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Anaconda Swimming is one of London’s most successful swimming clubs – despite big constraints.

The club is at full capacity. It relies on using pools that aren’t fit for purpose in terms of training and galas. Yet it is producing national champions.

There is a compelling case for building a new swimming facility in Islington, not just for Anaconda but for the community at large.

A club at full capacity

Anaconda taught on average 760 children in 2017, of which 210 were in competitive squads. This is an increase of over 200 children since 2015. We have reached capacity and the swim school now has a substantial waiting list. The swim school teachers have done an outstanding job, not only teaching but also nurturing our young swimmers to enjoy swimming and consider entering the competitive club.

‘I regularly receive emails asking to join the club but have to turn them away as we are full’

– Head coach Wayne Lock

The club relies on the pool at the Bridge Secondary School and Cally Pool. However, unlike clubs in other boroughs, we are unable to host competitive galas. The current pools we use have no seating areas and only the Bridge is deep enough for racing blocks (for diving starts).

The club runs regular time trials every two months to track the progress of swimmers. However, Better, who run Cally Pool, will only allow time trials from 8pm, meaning many of our younger swimmers who are at primary school don’t get home until 10pm, which is very late for their age group.

Despite the constraints, Anaconda has managed some notable successes. At county championship level, the club has double the number of swimmers from 2015 and is winning medals at all levels, including nationally.

Nowhere to host competitions

Islington desperately needs a proper swimming pool that is able to host competitive galas. The borough lags behind others in London in terms of swimming facilities, as the map below shows. Each dot is a pool that is 25 (or 50) meters, with at least 6 lanes, deep enough for racing blocks, and with adequate seating. Islington (in red) has no such facility.

Anaconda research; Swimming.org

Islington has just two 25m pools available to swimming clubs, but neither are deep enough to use race blocks, and have inadequate or no seating areas. In comparison, Camden’s Swiss Cottage facility has eight lanes, proper tiered seating and race blocks, and seating for 200 spectators.

In terms of overall pool space (metres square) available for swimming clubs (ie excluding pools run by private health clubs) per person, Islington lags behind other boroughs nearby. It has 411 people per m2, compared to Camden’s 291. Hackney has 211; Haringey has 246. (source: Anaconda research, Swimming.org, London.gov.uk)

Exacerbating this problem is that Islington is the most densely populated borough in London, with over 16,000 people per square kilometre. Only Tower Hamlets will have a higher density by 2028. (See chart below)

Swimming and the wider community

Islington has an affluent reputation; but that masks several social issues. Poverty is a significant problem in the borough, with over a third of people living in poverty (33.7 per cent compared to 27 per cent across London). The borough ranks 30th out of 32 London boroughs in child poverty, at 38 per cent.

Islington also has an obesity problem. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of children in Year Six are obese. Sadly the trend is getting worse, as the chart below shows. Islington’s child obesity problem is typical for London (17th out of 32) and 3 percentage points higher than the national average.

The government’s Childhood obesity: a plan for action states:

Every primary school child should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. At least 30 minutes should be delivered in school every day through active break times, PE, extra-curricular clubs, active lessons, or other sport and physical activity events, with the remaining 30 minutes supported by parents and carers outside of school time.

To achieve this, Islington badly needs more leisure facilities, and swimming is one of the best forms of exercise.

Islington should have a pool that meets the ambitions of the borough’s only competitive club.

Islington | London overall