Bathed in sunshine, an extraordinary performance of words, dance and swimming took place in Swanage on midsummer’s evening.
The SW!M event began in The Mowlem with women recounting the stories and experiences of those who brave the water all year round, before moving to Swanage beach where 50 women danced and swam in the sea to music.
The evening begun with In Our Own Words on The Mowlem stage
Lifeguard hut at 8 am
The idea was first conceived by keen Swanage sea swimmers Claire Hodgson and Deborah Paige, who are also both experienced theatre directors.
Claire is an artistic director and runs the theatre company Diverse City, while Deborah has in the past run the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and the Salisbury Playhouse, and is now the co-chair of The Mowlem trustees.
They met at the regular 8 am sea swimming sessions by the lifeguard hut on Swanage Beach and Deborah was struck by the conversations that she had while swimming with the group.
The words of the sea swimmers were voiced by 14 women
Celebrating women who swim in the sea
From there the idea to create a play developed and, not sure whether to have a show in the Mowlem or a performance on the beach, they decided to do both!
To a packed auditorium and a large gathering on the beach, the free performance that celebrates women who swim in the sea whatever the weather, took place from 6 pm on Tuesday 21st June 2022.
In Our Element was performed on the beach and in the sea by 50 local women swimmers
“The women did themselves proud”
After the event, Claire Hodgson said:
“I think everyone did really well – the women did themselves proud. It’s been brilliant weather and a lovely evening.
“It’s also been so amazing that the town turned out in such high numbers to watch – a real community event!”
The exhibition at The Mowlem by photographer Millie Haines, will transfer to Swanage Library
Photographic exhibition to move to the library
As well as the show, there is a photographic exhibition in The Mowlem, documenting the swimming group.
The images were taken by Swanage resident, Millie Haines, who combined her love of the sea with her passion for photography to produce the display.
The exhibition will now move to Swanage Library along with a recording of the words from the performance, so people can listen again to the stories and see the pictures.
The whole event was made possible by a £9,995 grant from the Arts Council’s Let’s Create Jubilee Fund and Dorset Community Foundation.
Watch clips from the performance
The town turned out to watch the performance