Local Faces: Pool Trustees

  |  Published: Jul 1st 2016
the trustees
Brian, Caroline, Peter, Suna & Martin

If one thing unites the five Wendover Swimming trustees before they embarked on their project to save the pool, it was that none of them ever dreamed of doing such a thing.

“I became a lifeguard because I thought it would be a cool thing to do and also an invaluable skill, but I didn’t have time for anything more,” said Suna Kayakiran, a journalist and former foreign correspondent for The Times. “But when I heard it might close I had to stop it happening.”

The same was true of Peter Chaplin, a civil servant; Caroline Harrington, a partner at actuarial firm Barnett Waddingham; and Simon Haywood, a technology consultant – who is no longer a trustee but was central to the project. All were recently qualified lifeguards when changes to school funding led the John Colet to decide three years ago that it could no longer afford to run the pool.

“The pool is a great asset to Wendover. My family all love swimming. It’s incredibly hard to imagine anyone finding the land or money to build a community pool now,” said Peter.

They were soon joined by Metropolitan Police officer Brian Devereux and Martin Wilkinson, a former Marks & Spencer executive who now runs his own project management consultancy. Both volunteered when they heard about the plight of the pool where their children learned to swim.

Running the pool and in parallel negotiating the takeover, including the long-term lease, was hard work. Martin and Caroline contributed their business experience and became Secretary and Treasurer respectively. Brian and his team qualified as pool plant operators – a vital role in keeping the pool safe.

Suna looks after swimming schools and other hirers, which, together with the membership and casual swimmers, ensure the financial viability of the project. Peter became Chairman of Wendover Swimming -- which was set up as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, combining the benefits of being a company and a charity, in order to take on a long lease and seek grants for essential refurbishment.

The trustees have spent a lot of time getting their heads around the Health and Safety regulations. “We had some particularly daunting meetings with our lawyer regarding the responsibilities of being a Trustee,” said Martin. “But we all felt an obligation to continue the work of previous volunteers who ran the pool for many years.”

There have been some pretty incongruous moments of the sort that could only happen to volunteers with day jobs. Brian might be at the site of a car crash or policing a Hollywood film car chase, for instance, when he is called with a query about pool chemical levels.

The pool is dependent on volunteers, from lifeguards to rota managers. Suna, Peter and Caroline feel they became scourges of the school run as they tried to recruit friends, acquaintances, or anyone who dared to glance at them. But in the end, they all feel the struggle was worthwhile.

“An editor once told me: ‘what you’re doing is probably more valuable than any article any of us has written’, it really made me think,” says Suna. “And when lifeguarding one day, I saw an elderly lady delightedly take a baby in her arms to allow a young mother to swim a few lengths, I realized exactly why I was doing this.”

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