Brown Gal Can’t Swim: City Council helps BBC presenter to get South Asian women swimming
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.
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 as well as empowering!”
Jayne, a regular at Southglade Leisure Centre, recently completed a thirty-length swim in aid of the Stroke Association – a feat that few healthy individuals could complete. Yet, Jayne recently suffered a life-changing stroke, leaving her with limited mobility and a long road to recovery. Enter the Swim for Health sessions, where Jenna (one of our swimming instructors) worked closely with Jayne to help in her rehabilitation – working to regain her strength as well as independence.
I arrived at Southglade on November 11th 2019 to interview Jayne. The atmosphere in the Leisure Centre was beautiful – friends and family had gathered together in support. They cheered and clapped as Jayne tackled length after length, and by the final lap, there were definitely a few watery eyes.
After the swim there were posters and banners carefully hung on the walls, and there were biscuits and coffee cups placed upon tables. People were smiling and laughing – excitedly chattering about how well Jayne had done. You could almost smell the sheer adoration and pride in the air. Sally, one of Jayne’s physiotherapists, smiled as she told me, “Swimming has been a game-changer for Jayne. After her stroke she initially found walking very difficult. She even found sitting up very difficult – she was having to be hoisted – so what she’s achieved is incredible. She lacks confidence in walking on dry land, but in the water, she says she feels free. Swimming has had huge benefits for her confidence, generally. And she’s able to get fit and exercise in water in a way that she can’t on land.”
You could tell that Jayne’s swimming instructor, Jenna, was extremely fond of her too. They would poke fun at each other and make jokes in a way that reminded me of a mother-daughter relationship. When I spoke to Jenna, she couldn’t sing Jayne’s praises enough:
“When we first met her, she couldn’t hold herself in the water – she needed three people to support her body and to keep her steady so that her face wasn’t going under. But she’s made an amazing improvement – she is fantastic. She’s done thirty-one lengths today! She did about three in her first session. It’s great. It’s great to see people grow and change and get help in recovering. Jayne’s part of the family now.”
Jenna then went on to say the same as Sally – that swimming has been paramount for Jayne and that it makes her feel free. She started laughing and also told me that Jayne enjoys a natter in the sauna with fellow Southglade-goers after her sessions.
Jayne’s husband Clive was around for moral support, too. You could clearly see his adoration for her and it was clear that Jayne’s rehabilitation journey had been a team effort between her, Clive and the lovely staff at Southglade.
When interviewing Jayne herself, it was heart-warming to see her talk about the centre with such joy. Read her interview below:
What would you say to anyone else who has had a major health problem? What would be your encouraging words?
Swimming! Try it! Have a goal and do it! It helps – my pain’s gone and my heavy body is gone. It makes me feel fabulous and free.
What made you do the sponsored swim today?
I wanted to help people raise money to help the people who helped me.
When you saw everyone here today, how did you feel?
Now that you’ve finished the swim, how do you feel?
Good… amazing! It was hard work though! I did thirty-one lengths and the maximum amount I’ve done before is sixteen.
A to Z of Nottingham Swim School
Ever wondered why swimming is regarded as one of the most beneficial activities for young people?
Look no further than our A–Z of Nottingham Swim School to understand why.
Active – Children that are active are happier, healthier and more able to learn. Increased activity is essential for a child’s development. Butterfly stroke – They’ll learn the skills to swim this more complicated of strokes during their lessons. Competitiveness – Swimming is great for developing positive competitiveness as each child strives to achieve the next badge or move through the stages. If they join a swimming club, they’ll experience competitive teamwork too. Diving – Knowing how to safely launch yourself headfirst into water is a skill taught during swimming lessons. Energy – Swimming builds your child’s muscles and lung capacity, giving them more energy to achieve. Free stuff – All Nottingham Swim School members receive free access to all of our public swim sessions across the city! They also get a swim hat on joining and at each new stage reached too!
