Until now the most popular sauna in Brighton has been a gay sauna, and its reputation isn’t exactly based on its smooth löyly. Sauna Master Katie Bracher and Wellbeing Entrepreneur Liz Watson from Warmth Brighton are about to change this. They have brought their portable sauna to Brighton Fringe festival and hope to build a permanent sauna in the city in near future. We talked about sauna business with them.
Sauna master is not the most common job title in the UK. How did you become sauna master, Katie?
K: “It happened quite organically. I have run sauna projects in London like The Southbank Centre rooftop pop-up Sauna and Bath Haus Spa Barking. Sauna master is actually a very important job as someone has to introduce sauna culture to people. They don’t know löyly or vihta so they need someone to tell about them.”
What do British people find most surprising about sauna?
L: “Most are surprised how nice it is. They go in a bit scared but come out of it all glowing and happy. Many have only been in those horrible dry infrared rooms. But when you’re in wood-fired sauna in 85 to 90 degrees temperature with lovely humidity, it’s different. You don’t really feel the heat.”
Your sauna is built in a horsebox. What’s the story behind it?
K: “It was built by artist Bethany Wells and funded by Art Council. It’s a beautiful, portable trailer that already looked interesting, so it made a lot of sense to convert it into mobile sauna.
Brits can be a bit suspicious about sauna. How do you convince them to try it?
L: “We tell about sauna’s health giving side and how it’s good for the family. We make it a cultural experience by educating people about the Finnish sauna culture.”
It seems like saunas are having a moment in the UK. The Southbank Centre sauna, for example, was fully booked for months. Do you think Brits could become a sauna nation?
K: “There are many elements that support it. The weather is similar to northern countries and there’s a long coastline that would suit nicely for building saunas. There’s also a history of public bathing that went on until 50 years ago when people started building their own bathrooms. At the moment people are also looking for new, healthier ways of socialising without going to pubs. People also already love hot tubs and saunas are much more hygienic and healthier.”
L: “There are a lot of things to overcome as well. There are still misconceptions about what sauna is all about. It would be great if people here would develop a healthier relationship with nudity. There’s a long way to go though. Adopting sauna culture would mean new kind of body positivity.”
Warmth Brighton popup sauna at Brighton Fringe Festival. Tickets £10. For more information see: https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/warmth-pop-up-sauna-125051/
Interview: Ninni Lehtniemi