We are Nicola Foster and Jessica Walker, and we are the Lido Ladies.
We are two mid-life women who love to swim, especially in a Lido. We are advocates for outdoor swimming and for the accessibility and preservation of the pools that enable us and other swimmers to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of this sport. We are determined to bring back the joys of Lido swimming, injecting a wave of confidence into those who have lost it and serving as a reminder that we are never too old to make a change for the better. We want people to fall in love with Britain again, rediscovering the delights of a good staycation and reintroducing the community spirit, fun and culture (not to mention iconic art deco architecture) of our beloved Lidos, at a time when both travel and income are compromised for so many.
Jessica has a background in creative design and styling. A family tragedy left Jessica suffering from chronic anxiety until she found a way of managing her mental health through outdoor swimming and its healing properties. After years away, she returned to the pool and what started as a quick dip, became an essential daily meditation. Nicola swam competitively in her youth, but after living behind a corporate desk, reached a point where her joints began to creak. Following some encouragement and persuasion from Jessica, Nicola got back into the water and as the Lido warmed up, so did she. We have not looked back since –swimming and laughing in equal measure, resulting in a rejuvenation of both our physical and mental health.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
The Lido Ladies were born on Instagram. During the first UK lockdown when the Lidos were closed to the public, we created a fantasy Lido world, and entertained followers on Instagram with images that embraced the reto glamour of the golden years of Lidos. We did it with flowery hats, lipstick and panache. We did it for fun and to lift our spirits and those of our friends and social media followers. We talked as we walked to stay fit during lockdown, and we found creative inspiration in Poundland where we bought most of our props. We have followed a passion, not a plan. We love being the Lido Ladies. We can’t think of anything better!!
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
These last 12 months have been challenging for many people in many different ways. We have found not being able to swim though the lockdowns extremely challenging. This last lockdown has been particularly difficult given the time of year and the weather. Jessica, along with many other people, relies on swimming to manage her mental health and is finding this period a struggle. Nicola just needs to keep moving in order to get into her clothes and really misses the benefits of a daily 2K swim!
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Through positivity, frivolity and our various eccentricities, we have been able to engage the media and publicise our message. Our mission is simple: we want to encourage everyone, no matter what age, size or ability, to enjoy a swim for both their physical and mental wellbeing.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Having a passion for what we do and the sheer enjoyment of doing it.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Mentoring helps move people forward. It inspires and raises them up. In an unconventional way the Lido Ladies mentor each other. We have very different personalities and complementary skills. We have encouraged each other, challenged each other, supported each other and entertained each other. It is a powerful thing indeed when someone believes in you.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
We would encourage people to be curious about difference: to embrace it and value it. Obviously we’d also love to hear from all the men who would like to join us in a Lido swim wearing a flowery hat!
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Have the courage to do the thing you love. Dream bigger. Worry less.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
We have a passion for life, and Lidos, swimming and having fun. We want to continue to inspire others, especially women of our age, to move more, embrace themselves and reap the benefits of a quiet moment in a busy world. So ….. hold on to your flowery hats: we want to take the nation on an adventure and reignite the romance of the La Dolce Vita era and the joy of British waters!
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