Do you think Cally Pool is a filthy dump? Do we deserve better?

Olympic Swimming Pool Fast Lane Category:Outdo...

Changing Times? Does Kings Cross, a place soon populated by tens of thousands of residents, with several hundred thousand residents in the wider area deserve more adequate and better managed sport and leisure facilities than Cally Pool, such as an Olympic sized (50m length) swimming pool? Category:Outdoor_swimming_pools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cally pool may be popular amongst some, but the swimming pool has probably seen better days:  The changing rooms have permanent stained puddles, the facilities are beyond yesteryear, and who dares to use the toilets or send your child to them?  This in the middle of Islington, a borough that is relatively affluent and usually known for high standards in many things.

Whilst many say swimming-lessons for children are excellent here, not much else will keep one’s spirits up.  Even the entrance-fee is higher than in neighbouring Camden pools.  Whilst the building is old, the problem appears to be managerial.

Aquaterra, Cally Pools managing company,  has a policy of using staff such as life guards to clean the facility. That cleaning is not a priority job is obvious.  Best example teaches that pools require  dedicated permanent cleaners who clean non-stop,  and  who are not occupied with the thought of rather teaching or following life guard duties.

Cally pool has a high volume of users, including many school-children, who all have to change in relatively cramped changing rooms  (which are getting dirty and unhygienic fast).  It should be obvious that staying abreast of cleanliness continuously must be an an essential priority.  But it is not.

It is interesting to note that on Aquaterra’s Islington website one reads about Cally Pool, a pool that originally opened in 1895:

Inadequate changing facilities led to the building being completely replaced by a modern facility …. as the Cally Pool.(emphasis added)

Well, they appear to be inadequate again.  And as I found out in Archway Pool, which is also managed for Islington Council by Aquaterra, it is not much better there, due to the same policy of using life guards as cleaners.  Whilst I witnessed good cleaning, when it was done, it was not carried out, nor could it be carried out continuously, due to the other duties of staff.  High tide to recruit some on-site cleaners, Aquaterra.

But there is a second question here.  Perhaps it is also time for councils to think of building new modern pools in this area.  Kings Cross could have been and still is a potentially brilliant location for a joint venture between Camden Council and Islington Council to construct a new state of the art sport and leisure facility.  The Kings Cross Railway site would have been well suited and spacey enough for even an Olympic sized pool if not several pools and other facilities.  Given the many thousands of new residents it would make logistic sense.

But until such utopian hopes become established (one wonders though why it was not thought of so far), let’s admonish Aquaterra to mop those floors with Olympic rigour and several times each hour, for one thing is sure. With the newly built properties in Kings Cross quickly being populated, Cally Pool can only get busier.  Whether hygiene in the facility will further drop through predictable proportionality remains to be seen.


(Note. A heading without supporting text appeared earlier, followed by a draft copy, due to software application issues.  Apologies for the problems. We are aware what caused this now.)

About Daniel Zylbersztajn

Daniel Zylbersztajn, is since 2012 correspondent to the German independent left of centre daily newspaper taz, die Tageszeitung and Jüdische Allgemeine, and a Pilates Teacher. Born in Germany but also raised in Holland and Israel, he is a long term resident of London Kings Cross (first in 1991), involved parent, local and social activist, and positive lifestyle advocate. He also held posts in research, and conflict work, a.o. for the Palestinian - Israeli peace village Wahat al Salam ~ Neve Shalom. He holds a BA in history and politics from SOAS and two Master degrees, in Urban Sociology (Goldsmiths) and Sports Coaching (Brunel). He is founding and committee member of Coram's Fields User Group, the parent and community voice of Central London's biggest and oldest children playground and was its first spokesperson and chair. Daniel tweets under @zylbersztajn
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14 Responses to Do you think Cally Pool is a filthy dump? Do we deserve better?

  1. Andrew says:

    I understand there are plans to put two pools in the new Camden offices in King’s Cross, not sure of the sizes…
    http://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/council-and-democracy/camden-plan/strategies-and-partnerships/new-building-at-pancras-square/

    My family are frequent users of the Cally Pool (once or twice a week including lessons), and I have to say, unfortunately, it is the worst facility I have used. The poor quality of the facility for me is beaten by the convenience which is why we still use it.

    I have found the staff to be good.

    I have used the Camden pool at Swiss Cottage which is great – but much further away.

    To be honest, I can’t wait until the new Camden one opens – it is a bit further away, and if it lives up to the early press we will use that and not Cally Pool.

  2. I was going to say the same thing – there already is a plan for a new leisure centre at King’s Cross. As long as it is available to local residents (of either Borough) and remains affordable, and doesn’t just become a money-spinner for Camden for commuters and office workers.

    • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

      Dear Joe and Andrew thank you. Camden’s Website does not specify a lot of details, but speaks of two pools, without stating their size. If they are 25 Meter pools, given the immense size of the Kings Cross Development site, would be a poor and shameful state of affairs and bad deal for residents. Given the size of the land, we ought to press for a class 1 triple A 50 meter pool, which is not just a need on grounds of the state of Callypool, as stated, but also something that is an obscene rarity in central London, with so many interested people and businesses being based here. It also makes sense on ground of the 2012 legacy (and possibly may attract additional funding in such terms), and to assist our young and old not only to be physically active, but to reach their maximum potential. Given that we do not have vast forests and fields to run and walk about, or space for a track and field facility, a good 50 meter pool (and associated fun and learning pools) is not too much to ask for. I also made the Islington / Camden collaboration point deliberately. There is no reason why, if it yields a bigger and better centre for all, the two could not collaborate here in Kings Cross, where there has already been some cross borough work. In the mean time however, the message be received by Aquarerra to get their act together at Cally Pool.

      • Andrew L says:

        At the risk of aggravating those who don’t like more development – there is an opportunity to renovate and pay for the renovations with apartments….however I understand this was very controversial when Camden did it for the Swiss Cottage facility (from what I have read).

  3. Aroon says:

    if you think the pool area and changing rooms are bad you should see the steam bath/sauna area. Have been once and never returning. I wrote to Aquaterra earlier in the year about the state of the facility given that Ironmonger row baths has had a recent facelift and looks very good. They stated that as they are a charity they do not have the funds to pay for renovations, which I think were last done 30 years ago! Given how fast the prices have been increasing at Cally Pool, at least some of this should be put aside for repairs.

  4. By co-incidence, Islington Council is poised to announce a £350,000 upgrade to the facilities at Cally Pool. The Council has successfully raised £250,000 in lottery sports funding and is matching it with £100,000 of the Council’s own rather scarce capital funds. The work will start just before Christmas and is subject to consultation with users, especially the organised swimming clubs.

    My wife and I take our kids to lessons each week at Cally Pool and we all enjoy swimming there. The staff are good, friendly people who are very aware of the building’s limitations. However, the experience for swimmers is not that great especially if contrasted with two other Islington pools, Highbury or the fantastic renewed facility at Ironmonger Row. I personally think the Cally deserves better.

    I believe it is perfectly possible to provide a good standard of service even at a dilapidating facility although, in fairness, it is harder and possibly more expensive to do so. Islington Council is currently re-tendering the entire leisure contract and service quality will be one of the fundamental criteria in awarding that contract. But with the £350,000 investment in place, there is no reason why Cally Pool cannot match the standards achieved in other Islington (or even Camden) pools.

    Building a new swimming pool is expensive though. Ironmonger Row Baths, for example, cost just over £16m although costs were rather high because it involved refurbishing a heritage building (see http://www.islington.gov.uk/involved/consultation-engagement/consultationresults/Pages/irb.aspx). We live in very straightened times and there is scarce access to fresh capital investment for a Council like Islington.

    Camden Council is able to offer a new pool because it is taking advantage of the Argent Kings Cross redevelopment and is moving into a new building which will also house a great deal of their current Town Hall offices and staff. And by moving out of its Argyll Street location, Camden triggers a big capital receipt to help finance the new building.

  5. Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

    Many Thanks for that Paul. I also think that age does not mean service must be not good enough. That Islington will raise money to renovate Callypool and seeks new interested parties of the management contract is great news.

    • Ken Blair says:

      Now that Paul has got his way and is getting the current management out, will be very interesting to see it will have an impact on Cally Pool.

  6. Aquaterra prides itself on providing a high standard of customer service and satisfaction which was demonstrated by excellent ratings in a recent independent external customer research survey.

    We are very sorry to hear that some customers have reported a disappointing experience as we are passionate about providing a clean, safe and hygienic environment for all our customers. Our cleaning teams consist of dedicated, permanent cleaning staff who are supported by lifeguards. We are also in the process of trialling new additional contract cleaners to enhance the service.

    We are looking forward to the forthcoming building improvements that will modernise this much loved facility.

  7. Pingback: Only tiny new swimming-pool for vast area of Kings Cross | Kings Cross Environment

  8. Aroon says:

    Talking about customer service, does anyone here know why Cally pool shuts at 4.30pm on weekends?
    Surely this in itself is terrible given that most families can only swim together at weekends. Contrast this with Ironmongers or Huighbiry which close at 6 or 7pm.

  9. bine says:

    The stuffs are not that much good specially the recipients they don’t knnow what they doing and they are not treat the people equally

  10. AD says:

    1) new the changing rooms are nice but not kept clean. floors are usually quite dirty now. Also the showers barely work now, water just trickles out.
    2) they need to stay open longer at weekends – 4.30pm is the earliest of all the borough swimming pools. why is this?
    3) the baby pool steps area is quite filthy/mouldy.

    very big contrast to say Highbury pool. I do think the staff are friendly though.

  11. I use the Cally Pool regularly. Some of the lifeguards are a bit odd (one of them keeps asking me if am “all right”, why do they do that, have I got three heads or something?) but apart from that it is fine. The swimming instructors are delightful, they always stop for a chat. I agree about the hygiene, but appreciate the new changing facilities which mean that virtually adult boys are no longer gawping at women changing in the women’s facility. The floors are dirty though and the machine for making people wearing outdoor clothing to put on overshoes is just inside the pool area, when it should be much further back. I got a foot infection from the Cally Pool which took ages to clear up, and only by taking powerful antibiotics. I therefore wear beach flipflops all the time now in the pool area.

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