THEN//NOW The Big Community & Heritage Weekender at Victoria Baths
Victoria Baths is opening its doors in celebration of the fabulous community that it is a part of in THEN//NOW The Big Community & Heritage Weekender, which takes place on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 September (11:00am to 4:00pm). Every space of the building will have activities taking place, with something for everyone to enjoy and the feeling of community connection at its core. Entry is free with a suggested donation of £4 to encourage as many as people to come along and with some bookable activities and tours.
THEN//NOW sees the launch of Victoria Baths’ brand new Water Palace Explorers family friendly trail developed in conjunction with local artist Molly Garner. This introduces the character Fin the Fish, inspired by the images famously depicted in the mosaic floor tiles, who will guide young visitors around the building with a series of entertaining activities to discover along the way. And the fun doesn’t end there, with a dedicated play area for younger children located in the Gala pool, which will be used as a social space for people to gather. Lots of the play takes on the theme of a miniature mock Edwardian washhouse, including a washing line to be filled with artwork, as a light-hearted reference to one of the important historic parts of the building.
The creators of Victoria Baths cannot possibly have known how many artists and creatives they would go on to inspire. THEN//NOW reflects this with an exhibition taking place in the Superintendent’s Flat presented by collective Dez Rez Artists Projects, with the work combining mixed media, oil paintings and more; some responding to Victoria Baths world of colourful tiles, beautiful stained glass and intricate ironwork. And it is this world that formed the backdrop to the work of Victoria Baths’ writer in residence Sarah-Clare Conlon, who on Sunday 26 September will be reading extracts from her new book. There will also be hands on activities, including a photography workshop led by leading Manchester photographer Aidan O’Rourke, this will take place on Saturday 25 September from 10:00am to 1:00pm, with tickets priced at £25 and bookable via: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Sports Hall there will be a series of stalls from community and cultural organisations; projects that you can find out more about and activities that you can take part in. This includes Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society, who will be running beginner sessions for those that are interested in delving into their family tree. It will also include friends and neighbours such as the Pankhurst Centre, Museum of Transport, Buzz Wellbeing Services and Victoria Baths History Group.
THEN//NOW is a chance to discover more about Victoria Baths, with tours taking place each day of the weekender (£5 for adults, free for U16s and Friends), which are bookable in advance for Saturday: vbthennowtours.eventbrite.co.uk and for Sunday: vbthennowtourssun.eventbrite.co.uk. It is also one of the few swimming pools in the country to hold an archive, and will be inviting people to explore this poolside with a number of the artefacts on display and the opportunity to handle some of the objects. And did you know that below the Baths is a vast cavernous world not usually open to the public? This is where you will find Victoria Baths’ Stained Glass group, which will be opening its doors to showcase the fascinating work its team of volunteers do to repair and reinstate some of the internal stained glass panels throughout the building.
The stunning aesthetics of Victoria Baths frequently see it listed as one of the most instagrammable locations in not just the country, but the world! This makes it the perfect location to dive into the world of instagram and Katya Williams, who runs Easyinstamcr, is the perfect guide. There will be two Instagram Reels Workshops taking place at 1pm and 3pm on Saturday 25 September these last for an hour, cost £15 and are bookable here: vbthennowreels.eventbrite.co.uk
Wellbeing is also part of the mix, with the chance to take part in a yoga session in one of the most apt locations imaginable; the Turkish Rest Room. Taking place on Saturday 25 September and run by Liddy Scarlet Yoga there is a class for adults at 11:30am and kids at 2:00pm, with tickets to both £6 and bookable via: vbthennowyoga.eventbrite.co.uk for adults and via: vbthennowkidsyoga.eventbrite.co.uk for kids.
The Victoria Baths Tea Room will be open serving sandwiches, cakes, snacks, hot and cold drinks, along with a selection especially for children. For those wanting hot food, Urbuns will be serving its awesome flavoursome bao buns. You can make your food and drink selection and then gather with family and friends in the Gala pool area to enjoy.
THEN//NOW has been developed by Victoria Baths’ volunteers, Office Coordinator Ariane Dean and Operations Coordinator Roxy Stafford. Roxy says, “Victoria Baths has always been a place for the community and we want to ensure this is also its future role. Never has the feeling of community connection felt more important than over the last 18 months and this weekender is all about regaining those links, taking some time out and having some fun. There will be things to do, new activities to have a go at, food and drink to enjoy, the opportunity just to get together; and all within this beautiful space.”