In 1930, Mercedes Gleitze performed an ‘endurance swim’ in Cork.
The pioneering swimmer was the first British woman to swim the English Channel and the first person to swim the Strait of Gibraltar. She also completed record-breaking endurance swims of up to 47 hours in public swimming pools.
Now Vanessa Daws, a visual artist and long-distance swimmer living in Dublin, is seeking local volunteers to help honour Gleitze’s memory during a series of large-scale live events and exhibitions in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Donaghadee, designed to retell parts of her incredible story.
“In 1930 Mercedes Gleitze performed an ‘Endurance Swim’ in Cork at the Eglinton Baths (since closed), where she swam for 30 hours continuously,” explains Daws.
“There were large crowds of spectators; some say 4,500 people visited the Eglinton Baths over that time. There was continuous music and entertainment on the pool deck, people would read to Mercedes as she swam, and she would sign autographs.”
The project, Swimming A Long Way Together, restages Mercedes’ pool swim as a relay event in Cork on Friday, October 1st and Saturday, October 2nd, 2021, with groups of swimmers taking to the pool at Midleton College for 30 hours, accompanied by a continuous, 30-hour performance programme at the poolside.
As darkness falls on Friday night, Ian Sexton will be playing hymns for swimmers on the piano, while on Saturday morning Macha Shewolf will be sharing her improvised performance, in sync with the surroundings, Caroline Sweeney Music & Deirdre O’Mahony will be telling stories accompanied by music; Ilse de Ziah Music will be playing dreamy watery improvisations on the cello and Ian Date will be playing jazz guitar.
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There are a few different ways to get involved in this event – as a performer, swimmer, or spectator. Swimming slots are available every 20 minutes throughout the event and depending on your ability and level of comfort you can swim for up to 60 minutes in the 16.5m outdoor (heated) swimming pool.
Swimming tickets are €5 (available here, with Spectator tickets available to book free of charge here) and half of all ticket sales will go to support the important work of Water Safety Ireland members in teaching swimming and lifesaving.
For more details visit swimmingalongwaytogether.com/cork.