Saturday, 28 June 2014

Aurelian Grip Pole Review

As someone who is passionate about pole it is essential that I have a good pole to practice on and I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new grip pole from Aurelian Sports. Initially I had my reservations about purchasing a product with no real knowledge of whether it would be any good but I decided to take a chance and spend some of my hard earned cash on the brand new 45mm brass pole from Aurelian.

My grip pole arrived on Friday so I have only had the pole for 1 day and I have only had a brief amount of time to play on it but my initial feelings are very positive. The brass surface is amazing, the grip is incredible yet it still feels soft on the skin. I have already grown to love 45mm poles so the grip pole is perfect for my needs.

Anyway, lets start from the very beginning; I ordered my pole some time ago but I was informed by Aurelian that there would be a considerable wait for my pole. I didn't mind the delay as the correspondence from Aurelian was honest and I was updated constantly as to the progress of my order. When you deal with Aurelian they place you on a ticket so if you e-mail them with any enquiry you get a reference number and then you are updated on your query until your problem is solved and then the ticket is closed, this is extremely efficient and is a good way to ensure great customer service.

On the morning of the anticipated delivery I received a small, white hand-written envelope from Aurelian Sports CEO Tracey Batenburg, inside the envelope was a small plastic ring and a hand written note stating that the ring was a new part that needed to be added to the pole. Initially my heart sank and I thought this did not bode well for the new product however, as I will explain later, this was actually another part of their good customer care.

Art of Dance instructor Megan Hookins pictured right.

At about 3pm the doorbell rang and the delivery driver was holding a large cardboard marked Aurelian Pole :)

I dashed to work to install the pole asap as I was eager to try and test it as well as showing it off to my fellow instructors. On removing the outer cardboard packaging I was greeted by a picture of the extremely talented and beautiful Alessandra Marchetti
(pictured top left), ambassador for the grip pole. Inside the box was the brass pole and to my delight it was a screw thread model (I have always regretted selling my old screw thread x-poles). The box even includes a little thank you card from Aurelian to say thank you for choosing their pole, it is a really nice little touch (see picture below left).


Before I discuss the pole in my detail I must not forget the two carry cases that come with the grip pole, they look like something straight out of a Louis Vitton fashion house. To be honest they are not really my thing, a bit too bling perhaps, but I know I have several of my students and instructors willing to take them off my hands! Sadly for those interested in stealing the bags thye will have no such luck as they are too beautifully designed to give away. The long holdall for the main pole parts has a soft shoulder strap so the pole can be carried comfortable without digging into your shoulder. The smaller holdall for the base and dome also has soft, ergonomic carry handles.

The small plastic ring I received in the post fits neatly over the pole sleeve, I think in the future the sleeve will fit more snugly and won't need the plastic ring but this is a fix that works perfectly and does not interfere with your pole work, it is obvious that Aurelian have identifed the problem with the pole sleeve and acted quickly and efficiently to solve the problem.
Lets get back to the important bit, the pole! Basically I love it, I know that this is the very first grip pole and there will be probably be improvements to latter models but this is a simple design that works, it is easy to install and take out and can be bottom or top loaded. The brass surface really is grippy even when my hands felt sweaty yesterday, also the pole is not coated so it should last longer than some of its plated rivals.

Some people may remember the problem of screw thread poles getting jammed together but this problem was quickly fixed with x-pole release tools that will also work on the grip pole if this problem occurs in the future. The grip pole does come with two pretty sturdy looking rods for releasing the tubes but I will have to review them at a later date when I have the need to use them.

The feedback from my instructors and students was overwhelmingly positive. I only have tested this pole for 1 day so I have a lot more work to do to see if this product will stand the test of time but if day 1 is anything to go by then the future of the grip pole looks bright. I am looking forward to seeing what others think of this new product and as sponsors of the World Pole Sports Championships 2014 in London no doubt there will be plenty of feedback from the competitors too.

I will continue to test my new grip pole and will feedback accordingly in a few months. In the meantime I wish Tracey Battenburg and her team all the best for the future and hope that Aurelian will secure its place in the pole world for all the right reasons.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Friday, 23 May 2014

Pole Unity Please.




The pole dancing industry seems fraught with tensions at the moment and I find this so sad as we are meant to be promoting an industry that breeds self confidence and creates a supporting environment. I am tired of the endless facebook slagging matches and am sad to see some people leaving the industry through disillusionment.

As an industry we are never going to 100% agree with each other but we can at least try to be civil, surely?

