Step inside Manchester's Water Palace
Victoria Baths was widely recognised as one of the country’s most splendid swimming pools until it closed in 1993. It now operates as a stunning event space. We had a chat with the team to find out a little more about Manchester’s hidden gem.
What makes Victoria Baths such a special place? There are so many reasons. It's a beautiful building that means so much to so many people - we constantly hear stories from visitors who learnt to swim or used to take a bath here years ago. The architecture, stained glass windows and internal decor is stunning; there was no expense spared when it was originally built and lots of work has been done to keep it looking good. People really do care about the building. What are your plans for Victoria Baths in the future? The long-term aim of Victoria Baths Trust, the charity that runs and restores the building, has always been to reopen the Turkish Baths and one of the swimming pools for the public to use again. In the meantime, as well as running events, hosting weddings and hiring the building for TV filming, we fundraise throughout the year to complete pieces of restoration. Our latest project was restoring the two big gable-end windows in the Females Pool, which has made a huge difference to the space. To complete the full restoration of the whole site is a huge project and it will take time and a lot of money. But for now we have some incredible events in the building, and lots of ideas for the future, which we can’t wait to start working on - as and when we’re able to reopen to the public. Tell us something about Victoria Baths that not a lot of people will know In 1952, the first public aerotone in the UK was installed in the Baths. The aerotone is the grandfather of the modern day jacuzzi and, although ours is no longer in use, it can still be seen near to the Female’s Pool entrance. Both the Manchester United and Manchester City teams used it in the past. We’d love to get it working again in the Turkish Baths and maybe they’ll come back again?! How do events at Victoria Baths help to support your plans? Events provide an important source of income for the Trust. We're a registered charity, so any money made from building hires and events goes towards running and maintaining the building. Whilst we’re working towards full restoration, events help to keep the building busy. We're incredibly lucky to have such a unique and beautiful building here in Manchester, and we love seeing how event organisers and wedding couples use the space. Our income has taken a huge hit from being closed for the Covid emergency and we’ve set up a crowdfunding appeal to help bridge the gap until we can next open our doors here. What’s been your favourite Village Screen event at the Baths? That's tough! I think my favourite so far has definitely been Jurassic Park. It's not every day you can go to work, eat some ice cream and watch dinosaurs in the pool. It's such a classic, and adding the building to that made it pretty special. What’s your favourite film and cinema snack? I don't know if I have a favourite film, it really depends on my mood. I love Studio Ghibli and Howl's Moving Castle is one I always go back to, I’d love that castle. Snack-wise, Village Screen have so many incredible food vendors, but I do have a soft spot for Mama Sue’s. What film would you like to see us screen at the Baths and why? I think at some point or another we have all said we would love to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show - just for that swimming pool scene! We’ve also discussed how amazing it would be to have Jaws with a live orchestra. How amazing would that be?!