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Jaws at Victoria Baths, Rusholme

Rachel Winterbottom sits in a swimming pool but doesn’t get wet

Written by . Published on April 8th 2011.


Jaws at Victoria Baths, Rusholme

THIS week found me sitting in an empty Edwardian swimming pool, watching Jaws on a temporary cinema screen, eating Cinnamon Grahams. I’ve probably had weirder moments, but not many.

The invitation-only event was part of a UK campaign by Nestlé for its Curiously Cinnamon cereal (whatever happened to Graham?). The Manchester date took place in the recently refurbished Victoria Baths and what better film to show in a swimming pool than the 1975 Spielberg classic, Jaws?

The invite promised refreshments, so I took my younger sister along with me, who was presented with a popcorn box of cereal on arrival (insert ‘we’re going to need a bigger bowl’ pun here). In a sugar-induced delirium, we watched the shark-goes-bonkers classic, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling tiles, huddled in the cold beneath the vast, domed roof as the sun set behind the stained glass window. It was definitely a unique experience.

I don’t imagine you need a review of Jaws, as there can’t (and shouldn’t) be anyone left on the planet who hasn’t seen it. But in a nutshell; shark turns up, eats people; Roy Scheider goes ape shit and blows it up.

My younger sister asked a staff member whether the baths were haunted. To his credit, he answered with dignity and aplomb: ‘No, but Bedlam was filmed here with Will Young.’ Which induced a certain kind of shudder, but not the ghostly sort.

The baths themselves are incredible. A group of dedicated individuals have been working on the building to save it since it closed in 1993, and it’s paid off. This brick and terracotta marvel originally opened in 1906, when the Lord Mayor declared it ‘a water palace of which every citizen of Manchester is proud.’ With its three swimming pools, Turkish Baths and laundry, this huge building is still very much a work in progress, particularly with all the cereal they now have to clean out of the plug hole.

Anyone can appreciate the building now it’s officially reopened. Events at the Victoria Baths include weekly guided tours every Wednesday afternoon, a fanzine convention, art installations and performances by the Royal Northern College of Music. More information on the baths, the events there and the restoration project can be found on their website: www.victoriabaths.org.uk

Go and have a look around at a fascinating piece of Manchester’s history.

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