Grant Funding for Public Benefit

  • | Matthew Vaughan
Moseley Road Baths

Balsall Heath was annexed into Birmingham in 1891, creating the city as it is today. It was a place of shocking poverty when the British Empire was at the height of its power, and Birmingham was growing in prominence through the strength of its industry and embrace of modernity. Balsall Heath was promised a library and baths in return for their inclusion within the metropolis.

Since 1862, the introduction of a water supply, sewage system, street cleaning and a fire brigade had raised standards of public health, but the provision of the exotic Baths and grand reading room of the Library must have generated a great sense of shared pride.

Today, Balsall Heath remains a place of comparative poverty even though living standards are much improved since 1896 when the Library opened; and there is still a need for what today we might term ‘wellness’, but also for learning, community and play.

The project has been boosted tremendously by a £15.4m grant from the Levelling Up Fund announced in October 2021. Further funding bids now wait determination to complete an ambitious campaign of repair and re-ordering which started with the project by lnsall to repair the Gala Pool, completed in 2020, to provide facilities to allow the space to be used for events, including a specially commissioned performance by Birmingham Opera Company.

  • Moseley Road Baths
  • Moseley Road Baths

“It seems everyone in the local community has a story to tell about Moseley Road Baths; learning to swim there, school trips or family outings. This is a living oral history that reminds us that the love of historic places isn’t just about fabric, but often more so the intangible history – in this case of everyday life in a traditionally deprived area of the city.”

Plans include integration of the Library with the Baths (which, though side by side, are physically separated), events space in the currently used Pool, gym and studio spaces, meeting rooms and facilities, a cafe, sensory garden and community growing spaces, and – most exciting of all – the reintroduction of swimming to the Gala Pool.

In the coming year, pilot projects to introduce ‘meanwhile uses’ to the Baths are underway, which will maintain momentum and continue to enliven this building which remains as breathtakingly exotic as it must have been in 1907.

As we emerge from the grip of the pandemic, there will be a need for spaces where people feel safe and welcome. Moseley Road Baths, at the physical heart of Balsall Heath, can play a role as a convenient and neutral space, staffed by people from within the community who have shared in the experiences of the past year. … The proposed pilot projects respond to this need to come together in a shared space, to imagine and build projects and initiatives which focus on our growth and development as a community. They also give local people of all ages the opportunity to put our creativity and collaboration at the heart of what we want to share with the wider world.