Earlier today (Monday the 6th of June 2011) I was swimming at Parkside Pools in Cambridge. I witnessed something I thought was outrageous: the pool’s manager, named as “Ryan Thorpe”, got an elderly lady to leave the water and escorted her out of the pool area. Her offence: wearing the wrong type of goggles.
The lifeguard explained that only flexible goggles with independent eye-pieces were permissible. The elderly lady explained that she needed to use the one-piece goggles she had due to the state of her eyes, and told the lifeguard she couldn’t swim without them. Having explained this she swam off, but two lengths later, the manager spoke to her and decreed her goggles were dangerous, she protested against this clearly ridiculous assertion, pointing out that she regularly swims using them without a problem, but the manager refused to back down and eventually he escorted her out.
People swim with all sorts of things. I’ve personally swum with a diving mask in a public session when I was learning to dive – (it’s good to practice wearing, and clearing, a mask in the safe, familiar environment and without the time constraint of an actual diving lesson). Many people appear to need to wear a nose clip while swimming. Others choose to wear caps, MP3 players and flippers or mono-flippers (whatever they’re called). All sorts of these things are accepted at Parkside.
Not allowing someone to swim because they need, because of the state of health of their eyes, to wear a particular type of goggle is crazy. We should be encouraging people, especially older people, to exercise.
I read the rules posted about use of the pool, but could not see any specifying the design of goggles permitted. Even if there is such a rule in place I think exceptions ought be made, especially in cases where people’s health dictates that without a flexible attitude they will be denied the ability to use the facility, which ought be accessible to as many members of the public as possibble.
Manager Ryan Thorpe’s actions make a mockery of his employer’s brand: “Everyone Active” under which SLM run Parkside Pools.
The pools are owned by the people of Cambridge, though Cambridge City Council, though their day to day management is contracted out to SLM.
I would be surprised if the Liberal Democrats running the council actually approved of SLM’s practice. Those voting for the party would, I think, expect them to stand up for equal access for everyone to the city’s public facilities and against petty rules which prevent people making use of them. One of the big problems with the Liberal Democrats though is that they don’t appear keen on actually grasping the reigns of power and putting their principles and ideals into practice. One of the effects of the pool being run by a private contractor is that the route for democratically influencing they way they are run is not as clear cut as it would be if the council was running them directly.
It’s a bit of an aside, but as I’m writing about Parkside I’ll add that in March 2011 Cambridge City Council announced that it was, “in the coming weeks”, to run a consultation on refurbishments to Parkside Pools, to be carried out in December 2011. As yet that consultation has not made either the consultations page, or the Parkside Pools page, of the city council website.
I will write to my local councillors as well as the Executive Councillor for Arts, Recreation and Sport, Cllr Cantrill, drawing their attention to this article and asking them to comment. I will also tweet in the direction of Cambridge’s newspapers suggesting they might want to contact Mr Thorpe and see how he can justify his actions. SLM are on twitter, so I’ll send them a link too.