Over 50 years of experience
Clidive celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. The club was founded in 1969 to provide affordable and adventurous diving to the central London community. Although our diverse membership now comes from all over London and its surroundings, we have not changed those core principles. Every year we provide one of the busiest dive and training programmes in the country.
Clidive emerged from a scuba evening class that started in the mid-1960s. It was run at the Central London Institute (CLI!), which was part of the then Inner London Education Authority (ILEA). Many students were eager to continue with their new passion after their course finished. At first, they ran an informal ‘club’ until, in 1969, they decided to form a ‘special branch’ of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) attached to CLI, which officially enabled them to use the CLI dive kit on branch diving trips.
The branch and its equipment belonged to the Institute and the membership was drawn from staff and students. The club’s official title was, Central London Institute Branch No. 410, but to its members the club has always been known as Clidive.
In 1988, with the impending abolition of ILEA and disbanding of many of its institutions, the club faced closure; however, the members voted to continue as an ordinary open branch of BSAC. This meant we became member-owned and anyone could join. But our name, Clidive BSAC 410, maintains the link to our origins.
Ironmonger Row Baths (IRB)
Ironmonger Row Baths was the original venue for the CLI evening class pool training and has always been the club’s unofficial home. In 2010, IRB closed down for refurbishment and we spent a short time at St George’s Pool in Wapping before moving to the Marshall Street pool in Soho.
In November 2012, we returned to the newly refurbished IRB and are proud to be based in one of the best pools in the UK. We have exclusive use of the pool every Thursday from 8.00pm to 9.30pm, use of an office for an occasional classroom and a large cupboard where we store the club’s kit.
Diver training then and now
As a special branch, the club held theory classes at CLI classrooms, followed by pool work at IRB. But in those days it took rather longer to learn to dive. There was an intake of up to 40 new members every September, so if you missed the start date, you would have to wait another year to learn to dive! The first three months were spent snorkelling in the pool and the dive kit only came out in January. By the end of the following season, the new member would hope to be qualified as a Novice Diver (the equivalent of today’s Ocean Diver).
Clidive still trains a lot of divers; in 2018 we were BSAC’s top recruiting club. And we still have the same Thursday evening timetable that they had in 1969, including debriefs and gossip at our second home, The Britannia pub. Luckily for our trainees, the theory and pool lessons for the entry-level Ocean Diver course now take around six weeks, after which the full qualification can be achieved with a set of ‘open water’ dives in the sea or in a lake, over the course of a weekend.
Of course, we don’t just offer entry-level training. We have many experienced instructors, who run more advanced diver and other skills courses such as boat handling, and who also train the next generation of instructors. All our instructors are volunteers and many originally learnt to dive with the club. We also welcome instructors from other agencies, who can ‘cross over’ to BSAC through a simple process.
In 2020, we were delighted to be awarded BSAC’s premier award, the Heinke Trophy, with an entry that celebrated our 50 years as a club sharing the adventure of diving. The Heinke is presented to the club judged to have done the most to further the interests of its members and of BSAC and it was the third time that the club had achieved this accolade.
The club struggled for a while in the early-1990s after losing its primary source of students and members from the old Institute. By the mid-1990s membership fell to a low of 33. A five-year recovery plan, achieved in only three years, saw the branch increase in size to over 100 members with one of the largest training and diving programmes in the UK. This success story resulted in the club being awarded the Spotlight Award in 1998 and the Heinke Trophy in 1999.
In 2009, our 40th year, we undertook several expeditions, including one to Shetland that was truly ground-breaking. That year we were presented with the Peter Small Jubilee Trust Award for the most worthwhile and ambitious BSAC project conducted in British waters, as well as a BSAC expeditionary grant. This gave us the platform for a successful submission for the 2010 Heinke Trophy.
The club is member-run and focuses on keeping membership numbers healthy, finances robust and, most importantly, running an exceptional dive and training programme for us all to enjoy. Our finances are organised around maintaining and occasionally replacing our two highly specialised dive boats (RIBs) and our club van, which together enable us to offer adventurous diving for all levels of diver all over the UK and beyond.