Thursday, 30 May 2013


Splashback Statement on Council Decision, 30 May 2013

We are angry and dismayed that the City of Edinburgh Council has decided to pull the plug on Leith Waterworld and abandon their commitment to work with us. We have spent 15 months campaigning to save the pool and 4 months working intensively with council officers and councillors on a business plan for a revived pool.

The January amendment stated that the council would work with us on a feasibility stage until December 2013 and committed £125,000 to support this and intended a further £225,000 over 2 years if the plan was successful. This decision was against officers’ recommendations and seemed indicative of a genuine desire on the part of the Council to make a real commitment to cooperative working. This could have been a flagship project for community engagement.  In chambers on 31st January Richard Lewis said, “While there remains a tremendous amount of work to be done in the months ahead, we want to give the community the best possible chance of success by providing the necessary funding and support toward taking their proposals to the next phase.We owe it to the people of Edinburgh to do everything to preserve this valuable community asset”.  The trust we placed in the Council that day has been broken.

Significant progress had been made through the working group; an application for charitable status had been made, tenders for engineering, design and consultancy services had been issued and positive engagement made with funders who were as excited as we were about the potential of this project.  Despite this progress our work has been prematurely cut short, taking away the opportunity for the council to consider an alternative vision for Leith Waterworld.  As a result, the council cannot make a comparison between what they have been offered and our proposal.

We do not believe the bid accepted by the Council is the best deal for Leith, for families, children, the disabled or the local community.  Soft play delivers negligible health and wellbeing benefits.

Our campaign was not just about the building it was about the social benefits the amenity delivered. As such we have pressed the council to ensure that the £125,000 promised to the feasibility phase be ringfenced and utilised to address the deficiencies that exist in accessible and affordable swimming.  We believe this funding should be used to secure free swimming for under 11s across the city as a minimum.

We are heartbroken that despite our best efforts we have not been able to save the pool. We recognise that this will be felt by many across the city. We would like to thank everyone for your overwhelming support for the campaign. Sadly on this occasion it has fallen on deaf ears but we would urge you to continue to hold your elected members to account. Thank you also to our partners and spouses and especially our children who have put up with all our hours of absence when we could have been swimming with them. 

Johnny, Fiona, Jacqueline, Ida, Richard, Simon and Chris on behalf of Splashback

Blooms in Leith, 29 May 2013

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

An open letter to Councillors...

Dear Councillors,

As you know, for the past four months Splashback campaigners have been working in co-operation with a group of City of Edinburgh Council councillors and officials. Together we have been progressing our bid to reopen Leith Waterworld (LWW) as a community hub for health and wellbeing. This has been a shared endeavour and we have all made good progress.

We were therefore surprised and naturally dismayed to learn last week that the City of Edinburgh Council is considering an alternative bid for the site. While it would be unhelpful to draw comparisons between our own ongoing efforts to secure LWW’s future as a revitalised leisure pool run by a community-led social enterprise, and the proposal to redevelop the site as a commercial play venue, we wish to remind readers and the City’s decision-makers just what is at stake at the Full Council meeting this Thursday.

The Splashback campaign was born, in November 2011, to prevent the loss of a unique water facility for children, families and people with disabilities. We were concerned about three things 1. the potential future of the site in the heart of Leith 2. the impact that closure would have on the community and families in an area of known deprivation, and 3. the impact on children’s participation in swimming throughout the city at a time when not only is childhood obesity is on the rise, but also one in three kids leave primary school not being able to swim.

We were delighted when, on 31 January this year, the city’s Councillors overwhelmingly voted to work with Splashback until the end of the year and to develop a feasible business plan for a community-run Leith Waterworld.

We could do something special here” and “Don’t we owe it to the community to give this our best chance?” were just two phrases used by the Councillors that day. Finally we thought they got it.After over a year battling with us, they seemed to recognise the benefits the pool offers to our young people, to the disabled and to our communities. The Councillors seemed to recognise and signal that, rather than fighting, it would be better for all of us to work together on trying to secure a positive future for the site.

The decision that day appeared to reflect the administration's desire to work cooperatively with the citizens of Edinburgh, as set out in the new “Coalition Agreement, “A New Contract WITH the Capital” signed by the Labour and SNP councillors in May 2012 in order to secure the deal that led to an administration being formed.

