What is the worst that can happen? This is partly how Parliament Hill Ice Swim Hootenanny (PHISH) was created, but mostly it was a result of like-minded swimming pals who loved cold water and the cool steel bottomed Parliament Hill Lido. Back in late 2013 when the hipster coffee shop was nothing more than a dusty room with old chairs in it, a small group of swimmers joined John Donald and Jeremy Irvine to discuss the idea of setting up an icy swimming event at the popular outdoor pool. There would be short sharp distances and an endurance swim for the bold.
There was a lot to organise, and it seemed ambitious that a 2014 event would take off, especially with Jeremy’s passion for detail and John’s laid-back approach. But it turns out the pair made a weirdly good combo, and with the help of some friends, invites went out for the first PHISH. Phil Hodges designed a logo, a website was created, and with Carl and Kate Ape’s experience from supporting a similar event at Tooting Lido things were looking good.
The first event brought together swimmers from all over, and many who swam that day have swam every event since. The same can be said for the volunteers, that small group that formed in that dusty room still pull together today, even if somewhat fractured. Familiar faces volunteer every year to welcome swimmers to the north London event, regular time keepers like Jeni Orme and Helen Liddle, repeat registration team members like Fiona Bettles and Compères Paul Smith and Paul O’Neil. The list is long but PHISH wouldn’t be where it is today without the regular help from experienced and organised swimmers like Emma Pusill, Sarah Tunnicliff, Claire Tuckett, Tom Reed, Oli Carrington and Matt Culverwell.
In 2015, John built and added a sauna to the PHISH set-up which offered a welcome warming area and became popular with daily swimmers at the Lido. So popular it was adapted and made bigger and operates in winter sessions today. In 2018, Jeremy built a giant hot tub too, which was surprisingly big and warm! Like many events in the last two years PHISH was hit by the pandemic, and after seven years PHISH 2021 was put on pause. But in 2022 it’s back with a new-look website courtesy of Dom Tinley, a new logo and a new race, as well as the old favourites and many returning swimmers and volunteers.
The team behind PHISH
John Donald & Jeremy Irvine
Supporters and Volunteers
Gary Scott Lloyd
Kate & Carl Ape
Vicky Ellson Smith
Wouter Van Staden
PHISH is a not-for-profit collective. Each year some of the proceeds are carried forward and the remainder is donated to a chosen charity. This event is for those who don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s about fellowship and the benefits of belonging.