Swanage’s swimmers take second dip into theatre performance

After the sell out show of SW!M in 2022 – a combination of storytelling on the stage followed by dancing and swimming in Swanage Bay – the all-female group is back at The Mowlem for SW!M TOO.

This time it will all be happening in the theatre with a large screen premiere of the film of last year’s event called SWIM CLUB, alongside a new selection of stories from the women who swim in the sea at Swanage on a regular basis.

SW!M performance on Swanage Beach
LIz Craig

In June 2022 the women sea swimmers first took to the stage and then headed down to the sea to continue their performance

New wave of women taking part

The performance of SW!M TOO from 7 pm on Wednesday 21st June 2023 will include a new wave of women who have taken up swimming in Swanage Bay as a result of the original 2022 show and through word of mouth.

The numbers taking early morning dips have now increased, which the group partly puts down to its inclusivity.

Those taking to the stage include mums, grandmas, aunties and friends, with many familiar Swanage faces.

The stories feature conversations between the new swimmers and the regulars, with a splash of music and dancing thrown in.

SW!M show at The Mowlem
The Mowlem

For the original show, the evening sun shone down on the performers

Deborah Paige and Claire Hodgeson on Swanage Beach

Co-artistic directors, Deborah Paige (left) and Claire Hodgson (right) first met when they joined the morning swim group and the idea for a show grew from there

“Friendship, strength and the power to change their lives”

SW!M TOO director Deborah Paige, and trustee at The Mowlem said:

“I know from personal experience that many women have gained friendship, strength and the power to change their lives through forming a relationship with the Swanage swimming community. In turn, they themselves have become role models.

“Through telling their stories, SW!M TOO aims to celebrate the positive effect this has had on individual swimmers, their families, and the wider community.”

There’ll also be a question and answer session with the original co-artistic directors of the original SW!M performance, Deborah Paige and Claire Hodgson, alongside the director of the film SWIM CLUB Steven Lake.

Rehearsal of SW!M on Swanage Beach

Steven Lake films the rehearsals in 2022 on the beach

The SW!M show at The Mowlem
The Mowlem

Plenty turned up to see the show on the night

Evocative and at times quite moving

The short film documents the women meeting up in the early morning for a swim in Swanage Bay and follows them as they prepare for the show.

It’s very evocative and at times quite moving, as stories are told that reveal more about their lives.

Steven Lake, who’s originally from Wareham, said:

“My work takes me all over and never did I imagine I’d get to return to Purbeck where I grew up to make such a special and considered film.

“The Swanage seaside holds such an important place in my heart, blending this nostalgia with my fierce love of swimming in the elements, Swim Club was a dream come true to create.”

Wild swimming in the sea in Swanage
Millie Haines

Photographs of the swimmers by Millie Haines were displayed in The Mowlem foyer

SW!M performance in The Mowlem

For SW!M TOO all the action will be on the stage, with new stories to tell

“Accessible to everyone”

The original SW!M show in June 2022 was a collaboration between The Mowlem and the theatre company Diverse City.

It was financially backed by the Arts Council as part of the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which also allowed the group to commission a series of photographs by local photographer Millie Haines, as well as the short film by Steven Lake.

Co-artistic director of SW!M and founder of Diverse City, Claire Hodgson said:

“The ground-breaking way that British Sign Language and captions have been embedded into the film, together with optional audio description, demonstrates our determination to be inclusive, particularly for those visually impaired, deaf and hearing impaired. We want to make films that are accessible to everyone.”

swimmers on Swanage beach

The seed for the show was planted when a group of women started meeting up for morning swims in Swanage Bay and got chatting…

Guest appearance from Allsort’d Choir

As if the evening wasn’t packed enough, there’ll be a guest appearance from the Swanage-based choir Allsort’d. They’ll also be providing signing throughout the live performance to assist the hearing-impaired.

The Showbar at The Mowlem will be open for the evening, invariably well-stocked with gin and sauvignon blanc.

Further information

  • Tickets, which are priced at £7 each, are available to book via The Mowlem box office or online

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