Deep thinking: how Heath pond dip can be meeting of minds

Can you help Jack Dunne with his survey?

Friday, 10th June — By Dan Carrier

masculinity pond research Image 2022-06-09 at 11.47.59 PM (2)

Jack Dunne at the pond

A BRACING dip in a Hampstead Heath pond offers more than catch-your-breath exercise sessions.

For Men’s Pond regulars, it is also about a safe communal space where friendships are forged, according to psychologist Jack Dunne.

Now, the impact of having a men-only facility is the topic of his research project.

Mr Dunne is a Men’s Pond regular and has used his dips to investigate the role of men-only spaces and masculinity today. He is interviewing fellow swimmers, using the lake as a focal point for a wider discussion about how men perceive themselves and their peers.

Mr Dunne’s research will be published on a new website that explores questions over masculinity and mental health.

He said: “The pond is a fantastic community space for men. There are not many spaces like this in London. And male-dominated spaces can be seen as being not always positive.

“There are many traditionally male spaces that have a sense of community, but there can be an edge to them – they are often spaces where you encounter drink, drugs and violence.”

Mr Dunne has moved to London from Nottingham having completed an undergraduate degree. After watching the 2019 documentary The Ponds, he was intrigued. He came to test the waters, and was hooked.

He said: “I started swimming here and found it just as I thought it would be.”

His interviews focus on personal experiences of masculinity and how that translates into the Men’s Pond community.

He said: “I want to know about their backgrounds, their sense of masculinity, and how the community around the pond may have helped them. My research is about moving discussions about mental health from an individualistic viewpoint to a communal viewpoint.

“Things like wellbeing, medicine and therapy can of course work – but it is an individualistic approach, and highlights how we live within ourselves lot of the time. Male culture pushes you to be individualistic. Men find it easier to open up when it is around a positive action, like swimming.”

Mr Dunne’s research includes interviews with a basketball team and a running and cycling club.

He added: “Traditional masculinity often does not get a positive response, and young men do not have progressive role models they can look up to. Instead, they are bombarded with exaggerated and unrealistic expectations to fulfil.”

Mr Dunne is conducting his interviews over the summer.

He added: “I assumed a lot of my interviewees would be old white men, who you see at the pond. But it has instead been people from across the world who made London their home, which is another sign of how inclusive and empowering men’s spaces like the ponds can be.”

To take part in Mr Dunne’s survey, email jackdunnemail42 @gmail.com

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