Equipped with a tail she bought online, professional mermaid Samantha Smallwood has worked all over the city, from the Golden Hinde ship to the Shoreditch House pool…
‘Growing up by the sea in Southampton, I’d always wanted to be a mermaid. I was four when I asked my mum to buy me a mermaid tail, but she never did. I used to recreate scenes from the Disney film “The Little Mermaid” in the bath, getting water all over the floor! My mum would be furious, but I didn’t care. That film was my inspiration, along with “Ocean Odyssey”, an Australian TV show about a girl who can breathe underwater and talk to whales.
After uni, I worked as an au pair for a family in Clapham. It wasn’t the best experience, but it got me into London! I’d been doing stilt-walking and children’s entertainment for a few years when I was offered a role as an extra on the fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. When I watched it back and saw the mermaids, I thought: Oh my God, that’s something I could actually do!
I did some research online and there weren’t many mermaids in the UK, so I bought my first mermaid tail from a company called Magictail in Germany. It had a monofin, which helps to propel you through the water. I’ve always been a water baby and I took to it straight away. I learnt tricks like blowing bubbles underwater in the shape of hearts and discovered waterproof make-up. Now I own three tails, and my boyfriend puts up with mermaid paraphernalia all over our flat in Wood Green!
My first mermaid jobs were children’s pool parties. Sometimes I’d be booked for “dry” parties – I’d be in my tail, bouncing around on a bouncy castle! I once did a birthday party on the Golden Hinde, a full-size ship at London Bridge. I had to struggle into my tail in the captain’s tiny cabin, then bum-shuffle my way on to the deck to give children clues for a treasure hunt. One year I even appeared at a Christmas lights event in Windsor – they had a Peter Pan theme and I played a Neverland mermaid, handing out lollipops.
Obviously kids love mermaids, but now I do corporate events and it turns out adults are equally fascinated. I was a mermaid on the Battersea Barge for a pirate-themed evening, and I did an event at the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, swimming about in the pool and posing for selfies with people. One year I swam in the rooftop pool at Shoreditch House for a Halloween party and when I needed the bathroom the nice strong bouncers carried me there and back!
London’s a great place to be a mermaid. There’s much more water here than you’d think, and I’ve swum all over the city. I’ve done a photoshoot at the beach on the South Bank and I was booked for the London International Dive Show at ExCel, teaching kids how to protect the ocean. I went to the UK’s first mermaid meet-up at a pool in Dulwich and I’ve even spent the day in a paddling pool at The Royal Marsden hospital, when the children’s ward had a pirates’ day.
But even having done all that, I still have dreams to fulfil as a mermaid in the big city. I’d love to perform in the Sky Pool, a residents’ swimming pool that stretches between two buildings in Battersea. And my number one goal is to swim amongst the fish in the London Aquarium. That’d make me a very happy mermaid indeed.’
Interview by Samantha Rea.
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