Some of the negativity has stemmed from the recent trainsafe campaign which, in principle, is a marvellous idea but unfortunately some people have just used it as an excuse to slag of other pole instructors.  Ironically some of those supporting the the trainsafe campaign are individuals who have let their insurance and first aid lapse frequently, I won't name names as this would just increase negativity but I just want people to stop and think before they criticise others so publicly.  None of us are perfect and we should be constantly trying to improve our own personal practice before we resort to criticising others. Also just because we have been teaching for many years we may still be able to learn something from those new to the industry, they may have fresh ideas that we haven't considered before. 



OK, so let me play devils advocate for a second. I had a case where one of my students went to another school and told them that she had learned how to shoulder mount on her first lesson, you can imagine the horror of the new instructor thinking that I was teaching advanced moves to someone with no experience. Luckily the instructor knows me and private messaged me to ask about the students experience. I explained that we do a grounded shoulder mount on the first lesson and this was how the confusion had occurred.

It may be the case that someone might teach a shoulder mount on someone's first lesson, unlikely but that person may be a person with previous experience/skills that are capable of learning at a faster rate. I recently taught a set of Olympic divers and their gymnastic skills were awesome, they had no problems learning advanced moves such as split heel pose and chopper on their first lesson.

Another factor to consider is that for some students no matter how much you teach them they just don't listen, I know that some students, especially the kamikaze ones, won't listen when I ask them to perfect a specific move before they try something more advanced and I can't control what they do when I am not looking or what they do in the privacy of their homes, nor would I want to. We can only advise, that is it. As a result when said student posts a picture on facebook of them dangling off the pole in a dangerous manner in my studio all I can do is keep advising them, not shout at them, not demand they remove the photo but just hope that they may listen in the future and keep reinforcing my advice so that hopefully one day they will be safer and they will understand why I have been teaching as I do.

We have to give some respect to individuals to teach how they see fit and to make their own judgement calls rather than being dictated to by others. We can set codes of conduct, as we have done with the Pole Dance Community (code of conduct for pole dancing instructors), but lets not get too regimental about things. To make out art truly beautiful we have to encourage creativity amongst both our students and our instructors. 



Also no matter how hard you think it is when a student/instructor leaves you to set up their own school please try to remain professional. I have had several of my students/instructors go on to set up their pole dancing business and some of them have been extremely successful. What I have learned from this is that the best thing I can do is keep my head down and concentrate on making my business the best it can be rather than wasting negative energy on those who are merely trying to go it alone. I am happy to say I am now friends with all of those who have left the Art of Dance and am so proud of all their achievements.

The industry is big enough for diversity so instructors can teach different genres and styles giving students more choices. I have many students who visit the three Plymouth pole dancing schools as they gain different things from different instructors. I think that it is great that they have so much to choose from.

My final comment is that even if we consider an instructor to be 'less good' or 'less experienced' that person may still be passionate about pole, they are still introducing new people to the pole world. I was an awful instructor when I first started but we all have to commence somewhere.

So can I plead with all of you to think before you post on facebook or other public forums, try to see both sides to any story and lets support each other wherever possible. We can share our skills and experiences and make the entire industry better. 

Stay Healthy,

Sam x 


All images courtesy of the gorgeous Millie Robson.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Political Blogging

I have been so busy that I simply haven't had time write a blog recently. To add to my workload I have now been set the task of reforming the Mutley Traders group. I will try to keep my political stuff to my other blog and will be back sharing my passion for pole dancing very soon.

In the meantime here is my experience from a recent council ward meeting.

Feedback from Compton Ward  Have Your Say meeting.

Stay Healthy,

Sam :) x x

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Citybus - Another P.C.C. failure.

                Image courtesy of the Plymouth City Transport Preservation Group.

I am not the worlds greatest mathematician and I can usually do basic sums yet something just doesn't add up for me when I read figures relating to the sale of Plymouth Citybus and the ensuing profits made by the now private company. For those of you who don't know what I am talking about let me explain.

Plymouth, like many cities in the UK, has been let down by it's council (P.C.C) for decades, whether Tory or Labour led there seems to be an agenda that doesn't involve what is best for the city or its inhabitants. The sell-off of Plymouth Citybus is yet another example of council failure. Plymouth Citybus was owned by the council and run at a profit providing both a good bus service for city people and providing an income for council coffers. So here are the figures which I just can't get my head around. The Tory led council spent £1 million valuing Citybus, how on earth does it cost £1 million to value a business and which accountants pocketed the cash on this nice little earner? After securing the valuation job the accountants then came up with a value of £19 million which the council accepted and proceeded to sell Citybus to a company based outside Plymouth ensuring that any profit would be taken outside the city.

