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The Play House bring history to life!

During the Spring Term (I know, we’re behind with the updates!), The Play House worked their magic by bringing the oral histories we have collected to life for over 700 local pupils. Characters (based upon the accounts members of the public have shared with us) helped to tell the story of the building and its people throughout its history. Pupils had opportunity to meet architect William Hale, speak with the Baths superintendent, learn about ritual cleansing in the Slipper Baths and take part in their own swimming gala!

The Play House - Pool of Memories

There is more information on the project on the webpages The Play House have developed for the project. These include extensive resources for staff and pupils to deepen their understanding of the building, local history and collecting oral histories.

Park Hill pupils learn about swimming for kids

Pupils at Park Hill School have been working hard over the past few weeks with Rachel Gillies – Community Film Maker to create two short oral history films about Moseley Road Baths.  The project has involved the group researching the history of the building, learning how to use film equipment and how to conduct oral history interviews.  The group then divided into two film crews to film and interview two members of the public who had very fond memories of the Baths, particularly swimming there with their children.

The project started off with a fun look at the building using the Virtual Tour website, which allowed the group to look at parts of the building usually closed off to the public.  Through the site we were able to watch films of the laundry room, wander onto the roof and explore the Slipper Baths!  The pupils had loads of questions not just about the building, but about the wider social history of Balsall Heath, making lots of connections between what was happening locally and what they know about 20th Century British History.

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

After learning how to use film and audio equipment, the two film crews did an excellent job of interviewing Marion and Fran, who both recall swimming regularly at the building.  Fran told us about swimming regularly when she was pregnant and how much she enjoys swimming with her children now they are older.  Marion praised the pool’s excellent swimming lessons – both school lessons and the ‘Strokes’ programme.  She told the group how important it was to learn to swim and how staff at the Baths have helped her learn to swim as an adult.

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

The films were screened at our recent Pool of Memories Art Exhibition.  However, on Tuesday pupils did a proper Premiere of the films in front of almost 120 classmates from Year 4 and Year 5.  The group presented the films and explained what they had learnt over the course of the project, before going on to answer questions from the floor.  They will now be given their own copies of the DVD and certificates to reward them for their hard work!  The films will be added to our archive and will be appearing on the Pool of Memories website shortly!  Thanks to all pupils and to staff at Park Hill School for being so accommodating!

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

Pool of Memories Art Exhibition

Plans are now well underway for this year’s annual event as part of our ‘Pool of Memories’ project. On Saturday 29th October, noon-4pm, Friends of Moseley Road Baths will be taking over the Moseley School of Art on Moseley Road (opp. the Baths) for the day to celebrate the Baths’ history and beauty through the medium of art!

M&M 2011

Today we have selected 12 local artists’ work, encompassing a wide range of mediums, including photography, illustration, sculpture and portraiture to exhibit. The ‘Pool of Memories’ exhibition will not only be the only opportunity to see all of these works together, it will also be a rare chance to see inside the former School of Art, itself Grade II* listed.

In addition we will be screening short films produced by local pupils as part of our Pool of Memories School project. Pupils from Park Hill School, Anderton Park School, Clifton Junior School and Percy Shurmer School have filmed and conducted oral history interviews with people who remember swimming, working or washing at Moseley Road Baths. We will be premiering the most recent films from pupils at Park Hill School on the day – filming only took place today!

Park Hill Pool of Memories

We shall also be welcoming Corinne Fowler to the event who will be reading an excerpt from her novel which features an account of a full immersion baptism in the swimming pool!

As usual there will be a selection of stories from our ever growing oral history archive on display as well as an opportunity to contribute to the archive with your own memories. If you would like to share your stories on audio recorder or on film then please come along!

Don’t forget that our exhibition is wonderfully complemented by the Balsall Heath History Fair and Exhibition taking place next door at the Make It Zone!

Digital Balsall Heath

We’re really excited to hear about this collaboration between the smashing folks over at Balsall Heath Local History Society (who have been really helpful with our research and have supported countless events that we’ve hosted) and MACE‘s (Media Archive for Central England) ‘Full Circle’ Project. There’s a full report of the launch event on MACE’s blog.

The collaboration has seen staff from MACE assist local historians in locating archive film footage and then convert it into a format which can then be added to the MACE archive and used by local groups. In this case, material will appear on the new Digital Balsall Heath site, which aims to be an online, interactive resource for people wanting to look at the history and heritage of the area.