Over the last four months, we have worked with Councillors and officials in good faith, and while there remains much still to do, we have made significant progress. We have gone out to tender for external advisers, applied for charitable status, put together a fundraising plan, applied for money to help us employ a development manager and had positive initial discussions with other potential funders.

On Thursday, the city’s Councillors therefore have to decide the following: will they stand by the commitment made in January in the Chamber and on record to the people of Edinburgh that they would work with the community to secure a positive future for the site? Will they continue to work with us in order to secure the best deal for toddlers, children, families and the disabled – making sure that there is affordable and adequate swimming facilities for ALL of our community? Or will they allow a commercial bid to derail the first cooperative project the Council has embarked upon with Edinburgh's citizens?

We ask that the Councillors consider this carefully and weigh up what is in the best interest of their constituents, whom they are, after all, elected to serve.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Splashback response to news of alternative bid for Leith Waterworld site

Splashback, the campaign to re-open the closed leisure pool, Leith Waterworld, this evening responds to news that the City of Edinburgh Council is considering another bid for the site (as reported today on the STV Edinburgh news website...

Campaigners said: "We were delighted when, on 31 January this year, the city's Councillors overwhelmingly voted to work with Splashback and to establish a working group to develop the business plan for a community-run Leith Waterworld. This reflected the administration's desire to work cooperatively with the citizens of Edinburgh, as set out in the Capital Coalition agreement. Over the last three and a half months, we have worked with Councillors and officials in good faith, and while there remains much still to do, we have made significant progress, including developing a fundraising plan and applying for charitable status."

The development of Leith Waterworld as a community-led social enterprise would support the first two partnership commitments of the coalition, namely 'ensuring every child in Edinburgh has the best start in life' and 'reducing poverty, inequality and deprivation'. The coalition agreement acknowledged the breakdown in trust between the residents of Edinburgh and their elected representatives, and that the city will be able to judge the Council against the promises it makes in the agreement.

"Splashback understands that this new bid leaves Councillors with a decision to make at next week's Full Council meeting - whether to continue working with us to achieve a revitalised LWW, or to pursue the new bid. However, we have faith in the letter and the spirit of the amendment carried on 31 January, and believe that the conviction displayed by Councillors on that day will guide their decision. We look forward to continuing to work with the Council to deliver on the commitments they made in January."

we can't 'Get in'

The inspirational 'Get In' campaign...  The brilliant Young Ambassadors from Save the Children calling out the barriers that young people face in accessing leisure opportunities - poverty, inequality - and the ensuing effects of exclusion - stress, poor mental health, isolation - and the possibilities for change.

These young campaigners are an inspiration to us... Thanks

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Slippery when wet

Yesterday, the national agency, Scottish Swimming launched  a new six week campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the health benefits of swimming.

‘You Can Swim’ is a motivational campaign for adults to raise awareness of the benefits of swimming, and to support pools offering opportunities to adults to learn to swim or develop their swimming ability.

Swimming is the sport for all – the sport for life. Everyone can learn to swim regardless of age, ability, gender, social class or background provided they have the right opportunities to do so, however, it is recognised that there needs to be more incentive and inspiration for adults to participate in any form of aquatic activity. 

This comes hot on the heels of last weeks launch of 'Start to Swim', a two year £60k programme (£50k from company Scottish Salmon, £10k from Sport Scotland) launched at everybody's favourite kiddies pool - the Royal Commonwealth Pool by the Children and Young People Minister Aileen Campbell. Ms Campbell at the launch, said - “Swimming is a wonderful experience for parents and children to share. It is fun and helps keep us active and can give children basic water skills and build confidence" 

Start to Swim is part of Scottish Swimming’s participation programme ‘Just Add Water’ which "aims to get people of all ages swimming for health, fitness and fun".  

Phew! So three campaigns and it's clear that we got a problem (namely not enough people are swimming), and for clarity, it's great that the national agency is doing what it can through a range of campaigns to raise awareness of the benefits of swimming. The Commonwealth Games is focusing a few minds on the future and 'legacy'.  A third of children in Scotland leave primary school unable to swim.  And from our reading of figures it would appear that around only 1 in 8 kids in Edinburgh are regularly swimming... So whats the solution?

