It’s my second trip to Victoria Baths. Not to brush up on my front crawl but to meet the Board of Trustees who are working to restore the baths to their former glory. For anyone that hasn’t visited it is an amazing place. Winning BBC2’s Restoration Series, has ensured a lot of remedial work has already been done to restore the baths to their former Edwardian glory. But there’s still a lot to do. The question is which bits to do first and how to pay for this?
My contribution to the solution involves embedding the baths back into the local community and concentrating on serving a local catchment. Whilst the baths are an asset to Manchester and the nation, they were built to serve a very local population.
In the days before the NHS people were regularly referred to spas and baths, to take the waters, for hydro-massage and all sorts of other programmes of treatments. The new nationalised health service preferred the more short-term and instantaneous approach of prescribing a pill (no doubt encouraged by the marketing budgets of the fast-growing pharmaceutical industry). Of course, we are now seeing a rise of preventative treatments and a recognition of the huge health benefits associated with “wellness”.
Victoria Baths has a catchment that could do with being more healthy; it is in need of its services. Not only in terms of permanent residents, but also the temporary ones in Manchester Royal Infirmary, which is only half a mile away.
The sheer scale and grandeur of the baths and the enthusiasm of the BBC viewers that voted to save them mean that they are a national asset. But if they are going to be viable then they need to attract regular users, not just occasional visitors.
You can see more about the plans for restoration by following the link below. I am sure the Board would also be interested in hearing from anyone who had expertise in the area.