After the sale of Citybus, Plymouth people start to notice a deterioration in service and started to see many local routes being cut with the elderly and school children being most badly affected. Obviously a private firm has to look at which routes are most profitable, this private firm have no interest in whether kids can get to school or whether the elderly can retain a level of independence or mobility they are led purely by profit as they have no loyalty or passion for Plymouth. 

So whilst the people of Plymouth continue to suffer from years of council errors Go Ahead, the company which owns Citybus,  announce profits of £100 million annually not a penny of which will be invested into our city (Source - Plymouth Herald and Go Ahead website. So the only people who have befitted from the sale of Citybus are the owners of Go Ahead and the accountants who took the valuation job. The losers are us. Thanks again P.C.C for putting the people you are meant to serve last.

After the disastrous Tory administration you would hope for an improvement from Labour but no such luck, we see the same pattern of party politics and pure greed taking precedence over the needs of the people.
Had the council kept Citybus perhaps some of the revenue could have been used to subsidise the airport. Still no support from the Labour led council on our much needed airport, they verbalise their support but refuse to follow up their words with actions, no action to stop the incinerator which is opposed by so many and uses outdated German engineering. With the incinerator going ahead you would assume that every effort would be taken to protect green spaces to help negate air pollution but instead the council sell off part of our green lung (Central Park) for a multi million pound development which will suck yet more money out of our city providing mainly low-skill, minimum wage jobs. At the same time as this ridiculous development is approved the council decide to put up parking in areas where there are lots of small independent traders, these traders are already battling a tough economy of for many of these businesses the increased parking charges could just be the final nail in the coffin.

I write this after updating my position on the electoral role and wondering what exactly is the point of me doing so? So few people turn put to vote now that one has to question whether there is much point going to the ballot box. The few that do turn up to vote mainly vote tactically and having stood as an independent a few years ago I saw first hand some of the tactics used by each party to scrape in a few extra votes. I fear that without major change to our government, local council and banking system the future looks bleak.


Stay Healthy (not likely with the proposed incinerator),

Sam x

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Why Plymouth Aiport is viable.




   Image above - an aerial view of Plymouth Aiport - courtesy of Cyber Heritage.

If you are a regular reader of my blog and/or are a citizen of Plymouth then the following writing is probably just preaching to the converted but I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings with you to respond to recent comments made by Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans. The comments I refer to were made partly on my personal facebook page.

Let's start with the thread on my facebook regarding the recent closure of Plymouth Airport, please read the thread so you can see what was said and by whom. It is strange that I haven't spoken to one non-council person who has supported the closure so it appears the only people who do support the closure are the council and Sutton Harbour Holdings (SHH), it seems bizarre that the former group would not want essential infrastructure for our 'Ocean City'? Obviously I understand why SHH would support the closure as they have a financial interest in developing the land and stand to make a sizeable amount of money from their proposed development, many new homes have already been built around the site and it seems that P.C.C have rather prematurely installed multiple car parking meters around the perimeter sealing the airports fate.

Rather foolishly the people of Plymouth listened to the Labour election campaign and listened to verbal rants suggesting that Labour would save the airport if voted in but this was merely election spin to gain votes and in reality many people were not voting Tudor in but were just voting Vivien Pengelly out.  The Labour manifesto did include the following "If the Plymouth Airport closes we will mitigate the loss through a vigorous campaign of lobbying government for better transport links to Plymouth, especially more and earlier 3 hour trains from London" This statement is very different from some of the verbal claims made by Labour candidates leading up to the 2012 election and we are still waiting for a better train service and 3 hour links to London. So, once again, Labour have failed us, not that I am suggesting that the Conservatives are offering us anything better, we simply remain with Hobson's Choice as we have done for many years.

Going back to SHH and PCC we are still waiting to to find out what happened to the huge sum of money given to SHH in relation to the airport but we are merely told there are commercial sensitivity agreements in place and therefore we can't be told even though it is our money as we are the taxpayers. 

The most interesting point for me is that Tudor and his party keep telling us that the Airport is not financially viable but I question that as even if the airport did run at a loss surely the benefit it would have to our city would outweigh that loss substantially. I have heard various figures and the most interesting came in the form of a recent article published by the BBC and the Plymouth City Airport Economic Study into Air Service presented to the cabinet on 23/08/11. Whilst Professor Begg may argue that the airport is not financially sustainable and that we should instead rely on rail links I pose the following question; The airport subsidy would stand at £1 million pounds a year so if we hadn't built the Life Centre, for example, then we could have supported the airport for at least another 50 years, the annual revenue raised by our bus lane cameras could also be used an an alternative means to fund the subsidy in fact there are many ways we could raise this money but none of these are being looked at by our council.


