Making a Splash – TV and leisure come together

splash!As the hit ITV show SPLASH! is set to return to our screens this coming January, RAPs member James Rankin shares his experiences about what it was like working on the location. 

In January this year I was fortunate enough to be working at a new multi-sports complex which was chosen by ITV to host a brand new TV series. SPLASH! is a reality television series that follows celebrities as they try to master the art of diving. During the series the celebrities performed each week in front of a panel of judges and a live audience in the Olympic-size diving pool at Inspire Sports Village. The result each week was partly determined by public vote. Gabby Logan and Vernon Kay presented the show whilst Team GB Olympic Bronze Medalist Tom Daley was the mentor to the celebrities.  Launching earlier this year, the show certainly proved popular, averaging a weekly audience of 5.6m.

The key area that really struck me in the preparations for filming was the in-depth risk assessments that needed to be carried out. Part of the show involved a stunt crew performing a routine from the diving boards involving some quite daring manoeuvres, including a bicycle coming off the 10m board! The TV company spent several days installing lighting, sound equipment and also a stage which actually sat across the width of pool to provide prime audience seating. This added a new dimension when assessing lifeguard positions and number of staff needed .The stage lighting affected how easy it was to view the pool and the equipment meant standard lifeguard positions were not always practical. Safety had to be paramount and before each live episode there was a rehearsal to iron out any issues and any necessary changes were made. Staff also needed to cover night shifts to ensure lifeguards were available for the TV crews working overnight preparing the sets at poolside. This is quite unusual in the leisure industry as not may pools open for 24hrs.

The filming also had an impact on the rest of the centre as rooms were taken over for briefings, celebrity changing rooms and so on. This obviously caused some disruption to the day to day programme of the sports village and although the show was very popular and oversubscribed not all local residents were happy about the filming. This was mainly due to the two pools being out of use for three days on each weekend of filming. Some aqua sports clubs also had to make other arrangements.

Overall I feel the use of the pool for filming was a positive experience for both the centre and my town. However to benefit customer relations if future events are planned,  more consideration given to the local residents should be clearer, information of the timescales involved, and maybe priority tickets or an opportunity to meet the stars could be considered. However it was a good example of how sports and entertainment can work together.

About James

Having got into leisure through a part time lifeguard job in Bedfordshire, James then progressed to becoming a NPLQ TA. He qualified as a Level 2 swim teacher as well as gaining several other coaching qualifications in a variety of sports. Alongside his teaching James also has a solid knowledge of the legal and safety requirements needed to maintain high standards within the leisure industry and has undertaken Pool Plant operative courses as well as First Aid at work. Having qualified as a personal trainer, James is now setting up his own. In his spare time James enjoys many sports particularly wakeboarding and surfing.

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