He’s a lover of ‘socialist architecture’ and the man who in 2005 fought a valiant battle against the demolition of the 90 concrete chalets at West St Leonards, the last trace of the old bathing pool.
That campaign might not have ended in success but Colin Booth’s passion for the work of borough engineer and ‘Concrete King’, Sidney Little is undimmed and this week he went public with his plans for a tribute not just to Sidney Little’s work, but to the former bathing pool and to the heritage of the town itself.
Colin has drawn up plans for a sculpture to sit on one corner of the disused bathing pool site. It would be a structure made of concrete, just as the bathing pool was, a structure that will recreate the ten metre diving tower that was such an iconic part of the bathing pool. His plans are ambitious, he wants it to be, “at least life size – possibly bigger” and he sees it as a project that will galvanise the community and encourage people to dig out their old photographs, old cine film and share their memories of Hastings and St Leonards Bathing Pool, he wants to create an ‘aural history’ of the site and hopes it might be possible to link with Hastings museum.
The main diving tower often had an additional platform mounted on to it for exhibition diving and Colin would like to see his creation include that feature too.
Built in 1933, closed in 1986 and demolished in 1992 the bathing pool might never have made a profit but its impact on the community was profound and Colin wants the project he has devised to tap in to the love and passion the community still has for the much missed bathing pool.
- There is already a Facebook group about the project that you can find here
At the moment he is still very much at the planning stage. He says Hastings Borough Council (HBC) leader Peter Chowney is supportive of the plan but he is yet to talk officially to planners. The project is an ambitious one and at the start of next year Colin is planning to start looking for the funding that will be required, he has already engaged the help of someone who specialises in raising funding for this kind of project.
Until the detail is nailed down he’s unsure what the final cost will be but says candidly, “It’s going to be over £100,000.”
Colin says the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill is his favourite building and he has always had a fascination for concrete architecture. With his studio based in Seaside Road the view from his windows is across the site of the old pool which makes him especially aware of what he describes as the ‘massive nostalgia’ that exists.
HBC recently announced they were in talks about developing the West St Leonards site with a company called County Gate/Sunley. Plans include holiday cottages, beach chalets, restaurants and cafes, artists’ studios with ‘shop window’ retail spaces, and a slipway with boating facilities. Colin says he has seen many schemes proposed for the site, none of which he considers to have been appropriate. He knows and understands the site well and says there are limitations on what can be done there.
At the moment he wants to think big and to be ambitious, it’s something that can only happen once so Colin plans to present his biggest and boldest scheme and if that has to be scaled back because of planning or funding restrictions he will know that he has put forward the best and most ambitious scheme he can.
At night he would like the structure to be lit up and he envisages it to be of a scale that people will be able to see from the planes that fly over the town on their way to Gatwick.
A 3D model of the proposed structure takes pride of place in Colin’s studio, he has no timescale in mind at the moment as the project is dependent on so many other factors falling in to place but he remains confident that next year can see his vision move much closer to becoming a reality.
While the old bathing pool may never have been a commercial success it was a successful piece of ‘socialist architecture’ says Colin. It was accessible to the public at little cost, it provided entertainment and was a focal point for the town and where people could meet – that is why memories of the bathing pool are so deeply ingrained in the memories of those who made the most of it and why it is still so fondly remembered and missed by so many.
For further reading on the old bathing pool and the man who built it follow these links