Behold the old-fashioned swimming baths where the paint is chipped and the water is freezing! "The Galleries" swimming baths, located in sunny Sunderland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne's next door neighbour) was erected in 1974 and declared open by Princess Anne (fancy!). It may look a bit dated, well, a lot dated, but it is always empty (so one can hog the pool) and is still pretty inexpensive, but best of all, it has fantastic character and charm that means you should definitely check it out.
You may be wondering why I am recommending all you North-East of England Lomographers visit this dreary leisure centre as I have portrayed it in a less than flattering light so far but the answer is because it holds such a beautiful, subtle charm. The best thing about the building is that it is built like a 1070’s concrete fortress. There is literally concrete everywhere. To get to the pool, one has to strut past a police station, clamber some spiraling stairs, and travel across a lovely concrete bridge before being greeted by a nice chubby lady who is no doubt doing a crossword as she takes your precious money.
Once inside the glorious building (complete with hot, hot air and vending machine stacked with the obligatory chocolate bars and bags of crisps), you must waddle down the slippery stairs to the ladies’ changing rooms (or guys’ changing room, if you’re a dude, der!) and find a cubicle that you can squeeze into to protect your modesty and slither into your swimwear.
Now, the best bit, huddle in the showers (these only last 0.3 seconds anyway) then scuttle to the pool (empty, apart from the active elderly) and jump right in and ENJOY!
The beauty about this forty-year-old leisure centre is that it is so far removed from modernized society. The unwelcoming concrete really makes for some impressive photographs and is different from the usual high-tech gyms that we’re now used to. The peach-painted changing rooms are fantastic for rat’s eyes shots (when there are no naked bodies around, obviously…) and the tiled floors are pretty good when skidding around barefoot. Oh, and the pool itself if decent for knocking out a couple of lengths of backstroke!
I will continue to go here with my four-year-old niece as it is so ugly, that it becomes beautiful. It is super cheap and the lifeguards even throw random play floats/balls at you to humour young visitors with. You should check it out if you’re ever in the North East of England, that is if you can find your way through the concrete maze.