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Anaconda’s big plans for swimming in Islington

PUBLISHED: 15:25 27 September 2017

Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: John Donovan

Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: John Donovan

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As new chairman of Islington’s main swimming club, Andy Iwaniec has big ambitions. From a new pool to a more representative membership, he discusses his future plans with the Gazette.

Andy Iwaniec, chairman of Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club, is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: Polly HancockAndy Iwaniec, chairman of Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club, is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: Polly Hancock

Andy Iwaniec has big plans for Anaconda Swimming Club.

He became chairman of Islington’s sole competitive swimming club in July. In last week’s Gazette, he announced an ambitious last-ditch campaign to build a new eight-lane pool on the Holloway Prison site.

But Andy explains that while greater capacity is essential (club sessions are currently split between five small pools across the borough), the club’s membership also needs to offer a more accurate reflection of Islington.

Andy, 51, who has been associated with the club since his daughter started swimming lessons five years ago, says: “My vision is exploring how to build on this club’s fantastic spirit.

“We need to draw more people from the wider community. I don’t think it truly reflects Islington. A lot of our children have parents who can drive them to swimming sessions, but I also think there are people we are missing out on.

“We need greater capacity, and the Holloway campaign is part of that. But the main thing is to maintain that spirit.

“My early thoughts are to increase efficiency. The club has doubled in size over the past four years, so I think there’s a lot of nitty gritty things we need to focus on, like communication with parents and organisation.”

Nationally, only 30 per cent of children are said to reach a competent swimming level. And with pool space limited in a small borough which happens to be the most densely populated in the UK, he believes Anaconda plays a huge part Islington life.

Andy, of Canonbury, says: “When you think about life skills, swimming is something that might save your life one day. We have 535 children on our books, so I think we make a significant contribution to Islington.

“I’ve had conversations with one or two Islington headteachers and they struggle for pool time, so I guess Anaconda help compensates for what schools are unable to do with swimming. We are helping a good chunk of children reach a competent level.

“There’s a real sense of community within the club. People always say they are attracted to its family spirit. And with kids, you can wonder what they’d be doing if they weren’t with us? We’re almost a pseudo youth club.”

For more information about the club, visit anacondaswimmingclub.org.uk

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