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Madeleine Waller’s East London Swimmers

April 26, 2014
by the gentle author

Today we preview the second in Hoxton Minipress‘ Photo Stories series Madeleine Waller’s East London Swimmers featuring the hardy souls from London Fields Lido.

Laura, Performance Artist

“I’m a countryside girl, I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Devon and always swam in the sea. So being in London can be very intense, but swimming in winter in an outdoor pool feels like reconnecting with nature.”

Paul, Bus Driver

“No-one taught me how to swim, I just watched other people and got on with it. I like to push myself – ninety to a hundred lengths of the pool. I have a few hours off between shifts of driving the bus and I find swimming helps me relax. The thing about driving in London is that no one seems to care whereas swimming is about taking pride in yourself. You have to have discipline. If you are good at something then go for it because we aren’t here forever.”

Karina, Travel Agent

“This pool doesn’t have the chlorine that makes your hair go green like some public pools. I love all the sensations – the water surrounding you, the different temperatures you feel, going in, going out and stepping into the cold from the heat – particularly in winter. It allows me to cope with being in the city.

Nick, Property Developer

“I got into swimming after getting caught up in the tsunami in Thailand. I was on a family holiday when the wave came in and I managed to grab my son from his pram and leg it up a hill. I looked back and saw the pram disappear. When I returned home. I had a fear of open water so I entered a race in Lake Windermere and my passion for long distance swimming was born. Last year I swam from Spain to Morocco. Next I’m swimming from Robben Island to Cape Town.”

Kathryn, Office Worker

“I used to go to a lot of alternative clubs. Now I feel I’ve got too old for that and I’ve taken to regular swimming – it becomes an addiction. When I first started, the endorphins kicked in after sixteen laps. Today I feel good after eleven and a half kilometres. My longest swim was the length of Lake Windermere in eight hours and twenty minutes without a break. Sometimes when I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming of swimming. It’s happiness.”

Mike, Jazz Musician

“When I was thirty. I nearly drowned in a garden swimming pool. People watching thought I was having fun until a twelve-year-old saved me. I have always loved the water but I didn’t learn to swim until I was forty-four. It felt like I was learning to fly – conquering a new element. Now when I swim I get pretty much the same feeling. It never goes away.”

Dane, Entrepreneur

“I learnt to swim because I went to South Africa and wanted to swim with sharks but they wouldn’t let me because I couldn’t swim fifty yards. Now I swim almost everyday. The water has a cleansing process. I can let go and totally be me. At this point in my life, I’m the number one priority.”

London Fields Lido

Click to buy EAST LONDON SWIMMERS BY MADELEINE WALLER direct from Hoxton Minipress

Photographs copyright © Madeleine Waller

You may also like to take a look at these other Hoxton Minipress titles

Joseph Markovitch, I’ve Lived In East London For Eighty-Six & A Half Years

Fifty People of East London by Adam Dant

10 Responses leave one →
  1. April 26, 2014

    Just fantastic. Wonderful pics.

  2. jeannette permalink
    April 26, 2014


  3. April 26, 2014

    Amazing stories in the least likely place. I swim twice a week and it keeps me sane.

  4. Ron Pummell permalink
    April 26, 2014

    Nice photos. I have many happy memories, and a sun burnt back, of this place, and Victoria Park Lido, during the 1940’s and 50’s. Could not afford sun cream so we used olive oil and fried.

  5. Neville Turner permalink
    April 26, 2014

    An interesting coverage of some london outdoor swimmers, swimming is an activity available to most of us very brave to dip into an outdoor pool in winter all of you have my respect I wish you all well and many more length’s.

  6. April 26, 2014

    Ooof! I’m glad they enjoy it. It sounds dreadful, if not bonkers, to me. Brrrrr.

  7. Chris F permalink
    April 27, 2014

    We had two outdoor swimming baths… When we were kids we spent whole summers there, 6 old pence to get in and we stayed all day… Now both are gone… One lies under a housing estate and the other was grassed over… Such a shame.

  8. Hardy permalink
    April 27, 2014

    Talk about throwing down the gauntlet. I’ve ordered the book to accompany ‘Pond Life’ by Al Alvarez which records his winters swimming in Hampstead Heath pond. I used the excuse of distance from home to get out of swimming there. London Fields, much closer. Might have to dip my toes in.

  9. Carolyn Badcock - nee Hooper permalink
    April 29, 2014

    What amazing people!!! As a Queenslander and a wimp (warm and hot are Good), the thought of hopping into Lake Windemere to swim its length………. simply leaves me in awe. Very interesting too to see that bus drivers’ uniforms can hide such fit healthy bodies!! Well, one anyway…………..

    Wonderful stories………….thanks, gentle author.

  10. April 29, 2014

    A fantastic series: great combination of story-telling and photography. We live in hope that GLL will keep their promise and Charlton lido will stay open this winter.

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