Now Ms Campbell may remember me - the week the Councillors were set to take the vote in the last administration, on whether to close Waterworld, I heard that she was in town, launching an early years programme at the Fort. I cycled down, arrived unannounced and waited for 40 minutes in the rain whilst the Minister had her photo taken inside. When the minster came out, I asked for two minutes and explained what was about to happen in Leith - the self same place chosen to launch a scheme to support parents at risk of isolation, deprivation and stress - that the sole pool in the area that specifically catered for toddlers and the disabled was going to be shut, with all the attendant impacts. To be fair she listened, look concerned and said she would do what she could.

As we know, the Councillors voted to close Waterworld that week.

It is our contention, and always has been that first and foremost we need to have adequate and affordable facilities that cater for ALL sections of our community.  This way we can try to stem what we think is an alarming decline in swimming, for the future. That that is the first priority... and then we can provide the additional resources to encourage those who are not making the most of current facilities...

In another recent encounter with a influential politician, I met Dr Bridget McConnell, Head of Glasgow Life, at a conference on Article 31 - the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Article 31, often dubbed the forgotten article,  ensures that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities…" . Dr McConnell spoke passionately about the right of children to play, and what Glasgow City Council were doing to ensure that in action, not just in words. In conversation after she alerted me to, and provided, a fantastic academic study, which she credited as changing the way that her organization thought about pools. As a direct result of reading the study, Glasgow Life adopted a policy of offering free swimming to all under 18's across the city of Glasgow.

In the study (uploaded below) it is clear that for officials "the swimming pool was reported as important amenity which was linked to health and wellbeing.  However, few residents reported regular use of the pool for physical activity. Use of the pool facility for social contact was directly linked to reports of relief of stress and isolation, and improved mental health." For the actual users of the pool, the benefits went way beyond physical activity - instead they valued the role the amenity provides as a community hub, building and strengthening family & community links and friendships which, in the long run, made their lives easier to live....

That's whats on the table here, not just whether wee johnnie can swim a width.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Rome of the North

Roman baths

Well they say Rome wasn't built in a day... Well, don't tell anyone, but I think I know why... !

Its been three months since the decision was taken in Chamber that the City of Edinburgh Council would work in partnership with us, on the feasibility of the business case we submitted for their consideration.  Whilst we believe that our figures stacked up, there was no doubt that we had to test some of our assumptions and undertake some development of our ideas and plans.  However what really swung it that day in Chamber was that finally the Councillors realised the social case for a leisure pool - both for those living locally in Leith, but also for children and disabled people who were ill-served by other pools and who loved the flumes, chutes and the opportunity to spend some good fun quality family time together. 

"We own it to the community to give this a go" and "We could do something special here" were just two sentences spoken by Councillors that day as they debated whether to take the leap of faith.  We glad that they did, and have since set out to work with us in co-operation.  There is no doubt that this process is quite new for us and them, and throughout the three months we have been feeling our way through a process, which to be fair is a wee bit slower than our normal speed of operating, as campaigners.

That said we have made a massive amount of progress together.  We have established a working group of Councillors, Splashback and officials to take the work forward.  We are meeting fortnightly (at 8am to allow us to fit it in with our work and family commitments!) to discuss how we progress our vision of a community led venture, providing a hub of activity at the foot of Leith Walk.

We have:
  • Devised a structure that allows us to work on the various workstreams we need to develop: legal and governance, fiance, fundraising, marketing, pool operations, 'dry' operations and site development. 
  • Applied to become a SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation), who will take on the feasibility phase and hopefully the running of the facility
  • Engaged with a broad range of experts - from engineers, design companies, voluntary organisations, community sports companies - to discuss ideas and possibilities.
  • Compiled a fundraising plan and are actively speaking to funders whose aims and values match ours. 
  • Applied for a development grant to engage a dedicated Development Manager/s, who will assist us as we build capacity within the organisation
  • Developed a brief and are tendering for design and engineering works, scoping out what is possible and associated costs
  • Continued to meet weekly as a campaign group to discuss our progress.
We do so, with the continued awareness that the needs of toddlers, young families, the disabled and the economically disadvantaged are currently ill-supplied by pools in Edinburgh, since the closure of the much loved Waterworld.  And we continue to press for remedying this through the provision of adequate and affordable swimming facilities, suitable for ALL members of our community.

So apologies for the radio silence on the blog as of late...  Co-operation takes time! But, as we know Rome wasn't built in a day.

But boy, did it look good once they got there!!

Please do keep in touch, via the blog and our more regularly updated Twitter feed... More coming soon...