group the Sheffield Spartans who swam in the now closed Millhouses outdoor pool. The film shows the group swimming in all weathers including the winter, where they are seen having a snowball fight and shoveling snow on each other. https://www.yfanefa.com/record/1443 

British Sub Aqua at Thornwick Bay, Yorkshire (1957) This amazing film is from York based photographer and filmmaker May Webb. It shows initial training in a pool, before heading out to the Yorkshire Coast where the divers go beneath the waves and capture a variety of marine life including seaweed and fish. The film offers a rare early glimpse below the surface of the sea, when film technology was still slowly being developed. It also shows the range of underwater species that were present in the area in the 1950s and reflects how things might have altered or changed today. https://www.yfanefa.com/record/5577 

Seaham Bathing Belles (1963) shows footage of members of the Seaham Harbour Swimming Club taking a dip on a summer's day. The club has a long history dating back to 1880 with women finally being allowed to join in 1920. In the film the group splash, dive, smile and even have a go at synchronized swimming! It speaks of the communities that often develop around outdoor swimming and the constantly changing coastal scenery that bears witness to their antics. https://www.yfanefa.com/record/26293 

All these films highlight how swimming has and continues to be a key hobby in our regions. Now discussions around outdoor swimming include that of the pollution in our rivers and seas, with groups such as Surfers Against Sewage campaigning nationally and locally about the issue. 

We have a number of films in our archive that speak of water health including Eye of the River (1987-1988) and Birds of Teesmouth (1966).  The paddling pools in Millhouse Park where the Sheffield Spartan Swimmers also swam were closed after they became flooded with contaminated water and the subsequent fear of the effect on people's health.

Make sure before going outdoor swimming to speak to a local group/expert and visit The Outdoor Swimming Society.