New BBC R4 portrait of cult swimming author Charles Sprawson

17th January, 2019

A new BBC Radio 4 programme follows Charles Sprawson, author of the classic swimming memoir Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer As Hero, as he navigates a retirement home and advancing vascular dementia.

Searching For Swimming Pools features reflections from Charles and his family and friends, as well as archive recordings, to sketch a picture of swimming as a life’s work. As the programme notes describe: “even as he grows increasingly frail, he can still be found wandering the corridors looking for swimming pools, opening doors in the hope of finding shimmering water to plunge into”.

Charles Sprawson

Author Alex Preston appears in the programme, as a long-standing devotee of Charles’ work and having befriended him as a result. Alex, a keen outdoor swimmer, said: “It’s a beautiful piece of radio – a touching portrait of Charles Sprawson the man and the swimmer, a record of the profound mark his book – Haunts of the Black Masseur – has left on generations of readers, and a powerfully poignant study of the depredations of dementia.”

  • The programme will be broadcast on Radio 4, Monday 21 January from 8-8.30pm.