I learnt a new word this week: goistering. It’s an ancient Sussex dialect word meaning ‘loud, feminine laughter’ or ‘guffawing’. It was passed on to me by Katy Wells, an alumna of the school and a charity worker from Friends of Brighton and Hove Hospitals, as we plunged into the sea on Wednesday evening. By sharing this word, in this context, Katy brought together two ideas I have been exploring recently: laughter therapy and thalassotherapy. Both are part of the culture of Brighton & Hove, both cost next-to-nothing, both require a community and, in our mission to fuse the school with the city, we are looking at making them part of the Brighton Girls experience.
I know that many parents (and possibly a number of students) are already part of the sea-swimming community in Brighton & Hove: there are many clubs, from the Salty Sea Birds to the Hove Lagoonies. Of course, the whole success of the city is founded on it being the place to visit for salt-water cures, thanks to the pioneering work of eighteenth century physician, Dr Russell. For years, people have been coming to Brighton & Hove to experience the benefits of the sea and, in recent years, more and more people are making part of their daily, or weekly wellbeing routines – during lockdown, sea-swimming has been the saviour of many. The benefits are well documented – a boost to the immune system, improved circulation, reduced stress – and a great way to meet people.
One of the barriers is finding someone to go with, which is how I ended up swimming with two parents and an alumna on Wednesday evening. Katy’s last visit to the school resulted in my volunteering to do the i360 iDrop (which, after much rescheduling, is finally taking place this Sunday); this time, we decided to establish a Brighton Girls Sea Swimming Club. We made a date, and made it happen. We were joined by Alex and Nicky, two sea-swimming parents, who brought smiles, laughter and (crucially) knowledge of the tides and distances.
Our aim now is to build a Brighton Girls Sea Swimming Club for the benefit of the whole community – there are safety reasons that make it important to swim with others, but there are also wellbeing benefits to be had that go beyond the medicinal qualities of salt water and cold water swimming: laughing together, shrieking together, ‘goistering’; it’s about making connections, enjoying a shared experience – or sometimes it just takes a little bit of peer pressure to get you in the water in the first place. Please come along at 6pm on Wednesdays – King Alfred beach. Everyone is welcome. As part of this, we are encouraging everyone to take part in the Friends of Brighton and Hove Sea Swim Challenge, further details of which can be found in this week’s newsletter. As the Royal Sussex Hospital was first established as the Royal County Hospital and Sea Swimming Infirmary, this seems to be the perfect combination.
Still feeling calmed by Wednesday’s evening dip, on Thursday, I had a meeting with Emma Hiwaizi from the Brighton Laughter Club. Having experienced the joys of getting the giggles with Year 7 last week, I was keen to find out more about laughter therapy. Emma happens to be a GDST alumna and she is passionate about the benefits of laughter and how it can be used to foster a sense of belonging. Her work plays on the notion that laughter is contagious (a theory that the Year 7s and I put to the test last week) and is based around three main principles: laughter, as a form of play, creates new neurological networks in the brain and, therefore, makes us more creative and boosts our problem solving skills (tick!); it reduces stress levels by boosting endorphins and lowering cortisone levels (tick!); it creates personal connections, builds relationships and, in some cases, transforms lives (tick!).
If you are looking for a way to de-stress and want some company, please join the Sea Swimming Club on Wednesdays. If you want to hear someone goistering, come to the i360 at 6.30am on Sunday morning, where I will be taking part in the iDrop.