Glasgow mothers and grannies enjoying a seaweed hula dance on the beach at Seton Sands

Our relationship to the Scottish seaside is shifting. Many of us chose to visit this year instead of journeying to warmer climes, igniting memories of holidays past – when a trip to the beach was often a rather bracing affair!

Lockdown has reconnected many with open air swimming and holidays closer to home. You may have seen news stories of people using rivers, lakes and of course the sea for wild swimming during this time.

Now, a collaborative project has emerged from the waves from See Think Make and designers getMade. Splash Back will be using our Scran archive resources to connect whispers of stories from our seaside’s past to our own memories and present relationship.

Let’s plunge right in!

Share your Scottish seaside stories

Unlike a Caribbean holiday, no one visits the Scottish seaside and expects perfection. It’s more about fun mixed with adversity; laughter combined with bracingly cold waters where only the brave venture.

Splash Back is a creative exploration of our relationship with the Scottish seaside and swimming in the sea. The project will look at the rich heritage of our beaches, bringing archive images to life.

A woman and a boy stand in the sea, probably along the Clyde, in Renfrewshire in around 1900.

A woman and a boy stand in the sea, probably along the Clyde, in Renfrewshire in around 1900. © National Museums Scotland, licensed by Scran

Scotland has a well documented history of every aspect of sea swimming. From paddling to the numerous Lidos and Bathing Stations, and the Victorian Bathing Machines that allowed the upper classes to plunge into the restorative waters, whilst keeping their dignity.

Our animation is the launch of Splash Back. We’re now inviting you to share your memories of the seaside past, and conjure up ways we can truly reconnect with our beaches and shores, especially in these strange Covid times.

You can share your thoughts with @seethinkmakeart on Twitter.

Splash Back and the Marvellous Magical Bathing Machine

Splash Back will grow next summer with an ingenious Heath Robinson modern reconstruction of a Victorian bathing machine. It will trundle over beaches and open its doors to reveal an exhibition, sharing stories of salt watery times past from the 18th century onwards.

The Marvellous Magical Bathing Machine will also be a receptacle for memories, a living archive. We’ll be using it to capture tales and ideas in real time, right next to the sea.

Complete with lively hosts dressed in vintage swimming gear, and prone to occasional outbursts of synchronised swimming flash-mob dancing, the Bathing Machine will be an extraordinary sight. It will reflect that little bit of magic the seaside is so connected with. There one day and gone the next…

Horse carrying people in swimming costumes hauls a bathing-hut along the sand to the sea

A horse called Miss pulls a bath hut along the sand whilst giving some swimmers a ride. © Hulton Getty, licensed by Scran

And finally, Splash Back will culminate in a spectacle. We’ll bring these gathered stories together into a special performance piece combining lights, sound, video and animation.

Our seaside is for everyone. Now more than ever it’s time to reconnect and reimagine the places that are important to us – building on past laughter, shrieking and downright chilliness that echo through time.


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Guest Blog

From time to time we have guest posts from partners, visitors and friends of Historic Environment Scotland.