I spoke to Shelley during her first residency as she sat beside the pool on the Lido Cafe’s terrace. As a long-time user of the Lido, she’s a familiar face on the poolside but how did her new role come about? “I asked them!” she said, “I use the pool all year round and I thought they should have somebody in residence because there are so many artists around here.”
Shelley Silas is probably best known for her radio and stage plays, which include The Sound of Silence, Mr Jones Goes Driving, Calcutta Kosher and Eating Ice Cream On Gaza Beach. She is also married to local writer and Fun Palaces organiser Stella Duffy.
Shelley bravely took part in the recent Cold Water Swimming Gala, and it’s the fun, open community at the Lido which she loves. When I mention that some locals see the Lido’s heyday as long passed she disagrees: “Brixton Beach was Brixton beach – it’s time to move on now.” She wants to draw more people in and hopes that other writers, artists and any interested locals will come and speak to her. She’ll be there every Monday from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.
This voluntary residency means Shelley essentially has another office, and she will be using her time at the Lido to work on a radio adaptation of Booker prize-winning 1975 novel Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala for BBC Radio 4. Excitingly, she’s also working on a speculative screenplay – which unfortunately she can’t talk about – that is partly set at the Lido.
Writing can be a solitary occupation, and Shelley thinks it’s really important for writers to get out of their homes and offices to mix with other people. “I can listen to their conversations and get little snippets of stories from them,” she says. So if you’re in the Lido on a Monday afternoon you better watch what you say!