Aviation consultant Laurie Price agrees (comments taken from the BBC article "There is a strong case for reopening the airport. Plymouth is struggling as its port declines and it is going to be hard for it to find a new role with such poor transport links, he says. About 15 years ago there used to be an "extremely good" Plymouth-to-Heathrow service. The airline was profitable, the airport just about broke even, and taken together the service was viable, he says. But higher airport charges and competition from Newquay hit Plymouth hard. A fundamental part of a hub airport is that it connects with the regions, he says. "If we're putting funds into areas for regional development then why not subsidise an airport? They do it in Europe." I find Laurie's comments particularly encouraging as Newquay Airport is now reducing it services.

Even if the current location is not the right place for an airport, as we would ideally need a longer runway, we still need to campaign for our own air services as this is the best way to boost business and tourism in the area. If we are to be a real City of Culture and 'Britain's Ocean City' then lets allow people to reach us easily. Unfortunately the only way we are going to achieve this is with a different council and I don't think that either the Conservatives or Labour are capable of the task as their own agendas and politics always get in the way of what is best for the people of Plymouth and what is best for the long term future of Plymouth.

I will follow up this blog with a response to Tudor Evan's comment on the Home Park Developments.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Inequality and discrimination against pole fitness.





I have been teaching pole dancing for over 9 years and I am still amazed at the
serious discrimination against pole dancing schools/instructors. During my time as a proprietor of the Art of dance pole dancing school in Plymouth and my time as joint administrator for the Pole Dance Community I have been prevented from attending public events, refused the right to advertise in publications and even received death threats from so called Christian groups. I have documented many of these experiences in my public blog that was originally written for a local newspaper but it is now written purely for my own agenda. Just this year alone I have been refused the right to perform at Lord Mayors day, Dance Dance Dance (a grant funded event to promote social inclusion and encourage multi-cultural diversity) and The Respect Festival to name but a few. I have also been refused the right to have my classes advertised by Plymouth Dance and told my website is a child protection risk. Once again Companies House have denied me Community Interest Status as they can't see how pole dancing can possibly be beneficial to ones physical and mental health, this is despite a 12 page supporting document that includes testimonials from the NHS and several women's groups supporting my application.

Here are just some of the articles written to express my concerns at the way I and others have been treated.

Little Spinners - challenging ideas about the sexualisation of children in the media - Monday 3rd September 2012
Pole Dancing is an art form - Friday 23rd March 2012
Pole Dancing Prejudice - Sunday 4th March 2012
The debate continues - Wednesday 22nd February 2012
The problem with pole dancing - Thursday 16th June 2011
Pole dancing is good for you - Tuesday 15th February 2011
Sexual Encounter Establishments Consultation - Monday 31st January 2011
Dance and Health - Saturday 18th March 2010
Pole Dancing Controversy - Tuesday 15th June 2010
Pole Dance Related Rage - Thursday 15th April 2010
More Pole Dancing Controversy - Sunday 9th August 2009
Should Tom Daley wear a wetsuit - Thursday 9th July 2009
The debate continues - Sunday 15th March 2009
Aftermath - Friday 13th March 2009
More backlash - Friday 6th February 2009
The morning after - Friday 30th January 2009
Trouble at Mill - Thursday 29th January 2009
Trouble at Mill part 1 - Tuesday 20th January 2009
Videos from 'banned' performance - Friday 16th January 2009
I think the articles I have written demonstrate the extreme prejudice towards pole dancing/pole fitness for sport and recreation. I sincerely hope that pole dancing gets the recognition it deserves some time soon.

Stay Healthy.

Sam x

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Shame on First Great Western


I have had a few disastrous train journeys in the past but my recent trip to London made previous trips seem like a breathe of fresh air.  The following account may sound exaggerated but I can assure you that this is a factual account of my journey from London Paddington to Plymouth on Monday 22nd July (departing London 15:06) and how the journey went from bad to worse.

Let's start from the very beginning, I was travelling with my friend Heather and we had both booked a super off peak return to give us a little flexibility over our return journey. After a lovely bit of tourism in London we opted for the 15:06 train, we assumed that 15:06 would not be classed as a peak train but we were mistaken. We were travelling between Reading at Pewsey when our tickets were checked, we were informed that peak time was now any time after 2.30pm and if we wanted to use our tickets we would have to get off the train and wait in Pewsey station until after 7pm. As the temperature outside was about 35 degrees we didn't fancy sitting in a station for 4 hours so we asked if we could pay to stay on the train. As you can imagine we were both upset about the situation as we has no idea that this train would be considered as a peak time train. As it happens this would later become the least of our worries.