Graduation – As each skill is perfected your child will graduate, receiving badges, medals and certificates of achievement. Health – Swimming is great for your child’s heart and circulation, providing natural, low-impact resistance to build muscle and release those happy endorphins. Intelligence – Holding your breath can reportedly increase intelligence levels as swimming is the best exercise for building lung capacity, which improves the ability to take in more information. Joints – The natural support and resistance provided by water means swimming is a fantastic activity for developing strong joints. Kick – Each swim stroke has a different style of kick, and your child will master them all by the time they reach Stages 8-10 of our Swim School. Lifesaving – Being able to swim is a real life saver and after all the key skills have been achieved your child can train to become a rookie lifeguard too. Motivation – Motivational instructors will ensure your child gets the best from their weekly lessons. No equipment necessary – Apart from a swimsuit, there’s no expensive equipment needed to swim.
Open to all – Some of our pools offer specialist sessions for children with a disability or additional needs. Some also host lessons for older children and adults. Portal – With our Swim School portal you can track your child’s progress and move class when they’re ready. Quality time – Whether you’re in a pool or by the seaside, swimming is a great opportunity for parents and children to bond, sharing quality time in otherwise busy lives. Related sports – Being able to swim gives opportunities to try other sports like water polo, surfing, competitive diving or even triathlon. Safety – Safety is an essential part of learning to swim and your child learns to be aware of hazards in and around water. Training – To become a competent or advanced swimmer, training is essential, providing your child with a routine to follow that will set them up for life. Underwater skills – Between stages 8 and 10 children learn underwater skills like synchronised swimming. Vitality – Swimming’s benefits for physical and mental well-being mean your child with have more vitality and vigour. Weight – Water is around 800 times denser than air, so your child will burn more calories, keeping your child at a healthy weight. X-Factor – Swimming is such a great sport for health, well-being, social skills and mental attitude, your child will develop the X-Factor to help in all aspects of their life. Year-round activity – Come rain or shine, winter or spring, swimming can be enjoyed at any time. Zzz – Swimming uses huge amounts of energy, so your child will sleep better after exercising.
Meet Glyn: “Swimming makes me determined to do more”
From doing no exercise to attending multiple Swim for Health sessions a week, Glyn has come a long way in a short space of time!
Glyn, who has Cerebral Palsy and Minor Autism and uses a wheelchair, has seen a remarkable improvement in his mobility and strength as well as a vast improvement in his mental health. He enjoys being able to get out of the house while doing something different.
Since finding out about Swim for Health, Glyn, aged 25 from Sherwood, has started swimming multiple times a week at different Swim for Health sessions.
“I started swimming mid-late summer 2018 after Dad & Rikki realised that there were Swim for Health sessions that would be great for me. I went from no swimming, to attending one session a week, to swimming constantly.
Obviously I really enjoy getting my body working. The physical benefits are really important but so are the benefits to my own well-being. I moan if we’re late for swimming or if life gets in the way of going! The sessions get me out of the house and doing something different.
I can now walk in and out of the pool rather than using the hoist. I’m also able to walk (aided, slightly) to and from the car, which I wasn’t able to do before! I’ve started sleeping better too, which gives me loads more energy! I have more strength in my upper and lower body which definitely makes doing things easier.
During the session I feel really happy and it makes me feel strong knowing that I’m actually able to do it. I get really stressed if I can’t come – swimming makes me determined to do more!
Having support is very important; swimming wouldn’t have been possible without my family to bring me here and support me in the pool.
The Poolside Helpers are also really important to me. Without Sharon I would never have reached 1,000m and without Ruth I would have never achieved my 1,500m. I would say the pool helpers are all very considerate and helpful, and super friendly and without them I wouldn’t have achieved what I’ve achieved!
To other disabled people who are thinking about being more active and taking up some form of exercise/sport but are not sure, I would say think about what you want to do first and just do it to the best of your ability. Find something you enjoy and take it at your own pace!”
To take a look at the Swim for Health Sessions and decide whether it’s for you, click to view the leaflet below.