Volunteers working to bring an Aberdeen attraction back to life are celebrating a hugely popular open weekend – for the second year in a row.
More than 1,200 turned up to explore Bon Accord Baths
Unlike the previous event in September last year, there was no queue of people waiting to get in stretching down Justice Mill Lane – but for a good reason.
Much more of the art deco building was open to the public after extensive cleaning and repair work, meaning around 200 people were able to look around while maintaining a social distance at the Covid-safe event.
For the first time since Bon Accord Baths closed in 2008, locals were able to look inside area such as the Spartan Gym, which was visited by the late Sean Connery during his bodybuilding days in the 1950s.
Information boards with newspaper clippings and old photographs were perused by visitors including the daughter and grandson of the centre’s founder, Alex Thomson.
Huge behind-the-scenes effort to get pool building open
Stephen from Aberdeen was also among those who dropped in.
He said: “I just grew up along the road, so we were in here all the time in the school summer holidays.
“It should never have been closed, it’s just another travesty in Aberdeen.
“I think it’s got on its side now the heritage aspect – it’s beautiful, it’s art deco, and I can’t see it getting knocked down either, so what do you do with it?”
An enormous amount of work has been done by the volunteers at Bon Accord Heritage in preparation for this weekend, from painting over graffiti to fixing leaks that threatened to cause serious water damage.
They were assisted by local companies including CSG, who restored the building’s floor tiles, and Goldstar Cleaning Services, who returned the pool itself to a sparkling condition.
Graphic artists designed posters, keyrings and coasters to be sold at the weekend, with the group selling out of T-shirts emblazoned with its logo.
Trip down memory lane
But as important as the weekend’s event was for fundraising to allow the repair efforts to continue, it was just as vital for collection pieces of social history – stories and memories of the leisure centre over the 68 years it was open.
Visitors were asked to fill out small cards with details of what they remember most fondly about the Baths and place them in a cardboard letterbox.
It is hoped the cards can be used by the campaign group to demonstrate the building’s role in the heritage of Aberdeen.
Bon Accord Heritage trustee Fiona Stevenson said: “Given that we’ve had the Euros on and the hottest weekend in Aberdeen in a long time, to see people through the doors and see the number of memories they’ve shared has been really positive.
“Fundraising is one element for us, but conserving social history is another, and to be able to get so much information over two days has been amazing for us.”
Group secretary Steven Cooper added: “I think, for us, it continues to confirm that the people of Aberdeen really want Bon Accord Baths to be a key part of the city centre regeneration moving forwards.
“The city centre has gone through a tough time in the last year or so, and I think there is a strong desire for more health and recreation facilities and also preserving a really architecturally important building that’s part of the city’s heritage.”
Work continues to secure funding
Members of the group are currently seeking to attract external funding and put together a conservation statement alongside specialists.
In the long term, the ambition is to turn the building into a community-led health and wellbeing hub.
Steven said: “It’s going to have a number of flexible uses while preserving the historical area as well.”
Bon Accord Heritage also hopes to welcome the public back inside for a third open weekend in the future.
More information can be found on the campaign website here.