Neighbourhood pool reopens with a splash - but campaigners say the 'fight is not over yet'
It has been a time of great uncertainty for Jubilee Pool in Knowle. Now, the popular neighbourhood facility has finally reopened its doors – much to the delight of the local community.
By Becky Day
But campaigners who fought to save the much-loved amenity – built in 1937 – say that the “fight is not yet over” and a long-term plan must be in place to secure its future beyond March 2022, when its contract expires.
Jubilee has been shut since the start of the pandemic and was threatened with permanent closure last summer when owners Bristol City Council claimed that reopening the pool was not financially viable.
The council launched a consultation, proposing its closure, but it was met with strong opposition by campaign group Friends of Jubilee Pool (FoJP) who argued that “pre-Covid, the pool was operating at a profit and without subsidy”.
A petition launched by FoJP to save the pool, which is run by Parkwood Leisure, received over 4,500 signatures and in December, the South Bristol Voice revealed that the facility was able to reopen.
This is the third time the pool has been saved from closure in recent years.
Now, swimmers and gym goers have been returning to Jubilee in their droves, and Jules Laming from the FoJP group says that there is a “real buzz” in the pool.
Jules said: “I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have people back in the water and people using the gym again. People are so pleased, and the feedback has been really positive.
“We all came together, saved the pool and now it’s here for everyone to use. Everyone is so happy to be back.”
However, Jules says that the pool is “still under threat” and people need to continue using the pool and join as members to demonstrate that there is a demand for the facility.
She adds that in order to “remove the continued uncertainty”, FoJP intends to explore the option of a Community Asset Transfer (CAT), where ownership of the building is transferred to a community organisation.
Jubilee member Jerry Hatcher, 64, has been using the pool since he was 10 – and over the last 10 years he has been using the pool daily as “remedy” following a cancer diagnosis.
“It’s a pleasure to be back. It’s been a long time coming – and this is the best result.
"For the last 10 years I've been coming here every day – it's a priceless place to be. No matter what time you come, you pretty much know everyone in here and it's a lovely feeling. It would be a travesty to lose it.”
Jo Franks, who is part of FoJP, said: "We’re thrilled to be back and to be part of the swimming community again and seeing friends. The amount of people coming back shows there’s a demand for the pool."
Gary McGeorge was also part of the campaign to save the pool but says that the “fight isn’t over yet”. He uses the gym mostly, but his children have used the pool since they were babies.
He says that there is “nowhere like Jubilee in the country”, due to its location, tucked away down a residential street. Gary added: “The other day, I saw a woman walk home in her towel – she only lived down the road.”
Campaigners remarked that Jubilee has a "soul" to it, with staff knowing the names of many of its regular customers.
Rob Langley, manager at Jubilee Pool, says that it is "fantastic" that the pool is open again.
He said: "The support while it was closed has been carried through to its reopening.
“There’s a lot of passion. The number of people coming through the doors show people want to use it.
“All customers seem happy and there has been a good rush of members - there's a demand there.”
Swim and gym sessions at Jubilee Pool can be booked online at www.leisurecentre.com/jubilee-swimming-pool. Lane swimming is open throughout the week and family swim sessions are available to book at the weekend.
Lessons are due to recommence in May, Covid restrictions permitting.
For more information about Friends of Jubilee Pool, visit: www.facebook.com/friendsofjubileepool