Joy, who lives next door to the baths, kindly let me chat to her about being a long term resident of Laurie Grove and the part the baths used to play in her and her children’s lives.
We walked around the baths and I showed Joy some of the information and stories I had found. Finally, I taught her some ‘Charleston’ dancing and we danced together on top of the small pool, just as people did years ago.
Historically, the baths could always be boarded over so that the spaces became large halls for dancing and concerts. Musicians and dancers, as well as other entertainers, came from far and wide to enjoy what the baths had to offer. Unlike many of the pubs and venues in London, the baths welcomed all people regardless of colour.
Dancing is a special type of embodied knowledge which passes down generations as muscle memory. As dances evolve, they retain movements and mannerisms from distant times and places. Charleston dancing, which has its roots in African dance movements, celebrates the LGB as a place of openness to Afro-Carribean people in 1950s, as it provided a venue for many events organised by the Anglo-Carribean Association.
Historically, LGB has also been a place of education, with local schools and classes using them to teach swimming, sports and dancing. It was special for me that Joy and I could share our skills and stories with each other and that the baths provided a setting and inspiration for our meeting.
Our dancing also took place in the presence of a ghost who is said to live in LGB. The spirit is ‘affectionately known as ‘Charlie’ because he was given to whistling the tune ‘Charleston” (Les Back).
Here is an audio iDoc of our conversation using Klynt.
The audio iDoc is created from over 1hour of audio footage documenting the conversation I had with Joy on our tour around the baths. This interactive platform offers a ‘chance’ way to encounter the things we spoke about. The platform reflects the random and unpredictable nature of a human relationship to an old building. For example, what the baths mean to Joy is at once, forceful, confused, emotional, nostalgic and contradictory.