An online photo gallery has been launched by WaterAid, celebrating the beauty of outdoor swimming.
The project features images by photographer Nikki McClarron taken at various locations across the UK, including Hackney’s London Fields and West Reservoir Centre.
Apart from its artistic merits, the gallery aims to raise awareness for WaterAid, whose aim is to provide clean water to people globally who do not have access to it.
WaterAid Events fundraising officer Lizzie Griffiths said: “We all have our own personal connections to water, and our new gallery, Reasons to Swim, celebrates the role it plays in the lives of swimmers across the UK.”
Audrey Livingston, 57, and Debbie Croydon, 60, are avid swimmers who are pictured in the series at West Reservoir Centre.
They are founding members of Soul Swimmers, a group dedicated to bringing together women from Black and Asian communities who share a love of wild swimming.
The pair were inspired to start the group following discussions over the course of the pandemic about issues such as Black Lives Matter, and noticed a lack of representation of Black and Asian women in sports such as swimming.
Livingston said: “I tend to swim to keep fit physically and mentally, open water cold swimming is great to still the mind. It is relaxing and gives you a sense of freedom that makes you forget where you are.”
Photos from London Fields Lido depict Laurie Firth, 38, who is taught by Henry Fincher, 39.
Firth said: “When the Lido reopened, I realised it was the community as much as the swimming that had been absent from my life.
“Swimming is such a bonding activity. Even if people are at very different levels in terms of strength and speed – just standing in the shallows or the showers and talking pre- or post-swim is as important as the swim itself.”
Fincher, who is a swim coach at the Lido, was able to teach virtually throughout the pandemic. He even found a way to practice from home by buying large paddling pools, tying himself to the end, and swimming on the spot.
“We were so grateful when open water venues reopened as it meant we could see friends and make new ones under that shared experience,” he said.
“I swim outdoor primarily for fitness, I’m fighting age I guess! It also helps clears my head, there is definitely a meditative aspect to it.”
WaterAid’s next event, Swim Marathon, encourages participants to swim a marathon or half-marathon over the course of 12 weeks in aid of the charity.
“We are so fortunate to have water available at the turn of a tap, yet one in 10 people around the world do not have clean drinking water close to home, impacting on their health, education and livelihoods,” explained Griffiths.
“By taking part in Swim Marathon this summer, you can help transform lives by bringing clean water to communities around the world.”
You can view the Reasons to Swim gallery here.