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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Art Review: Lido to Lakeside Transforms Djanogly Gallery into Twenties Swimming Pool

19 June 17 words: Natalie Beastall

For those of you who don't know, the Djanogly Gallery was once Highfields Park Lido, which was basically a huge swimming pool in the twenties that Sir Jesse Boot kindly gave to Notts as a gift...

Not knowing what to expect, except that it would be an immersive experience, I went along to Lido to Lakeside on one of the hottest days of the year so far. So obviously part of me was hoping that there would be an actual pool for me to plunge myself into, but what I experienced was actually more fun, so big up to the digital artist Barret Hodgson for bringing the Highfields Lido back to life...

The staff at Djanogly are great; they were friendly and helpful and, because the weather was so warm, I was instantly put in a great mood and had an open mind. When the time came for the exhibition to begin, we were greeted by a woman dressed in a fantastic green and white striped suit, that I definitely now want to find for myself, accompanied with a straw hat; a real twenties theme going on here. She blows her whistle to call for attention, introduces herself as Joyce and tells us that she will be our pool assistant for the day. We are told to prepare ourselves to be amazed. Intriguing to say the least.  

Inside was a gentleman dressed to the nines, wearing an excellent bowler hat and suit, who took us back in time to 1924, the opening of the Lido. His speech was accompanied to the sounds of birds singing and a light summer breeze, while we were stood around the projection of a swimming pool. Once his introduction was complete, the real fun began. The twenties music started up and we discovered that the pool was actually a touch-sensitive projection. The kids went mad for it. And so did I, to be honest. There was everything there that you could have asked for; think real beach balls, rubber rings and beach towels. Not only that, projection-wise, there were fish, umbrellas for those fair-haired lot, slides for those brave enough to plunge into an 8ft 6in pool, yellow submarines – because why the hell not? – and young women stretching at the poolside, who I found out are actually University of Nottingham's Synchronised Swimming team, so nice link there.  

You could really feel the atmosphere, and the posters that surrounded the pool contributed to the time travel that you suddenly found yourself immersed in. Posters that contained swimming “dos and don'ts”, similar to those that I'm sure most of us have memories of from swimming lessons. In particular, "Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring victory" resonated with me, especially as everyone was so happy.

Image courtesy of Nottingham City Council and

It got even more interesting as we began our journey through the decades. I won't give too much away, but my favourite bit of the installation was the sixties. This is where the yellow submarine appeared, so keep an eye out for that making its way around the pool. Plus, The Beach Boys were the choice of music, and the colours were insane; completely mesmerising.

The party really came to life when the sunglasses and wigs were brought out and a conga line started. You don’t get much more hilarious and confusing than a man in a bowler hat doing the conga, followed by kids in pink wigs and huge yellow sunglasses, as well as adults wearing rubber rings and carrying beach balls. If anything, you should attend the exhibition just for the laughs of seeing the kids jumping in the "pool" to Alice Cooper’s School's out for Summer, having a dance-off with the bloke in the bowler hat to Club Tropicana, and swimming races with the pool assistant Joyce.  

It's basically one big party where you get the chance to act like a big kid with a bunch of other big kids, and actual kids, that will have you grinning and laughing the whole time. All of the proceeds go to the University of Nottingham's Life Cycle 7 charity; Children's Brain Tumour Research, which is amazing, and a refreshing change from looking at paintings and photographs with no one uttering a word to each other. It isn’t on for long, so seriously make the time between now and Sunday 2 July to get yourself and all of your kids, mates, parents, grandparents and partners down there for a trip back in time.

Lido to Lakeside runs at Djanogly Gallery until Sunday 2 July 2017

Nottingham Lakeside Arts website

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