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Staycation Spotlight: Pool is Cool

Photo from Pool is Cool

While the coronavirus pandemic has made traveling abroad difficult, there’s plenty of fun to be had right here in Brussels. Brussels Staycation, or StaycationBXL, is a series of initiatives designed to help Brussels residents make the most of their summer in the city.

Today’s spotlight is on Pool is Cool and their outdoor film screenings at FLOW.

The Brussels outdoor pool will be holding screenings of movies like The Shape of Water and Jaws at their facilities in collaboration with Cinema Galeries, a Brussels movie theater.

“The idea for this is linked to the motivation to make this Flow pool something bigger than just a pool – not just with the cinema, but with other cultural events held every Friday,” Paul Steinbrück, one of the coordinators of FLOW, told The Brussels Times.

“The pool is a public place, not just a pool. People can come here for different activities and interests.”

That’s more or less the pool’s mission: swimming with a social purpose.

Pool is Cool has involved of years of community activism from a diverse group of Brussels residents united by their love of outdoor swimming.

“We all grew up with outdoor swimming as being an everyday normal activity, and we realized when we came to Brussels how special that really was,” remembers Steinbrück, who is originally from Germany.

“Every larger city from Spain to Finland has outdoor pools, but there was nothing in Brussels. We decided we wanted to do something about it.”

Brussels did have open-air swimming pools until around the late 1970s, when they disappeared as the urban environment changed.

Previous efforts to bring back outdoor swimming were small-scale, said Steinbrück. In 2017, there was for instance a small swimming pool in the city centre and in 2019 Pool is Cool tested swimming in existing ponds, but efforts were largely around the idea of outdoor swimming, not the manifestation of it.

“Now with Flow in 2021, we’ve really managed to build a space with everything that belongs to an outdoor swimming pool: facilities, sun bathing areas, and obviously the pool itself.”

And soon, movies.

“We want to show there’s a value to combining different programs in a city like Brussels where everything is already very built and every new thing has to find its place in the existing fabric,” Steinbrück said.

“Mutualization and the combining of various organisations, efforts and physical spaces is something we want to explore and experiment with.”

In this case, the collaboration is between an outdoor pool and a movie theater.

Cinema Galeries chose the films, all of which are about water, though broadly so. They’re being screened for free.

There’s no need to bring a bathing suit if you’re just there to catch the film (it’ll be too cold to enjoy it comfortably from the water).

The swimming stops at 7:00 PM, and then the space is set up and the film begins.

“It’s about the atmosphere, being at this special place near the canal and watching the movies,” said Steinbrück.

Hopeful swimmers shouldn’t give up if booking a ticket to the outdoor pool is difficult this summer.

“We have a huge demand, much larger than the capacity of the pool. You can book for every slot 72 hours beforehand. The spots go quickly.”

Steinbrück is hoping the success (there are swimmers everyday, even when it’s raining) will serve as proof that Brussels needs more outdoor swimming spots.

“It’s really nice to see, and it really shows that there’s a big interest and need for this in places like Brussels. It’s a stimulus for authorities now to really put time and money and ambition into this.”

The pool is located in the Anderlecht neighbourhood, though its clientele is as diverse as the whole of Brussels.

“We’re super happy that we managed to realize a project that is both an attraction for people from all over Brussels – so you hear all kinds of languages in the water – but also very local in the neighbourhood of Anderlecht,” said Steinbrück.

“We have a lot of kids and youngsters and families from the neighborhood coming everyday. This mix is something very beautiful and shows the strength of swimming at a place and coming together regardless of class or background.”

Their Facebook page offers information in English, French and Dutch.

While originally scheduled to kick off last weekend, the screenings were postponed due to the expected poor weather (the pool itself remains open).

The screenings will now kick off on August 14 and air at various times throughout the rest of the month.

For more information about this project and others in the Brussels Staycation Series, visit the official website or check out our previous coverage.