20th June, 2019

Inspired by the people she swims with, theatre-maker and actress Liz Richardson has written a play called ‘SWIM’ that centres on a small community of swimmers and how conversations open up and alright is alright, for as long as you are in the water. It premieres in Manchester on 9th July and is supported by OSS in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Go see it! 

So what brought you to create SWIM?:

SWIM is the successor to my first show, Gutted. Gutted was a comedy, of sorts, about my journey with Ulcerative Colitis and a child I had on the way. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I graduated from acting school, and what followed was a five year battle with the illness, going in and out of hospitals. I grew up fell-walking, climbing and swimming in the Lake District, but during my illness my lifestyle and inability to get outdoors and do everything I loved doing was limited.

In the end I had an operation to remove my colon and give me a better quality of life… my next battle to win was swimming with an ileostomy bag! (which I soon overcame). I got myself a copy of Kate Rew’s Wild Swim when it was first published and that help me slide back into the water. When my husband and I moved to the Peak District three years later I joined a group of early morning dippers and became intrigued by the community of open water swimmers. People had stories to tell in the water, reasons they needed the water, reasons to be together.

One of the group suffered two terrible tragedies, both her niece and nephew died within months of each other, and I noticed my friend (and her sister) increasingly finding solace in open water swimming, I was sat watching Hannah Maia’s My Big White Thighs and Me, at ShAFF, thinking – how can the two passions in my life the outdoors and the arts, exist in a theatre. How can I bring an amalgamation of all these stories of people’s battles in life feeling quashed for those minutes they swim under the sky, to a live piece of art?

What can audiences expect with SWIM?

SWIM explores one woman’s story with grief whilst discovering open water swimming and a community. It is about the beauty of nature, the pain in our lives and finding support through the isolation.

Making theatre is a long process- from the initial idea, to the workshops I ran with members of The Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS) communities and also those who have been bereaved, and then devising and researching, writing the script and finally getting it onto its feet. All you can hope for then is that the audience join you on the journey and follow the storytelling!

I have been working with Hetty Key of Women in Adventure and Rewilding Britain- both who believe reconnecting with nature can help a lot of our struggles. I have also worked with Cruse Bereavement Care. All of whom are keen to see a piece of theatre representing some of the incredible communities we have in the UK.

And what next for SWIM?

I am lucky enough to have been awarded the Pleasance Theatre Pathways Partnership Award in association with HOME, meaning that SWIM will be at Edinburgh Fringe throughout all of August! I am really excited to bring this show there and hope that it will be the gateway to the show’s future journey around UK theatres and spaces near water.

That sounds intriguing, spaces near water?!..:

Yes, my hopes for SWIM are that it will be able to travel to communities around the British Isles- by the sea, tarns and lochs, lakes and rivers. Anywhere where there is a space which can host a piece of theatre. I am thrilled to be supported by the OSS and hope that by working together, we will be able to draw in theatre goers and open water swimmers alike and cross over the two worlds.

Anything else to look out for whilst you’re in Edinburgh?

I will be organizing a weekly swim on Portobello Beach for Fringe staff and artists in hopes that the act of coming together in the water will help dissipate the stress and anxiety which often surrounds bringing your work to the month-long festival. I am hoping to meet and take a dip with all the members of the well-established Wild Ones too!

  • SWIM runs at HOME theatre 9th-13th July, book here.
  • And then at Edinburgh Fringe 31st July-26th August 3.30pm in Beside, Pleasance Courtyard, book here.
  • Working at the Fringe? Information to join Liz and the cast for a swim can be found at