Catching up with the writer-in-residence at Pells Pool

Rachel O'Brien talks to Tanya Shadrick, the first writer-in-residence at Lewes' Pells Pool.

Pictures: Steve Creffield Photography
Pictures: Steve Creffield Photography

Imagine, for a moment, swimming in an outdoor public pool. What might you expect? Perhaps, in summer, sun-warmed water and at busy times a buzz as pool-users take a relaxing dip or drill daily lengths.

Chances are, those using Pells Pool, Lewes, this season might also see Tanya Shadrick, knelt poolside over a low table wearing a headscarf and painting apron writing on a paper scroll.

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The writer and hospice life-story scribe is the first writer-in-residence at the Brook Street venue, an appointment its team believes to be among the first at a UK swimming pool or lido.

Pictures: Steve Creffield Photography

She took up the role when it opened for the summer in May and has been there nearly every day so far, averaging about four hours on weekdays and longer at weekends.

The main project of her residency is ‘Wild Patience: Laps in Longhand’, which will see her try to create a mile of writing on five scrolls – each the length of the 46-metre-long (150ft) lanes and with seven lines – by September 11, when the pool’s season finishes.

I first spoke to Tanya about her residency in late May and at the time she said it had been like having a lovely secret and now it was all coming out in the open.

Today, about a month later, we’ve met at her home in Lewes, where she lives with her husband Ceri and their nine-year-old son, Gwil, and seven-year-old daughter, Meg.

Pictures: Steve Creffield Photography

“It doesn’t normally look this tatty. It’s because when you get to the end of a roll it loses tension. Most of the time it looks really elegant,” she says, of the first string-bound, nearly complete scroll.

“It’s really important to me that I’m down low,” she adds on her writing process.

“Because it’s about working in a really ancient tradition, oriental actually, a sort of Eastern tradition – Japanese and Chinese but mainly Japanese – of being really humble.”

Tanya has also deliberately kept the project simple – for example all the paper, and extras, cost under £20.

“Everything about it is completely lo-fi. And that’s important, because, kind of what swimming can be, you can spend a lot of money on equipment but you don’t need to and I think writing is the same.”

Three years ago Tanya’s writing and swimming life developed at the pool, which is thought to be the oldest outdoor lido in the UK.

To read the full story on etc Magazine’s website, click here.