The Bird and the Elephant, is a film which celebrates the legacy of the iconic Coventry Sports & Leisure Centre, through an underwater performance; a swan song to the space.

Taking place during Coventry City of Culture, The Bird and the Elephant will be shown outdoors, at two Coventry city centre sites this November.

Shot at the Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre (CSLC) prior to its closure at the end of 2019, The Bird and the Elephant features ballet dancer William Moore performing an underwater choreographed dance inspired by the stories and memories of the Coventry Baths community.                                            

The film is created by three award-winning artists, who were brought up locally and learnt to swim in the CSLC pool, Artist/Director Emma Critchley, BAFTA-winning composer Edward Critchley and William Moore, principal ballet dancer at Ballett Zürich.

Envisaged as ‘a cathedral of swimming’, CSLC, also known as the elephant building, is a classic example of the radical brutalist architecture which defines so much of Coventry’s cityscape*. Opening  in 1966, it was one of the most ambitious swimming pools built in Britain. Like many leisure centres built in the post-war era, CSLC became a focal point for community events and a draw for locals of all ages who attended its regular sports and leisure get-togethers. The closure of the pool signifies what has become a wider trend among council run pools, which due to decaying buildings, cuts to public funding, and the growth of private pools attached to exclusive gyms and health clubs, are under threat, even before the impact of covid closures has taken effect. **

Filmed within the light-drenched waters for which the pool is known, The Bird and the Elephant responds to interviews with the community of users and workers, whose recollections form the basis of the film. The recordings were made by a team of volunteers, who through the project, were trained by the Oral History Society, and now form part of the Herbert Museum’s Coventry Archive. The final film is an ode to this unique architectural building, the quality of public spaces and the communities that form within their walls.

The film has also been selected to be shown in Mumbai, as part of the Coventry City of Culture ‘The Show Windows’ project – Co-produced in Partnership by Coventry City of Culture Trust, Coventry Business Improvement District and RIBA, funded by Arts Council England. The Show Windows: Mumbai is produced in partnership with TARQ and SqW:Lab. As part of the project The Bird and the Elephant will be featured on Smartify.

To accompany the film screenings in Coventry there will be a series of free dance workshops for young people aged 13 – 21 with ballet dancer Tom Rogers (Birmingham Royal Ballet) and an artist in conversation event with Heidi Saarinen (dancer and architecture academic, Coventry University) and Emma Critchley chaired by Anthony Luvera (artist & professor of photography, Coventry University.)

The Coventry Baths project was funded by Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Coventry City of Culture Trust and supported by the Oral History Society. The Coventry City screenings are presented in partnership with The Belgrade Theatre and Coventry University and part of Flatpack Festival’s CineCov programme supported by Coventry Business Improvement District.