Lucy Meredith is currently a student on Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme in Leeds. Lucy set up ‘Yorkshire Life Aquatic‘ to promote health, well-being and positive body image. Yorkshire Life Aquatic uses creative performance to encourage people to use their local leisure facilities without feeling intimidated or embarrassed about wearing a swimming costume in public.
After getting my drama degree and working as a freelance actor as well as event management and publicity work it became clear that acting jobs were few a far between, so I decided to create my own projects and have since collaborated with many artists in the region.
The idea for Yorkshire Life Aquatic really came together after I took part in a Project called Northern Big Board a joint project by SlungLow and Chol theatre for which I did some synchronised swimming. I am an ex competitive synchronised swimmer and was part of the Sussex championship team in 1993 & 1994 before I came up to Yorkshire for University. After Northern Big Board I really wanted to start doing Synchro again but couldn’t find anywhere to train just for fun.
Bringing synchronised swimming onto dry land
I wrote a blog discussing the idea of doing a synchronised swimming on dry land, I got a reply from Dance artist and Choreographer Zoe Parker who had also had a similar idea. We decided to put our ideas together. Yorkshire Life Aquatic was created in early 2013 and since then we have had an incredibly productive and fun summer working on our first project ‘Million Dollar Mermaids’.
2013 included two artistic residencies with The West Yorkshire Playhouse and Barnsley Civic Theatre and performances at Beacons Festival, Barnsley Civic, Bramley Baths and Light Night. We were supported by The Arts Council, Leeds Inspired and Yorkshire Dance.
Over the summer we created our own performance style combining physical theatre and synchronised swimming techniques and inspired by Hollywood film stars like Esther Williams and the glamour of 50’s cinema and recruited a team of six mermaids to perform with us in and out of the water.
Sounds fun, but what’s the social benefit?
We use our work to help promote health and well-being as well as a positive body image. Creativity and performance is a great way to inspire people to exercise and make it fun. It is also important to us to encourage people to go swimming and use their local leisure facilities without feeling intimidated or embarrassed about wearing a swimming costume in public. From talking to peers and the public we discovered a lot of people felt intimidated so our aim is to help people to feel more comfortable and less self conscious.
Our vintage style ‘Mermaid Gala’ events were very well received by the public and we are currently putting together our programme for 2014 which includes running ‘mermaid exercise classes’ at Bramley Baths and performing at a number of festivals and community events in the region.
Our long term goals are to be able to collaborate with other organisations on bigger, more spectacular public outdoor events and widen the reach of our community classes. We are also developing a private events arm of the organisation running private mermaid classes for birthday parties to help the sustainability of the organisation.
I’m currently part of the Leeds cohort of Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme and I hope my time on the Programme will help me to hone my practical business skills and make sure Yorkshire Life Aquatic is a successful and sustainable venture for all involved.
Post by Lucy Meredith, Yorkshire Life Aquatic