We were told we could either pay a £60 fine each (this is on top of the £89 each we had already paid for our tickets) or pay £20 each for a ticket that would be valid until Pewsey, I queried how this would help as we wouldn't have valid tickets from Pewsey to Plymouth but I was told that due to short staffing no one would check our tickets from Pewsey onwards, we unhappily settled for this option so we could stay on the train and avoid paying £120 total for the fine. I still can't believe that 2.30pm is now considered peak time and wonder who else would classify this as a peak time for train travel?

After Pewsey the journey started to worsen, bear in the mind that, at the time, this was the hottest day recorded in the last 7 years and the government had issued a level 3 health warning. Firstly there were no announcements, again due to short staff, so we weren't receiving any passenger updates about which station we were approaching next. 


We soon learned from other passengers that the air conditioning in Coach E hadn't been working since we left Paddington and there were several very small children starting to look rather unwell. One particular baby was very lethargic and a few of us started to worry that the baby was not looking too good, in the absence of staff and a massive queue of people trying to get cold drinks from the buffet car I set about finding spare seats in Coach C as this was the coolest place on the train, I asked a few people to move seats and eventually we got all the parents and children out of Coach E and into Coach C. This worked as a short term measure but then the air con stopped working in our coach (D) and Coach C as well as Coach E.

As you can imagine people were starting to get very stressed, the train was packed and the heat was overwhelming, all the fire exits and corridors were blocked with bags. I decided to venture to the buffet car to get more water as we were dehydrating fast and were extremely uncomfortable, I had to physically climb over peoples bags to get through the train, during my journey through the train I also established that every toilet was blocked and due to the heat you can imagine how awful this smelt. The pictures accompanying this article are taken at various stages of the journey but the corridors and fire exits were blocked pretty much throughout the journey, the train was so over booked that there was nowhere to put the excess luggage or the many prams on the train, if there had been an accident this would have been a death trap.

On arrival at the buffet car I joined the large queue that went back some way into the previous coach. I queued for 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue only to meet a lady coming out of first class who pushed in front of me and placed her order, I was not happy and explained to her that I had been waiting for 20 minutes and did not appreciate being pushed in front of, she explained that she had paid for trolley service but due to the lack of staff there was no trolley service available, the staff confirmed that all first class passengers would be allowed to move to the front of the queue. I was not a happy bunny, and nor was anyone else in the queue behind me, whilst we appreciated that this lady was not getting the service she had paid for we were disappointed by her lack of respect for us and the staff's disregard for our concerns.
Finally I was served, I asked for mineral water but was told they had sold out, I was informed I could buy tea, coffee, wine, alcohol or coke, I explained that I was very dehydrated and just wanted some water and did not want to consume alcohol or caffeine. Bare in mind we stop at many stations on our journey surely someone would have thought that keeping stocked up on mineral water was a priority in a level 3 heatwave?  I asked if they could give me a cup of boiling water instead but was informed that they could not do this as they wouldn't have enough water left for people wanting teas and coffees. As I was about to leave the buffet car I noticed about 50 bottles of still mineral water in a trolley, I queried this and was told that the mineral water was for those in first class. Whilst I understand that those in first class pay for a superior service I still can't quite believe how those of in economy were treated on this day and I don't consider an £89 ticket to be particularly cheap so would expect a half decent service and not what we were given.

Finally we arrived in Plymouth, tired and dehydrated, and were pleased to leave the stinking, hot train, thinking our troubles were over we attempted to exit Plymouth Station but couldn't as we didn't have a valid ticket, we were on a peak train with only a valid ticket from Paddington to Pewsey. The gentleman at the gate was just about to ask us to purchase another ticket when I started to explain what had happened on the train, I also asked him to look at some of the faces of those who had also been on our train, he took one look at the tired, dehydrated, sweating passengers, smiled and let us through.

I will be sharing this blog with both First Great Western, the Health and Safety Executive and my local council. For those of you who live in, or travel to Plymouth, we have very limited transport links as our airport has been closed, our road links are poor and coaches take a long time to get to places like London. It seems that our rail links are getting increasingly worse and I am extremely disappointed with the service provided by First Great Western and will think twice before booking another train ticket.

I will keep you posted on the response I get from this blog I hope that First Great Western will not just find a scapegoat in the form of a lower paid easily expendable member of staff, instead I hope the more senior members of this company will take responsibility for delivering an appalling service. In the meantime please comment below about any problems you have experienced with train travel in the UK or transport problems you have faced when travelling in and out of Plymouth. The lesson surely is please save Plymouth Airport.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x