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News & Events / Brown Gal Can’t Swim: City Council helps BBC presenter to get South Asian women swimming

Brown Gal Can’t Swim: City Council helps BBC presenter to get South Asian women swimming

Oct 11 2022

Summaya (left) sat on the floor next to the edge of the pool. Alice Dearing, also sat down, is to her right.

Summaya Mughal (left) and Alice Dearing (right). Image: Charlie Firth

Nottingham-born BBC presenter Summaya Mughal has been learning to swim at Active Nottingham pools in a bid to encourage other South Asian women to take the plunge.

Active Nottingham, part of Nottingham City Council, has supported her during her journey which she starts sharing on air this week. Her five-part series looks into learning to swim at the age of 27 and explores why many South Asian women are less likely to swim.

In revealing that she couldn’t swim, Summaya exposed the cultural barriers that she faced and how it has affected her both physically and mentally. As part of this journey, Summaya has given other members of the South Asian community the confidence to take their first steps into swimming.

As a result of her campaign, Summaya was honoured at the Nottingham Awards 2022 last week for her work in the Voluntary and Community Sector. Meanwhile, Active Nottingham, Nottingham Swim School and the council’s school swimming department have been honoured at the recent Swim England Teaching and Education Awards.

The series titled ‘Brown Gal Can’t Swim’ sees Summaya learn to swim in just eight weeks at Active Nottingham swimming pools, supported by Nottingham Swim School swimming teacher Victoria Charles. Olympians Rebecca Adlington and Alice Dearing also provide support and guidance and set Summaya additional challenges including a 500m open water swim – will she do it? You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out.

Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, Cllr Pavlos Kotsonis, said: “We’re thrilled to be a part of this project with Summaya and the BBC to help raise awareness and showcase the importance of learning to swim within South Asian communities. This campaign will go a long way to help break down barriers that people face when it comes to swimwear, changing rooms, and going swimming itself and help get more communities involved in swimming.

“Active Nottingham and Nottingham Swim School are proud to have helped Summaya learn to swim over the past eight weeks and it was great to see her face the 500m open water challenge at Spring Lakes.

“Summaya has also worked with the black swimming association to challenge the lack of representation of black and Asian people in both recreational and elite swimming – she also engaged with Olympic swimmers Becky Adlington and Alice Dearing in her campaign, who both set her challenges for Summaya to complete.

Her work with diverse communities is second to none, both engaging and empowering!”

The Brown Gal Can’t Swim podcast is available on BBC Sounds: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/p0ctzgft It will also be broadcast as a series on BBC East Midlands Today from Tuesday 11 October 2022.

Summaya at Southglade Leisure Centre. Image: Charlie Firth