Digital Balsall Heath

Best of luck to the group, we shall most certainly be adding material as our own Pool of Memories Project develops!

Percy Shurmer Pupils get involved in PoMP!

Pupils at Percy Shurmer Primary School in Balsall Heath are the latest to contribute to the ‘Pool of Memories’ archive of Moseley Road Baths.

Over three weeks they have worked incredibly hard to produce a short film about Moseley Road Baths in the 1950s.  They started their research by looking at the ‘Virtual Tour’ of the building, and discussing their own experiences of swimming there.  With the building currently closed to the public whilst important maintenance work is being done, we all agreed that we’re desperate for it to reopen so we can have a swim!

We then went on a real tour of the building, going to lots of places that are usually closed to the public.  We focused particularly on the ‘Slipper Baths’ and discussed the reasons why people would have wanted to come to Moseley Road Baths for a bath.  We realised that just through learning about the Slipper Baths we could learn a lot about the history of Balsall Heath!

PoMP - Percy Shurmer School

Pupils then got out all of the film equipment and learnt how to use the camera and different microphones.  There was some great team work as they pupils formed into film crews and helped each other to set up the equipment.

PoMP - Percy Shurmer School

We then prepared to conduct an interview with Mrs Noreen Evans, who swam and bathed at Moseley Road Baths in the 1950s, when she was growing up on Tindal Street.  We focused on asking open questions to encourage her to share her stories with us.  It worked!  We found out lots of interesting facts, such as the fact that there used to be diving boards and that some children used to jump off the balcony when no-one was watching.  Mrs Evans made us all laugh when she told us what happens when you do a belly-flop into the water!



As well as learning about Moseley Road Baths and learning how to film and interview, we edited the footage into a film together.  We ended up with a really good film that will teach other people what Moseley Road Baths and Balsall Heath used to be like.  The film will appear on here soon.  Pupils will receive their own copy of the DVD and a certificate.

PoMP - Percy Shurmer School

Thanks so much to the staff at the school for their help in making the project happen, thanks to Mrs Evans for her interview, and of course, well done to all of the pupils who worked so hard to make the film.  We’ll add it to our archive and make sure that lots of people see it on online and at local events!

Park Hill pupils contribute to the ‘Pool of Memories’

Pupils at Park Hill School have been working hard to create their own short films about the history of Moseley Road Baths.

We started off with a trip to Moseley Road Baths.  This coincided with ‘World Book Day’, so as you can see, everyone was dressed up as their favourite character for the occasion!

PoMP - Park Hill School

Pupils then learnt all about film and sound recording and how to conduct interviews, before coming up with their own list of questions for our interviewees, all of whom had some great memories of Moseley Road Baths over the years!

PoMP - Park Hill School

First of all we interviewed Katherine Jackson, who has been swimming at the pool for over 30 years. She told pupils how she almost gave birth in the pool 25 years ago. Now she and her daughter enjoy swimming together, and the building remains a special place for them both.

PoMP - Park Hill School

We also interviewed Jenny Austin from the Friends of Moseley Road Baths who talked about how the group was set up, and some of the things that they have done to campaign to keep the pool open.

PoMP - Park Hill School

Finally, we interviewed Desmond Simpson who is a stonemason who worked on the building in 2003 and 2004. He was able to tell us all about the materials used and why the work to Moseley Road Baths needed to be done.  In particular he talked about the need to use lime mortar instead of concrete, and taught us what ‘mullions’ are.  He taught us that because Moseley Road Baths is a listed building that it needs special care and cannot be knocked down.

We then logged the footage, deciding which bits to keep in the final film.  There was some pretty fierce debate as there were so many interesting stories and bits of information that we had to take out!  In particular we thought that there were lots of really good opinions about why Moseley Road Baths is so special.  We then added music, logos, transitions and credits.

PoMP - Park Hill School

The films will be Premiered in a special school assembly in May where parents and interviewees will be invited.  Thanks so much to all of the school staff who helped to make the project happen, to our interviewees for taking the time out to be quizzed by our young historians, and of course, a huge well done to all of the group who worked so hard to create three excellent films!

What we did this week – Clifton Junior School

Here pupils talk in their own words about what they did over the course of the Pool of Memories School project.  Well done everyone!

