A clubhouse used by generations of swimmers is being transformed as part of the regeneration of Whitley Bay’s coastline.
The building used by Panama Swimming Club, which is believed to have stood on Whitley Bay’s Northern Promenade since the 1930s, will be adorned with a large wrap featuring images of current club members.
It follows the completion of North Tyneside Council’s project to restore Spanish City with the iconic building reopened last month (July).
The clubhouse artwork is part of the council’s revamp of the promenade, which has included new surfacing, shelters, railings, lighting and seating, and complements the other improvements taking place along the coast.
The initiative came about after a cutting-edge design collective was appointed by the authority to come up with ideas to fit alongside the changes.
The consortium, which is made up of xsite architecture, designer-engineers Raskl and design and branding experts Electrik Sheep Design, drew up the proposals for the artwork and worked closely with the authority and the swimming club to make it a reality.
Dan Rose, Owner at Raskl, explained: “Ever since securing the commission from the council we have been working on some ideas for the Northern Promenade and this was the one we decided to pursue.
“It’s a great way of converting a building that people see all the time, and has perhaps seen better days, into something that celebrates it and those who use it.
“The club is really well-known and the building is a charming element on the promenade which we think is worth celebrating.”
The artwork will be installed on the top half of the building and will be fixed all the way around for everyone passing by to see.
The swimming club, which was founded in around 1930, features a diverse membership ranging from 30 to 90 years old.
Members were invited to a photo shoot and a shortlist was drawn up to represent the diverse age range before the final images for the 2.3m high wrap were chosen.
Dan added: “We do a lot of work behind closed doors so it’s really exciting to do something that will be very much in the public eye.
“It has also been very interesting, and rewarding, working with the club – we make friends not clients and we think they appreciated our enthusiasm.
“All of us involved in the consortium have fond memories of visiting Whitley Bay for years and years and it’s great to have the opportunity to be part of the improvements taking place and it feels special to be trusted with something so important to local people.”
Alison Glennie, Committee Member, Panama Swimming Club, said: “We were delighted when North Tyneside Council agreed to arrange for an art project to be displayed on our swimming club.
“We had several meetings with the artists and agreed with them that photos of our members, showing a broad spectrum of who we are, would be the best subject to display.
“We had photo shoots on the beach in November when it was pretty chilly and further meetings to decide on which photos to include and how they should be displayed. The artists listened to our suggestions and incorporated our latest logo and reworking of our badge, as designed by Sue Hufton, one of our swimmers, into the new gate.
“We are very excited about the forthcoming art project and think it will help our clubhouse to become a visually interesting part of the new promenade.”
North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn CBE said: “We have worked closely with the design consortium and the swimming club and it is great to see a unique and distinctive piece of art which will give the clubhouse a much-needed fresh, new look.
“This is another great community-based organisation run by volunteers who do a lot of good work in promoting health and wellbeing. We have listened to them and I am delighted that the members will be the main feature of the artwork and it is great to see them recognised in this way.
“I know residents and visitors have been impressed with all the changes that have been made to the promenade so far and along the wider seafront.
“We are proud of our coastal regeneration work and this is such an exciting time for Whitley Bay following the work to transform Central Lower Promenade and Northern Promenade and of course the hugely-anticipated reopening of the iconic Spanish City, which is proving a huge success and has wowed everyone.
“There is also plenty more to look forward to with our housing developments taking shape on the coast as well as our future plans for St Mary’s Lighthouse.”
It is all part of North Tyneside Council’s £36m Seafront Master Plan to breathe new life into the coast between St Mary’s Island and Cullercoats Bay.
Find out more about coastal regeneration here and keep up-to-date with the latest progress on Facebook.
Club’s appeal for memories
The Panama Swimming Club committee is keen to hear from anyone with memories of the club – whether their own or members of their family.
The club is attempting to put together its history and currently, despite the fact that it’s believed the club has been going strong since the 1930s, information about its past members and events etc. is surprisingly sparse.
Any information, snippets of history – no matter how small – would be gratefully received.
Anyone who could help can contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org or (0191) 252 9713. Alternatively you can call in at one of the club meets on Tuesday, Friday or Sunday at 11am.