|Title ID||5460||Collection ID||775|
|Title||Element of Grace|
|Theme||Cine Club Film-making Seaside|
|Keywords||Children Beaches Clubs Seaside Resorts Beachwear Swimming Education Sport|
|Format||Black & White Sound|
|Duration||16 mi. 50 sec.|
|Copyright & Access||Copyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details|
Amateur film-maker Ray Young, a member of Eastbourne Cine Group, films members of St. Leonards Amateur Swimming Club in 1952 as they demonstrate front crawl, butterfly, back crawl and spectacular diving techniques at St. Leonards Bathing Pool, a lido built in the 1930s by Sydney Little, "the Concrete King".
Panning footage of St. Leonards Bathing Pool [Lido], built according to modern aesthetics and techniques by Sydney Little that opened to the public in 1933, opens the film. The water glistens as swimmers splash in the water and play on the slide. Windows surround the enclosed open air pool. An intertitle reads 'Showing the activities of the Hastings & St. Leonards Amateur Swimming Club.' Men and women are seen sitting in the sun by the pool in deck chairs or against the walls.
Scenes of swimmers demonstrating different swimming strokes follow, beginning with 'The Breast Stoke'. A woman leans forward and bends her knees at the edge of the pool, readying to dive into the water. Once in the water, she surfaces, pushing her arms out to swim to the other side. The same shot is shown in slow motion. The swimmer is also seen from behind and side on. 'The Butterfly Stroke' follows. Again, a female swimmer crouches down to dive off from the side of the pool. She is seen in slow motion, moving towards the camera, demonstrating breast stroke. Her arms swinging out of the water to propel her through the water. 'The Crawl'. A female swimmer is shown in real time and slow motion, as the camera follows her movement through the water at a close distance. She is seen moving towards and away from the camera, kicking the water behind her. A male swimmer dives off the side and is also shown in real time and slow motion, performing front crawl and somersaulting in the water to push off from the side. 'The Back Crawl' follows. A man throws his arms over his head and pushes off from the side with his feet, propelling his body backwards into the water. He is shown moving backwards through the water, splashing his arms and legs. The same scene is shown in slow motion. A female swimmer is also seen swimming back crawl in slow motion. An instructor tutors a male swimmer at the side of the pool. The camera is briefly distracted by an attractive woman in a leopard print swimming costume.
'Diving' follows. Three men leap from the same diving platform into the water below. A female diver performs a handstand before diving into the water from the highest diving platform, which is topped by a Union Jack flying in the breeze. She tucks her knees under her body and enters the water feet first. A male diver walks to the end of a springboard and performs a spectacular somersault dive, shown in slow motion. He performs several other dives from the same platform, show in succession. Further backwards and forwards pike and somersault dives are performed by young men and women from a springboard, shown in slow motion. Steps curl around the diving tower, which reaches up high above the swimming pool. Divers perform handstand dives from the higher platforms. Partner dives are performed, for which two divers leap from the platforms together. Two men joke around, performing wild and comedic dives into the water. Another pretends to run away from the highest platform and down the steps to the poolside, only to run off the second platform accidentally.
'Outside of Training' follows. The feet of members of the swimming club rest on a wall surrounding the pool. The young men recline in deck chairs in the sun. A man and women are seen sunbathing and socialising on the pool side in tracking footage. Some practice handstands, others sit with their children or friends. At the beach, a group of friends carry a teenage girl down the shingle and into the sea, holding her arms and legs. A group of friends swim and play in the sea. 'The Future Club?' closes the film. A young child is encouraged to jump into the water and his fathers arms. Young boys play in the shallow pool. Older children practice diving and jumping into the pool, shown in slow motion. Others kick their legs, holding onto the side of the pool. 'Sincere thanks to all whose patience & cooperation helped to make this film' [sic]. The End.
Purpose built lidos and pools, like swimming as a health-giving activity, were fashionable in the 1930s. St. Leonards Bathing Pool was commissioned by Hastings Council in 1931 and built by local engineer Sydney Little, versed in modern building techniques using concrete. The pool was very large for a small town like St. Leonards, rivaling Blackpool's lido, built in the 1920s according to the prevailing fashion for classical architecture. Staggered seating for 2,500 people reached up from one side of the pool, while sunbathers could stretch out on the opposite side. The pool only made a profit in 1933, the year of its opening, forcing the council to finally close the pool in 1959. The pool complex became Hastings Holiday Centre, which closed in 1986. Package holidays and the affordability of trips abroad threatened the closure of many lidos across the UK.