Eight Year 3 pupils have been working hard on a project about Moseley Road Baths. On the final afternoon they shared their films with two Year 3 classes in their school. They also did a presentation to let other pupils and the teachers know what they had learnt. This is a short Flip film of their presentation.

Pupils get to work filming

Today the seven pupils involved in our Pool of Memories Project set to work filming people with memories of Moseley Road Baths. As soon as the session started they showed that they were completely on the ball by getting all of the camera equipment out and getting ready for the first ‘mock’ interview.

Setting up camera equipment

Our first interviewee was Mrs Noreen Evans, who came from Northfield, ready with a stash of photos to show us to help pupils to understand a little bit more about life in Balsall Heath in the 1950s. She spoke about how going for a Bath wasn’t very nice as she didn’t like the carbolic soap. However, compared to her tin bath at home, or even washing in the stone sink, it was a lot better.

Pupils at work

Miss Franklin from the school came and spoke to us about taking pupils swimming, and even recalled a time when one of the members of staff accidentally covered her with water!

Mrs Reeves then came in for an interview and talked about taking pupils swimming and even going swimming with her son when she was little. She talked about how much she liked the high ceilings when she swims there.

Tomorrow we will be editing about 50 minutes of film footage into a short film to put on the website and to show to other pupils in Year 6. In the meantime, here is a bit of footage from the Flip camera of the pupils interviewing Mrs Evans.

Why go for a bath at Moseley Road Baths? from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Budding film makers

Day two of our Pool of Memories project in schools and pupils spent the day learning how to use all the film and audio equipment and had chance to film and interview each other.

The group set up all of the camera equipment and learnt about different shots and camera angles, how to use the camera and played around with different microphones.

Playing with sound

It was a real giggle using all the microphones, especially the ‘shotgun’ microphone which was good for whispering into and pointing at different parts of the room.

Using the shotgun microphone

We then went on to talk about how we conduct interviews, how we can put our interviewees at ease and help them to tell their stories. We decided that it is best to ask open questions and to really listen to what they are saying to see if they need more time or more guidance. To get some practice we interviewed one of the pupils about his memories of going swimming at Moseley Road Baths. Everyone took on roles for this; one person was on camera, another did audio, one person asked the questions. Afterwards we talked about what had worked well and what we needed to change to make our interviews better.


Tomorrow we will be taking all of these skills and interviewing people who have memories of going to Moseley Road Baths.

School project is underway!

We’re absolutely thrilled that after months of planning our oral history film work in schools is underway!

The series of nine school projects involves local film maker and member of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Rachel Gillies, going into local schools and helping pupils to create short films, based on their research and filmed oral history interviews with members of the public.

Today the first of the projects began at Anderton Park School and it will run for the rest of this week. We began the day with looking at the Virtual Tour website and then went on a walk to the Baths where we had a guided tour of the building from Deputy Manager Jean Rabone.

Due to limited time in the curriculum and a marked decrease in swimming provision across the city, fewer and fewer young people are having the opportunity to undertake school swimming lessons, despite this being a component of the National Curriculum. The pupils really enjoyed walking through the area as pupils from the school used to do on a regular basis. We even stopped off to see the chickens on Malvern Street as we were passing by!

Outside the farm

We spent some time outside the Baths, looking at some of the detail, the sculpture above the Women’s Entrance and the general state of the building. There was a lively debate about what ‘First Class’ and ‘Second Class’ meant above the doors! We then went in and met with Jean who took us into the Gala Pool, despite it being closed to the public since 2003. We took some time to look at the detail and learnt about some of the activities that used to take place in there.


We then went into the ‘Slipper Baths’ and learnt more about people who went there for baths and what happened when they came in. A few of the group thought that paying a bit of money at the baths was probably better than paying for the bills at home!


The pupils especially enjoyed going into the boiler room to see the huge boilers and filter tank. There were lots of questions about the system and how the water was filtered and heated.


Tomorrow we will be looking at the Virtual Tour website and completing a quiz, before going on to learn how to use all of the film equipment. We’ll be finding out what an oral history interview is, practicing our interview techniques and then even filming each other! On Wednesday we’ll be putting all of our research, filming and interviewing skills into use by filming people from the school and the wider community talking about their memories of going to Moseley Road Baths. Later in the week we will edit and share our film with the rest of Year 6.