Thursday, 25 August 2016

My view on the recent travellers debate.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about various groups of travellers in Plymouth and I have to admit to feeling a little disgusted when some people brand the whole travelling community with truly awful comments.

Travellers kicked out of Trefusis Park.
Travellers hit back at deplorable comments made by Gary Streeter.
Plymouth MP compares travellers to Genghis Khan.

I think that any group of people will have good and bad amongst them and I would like to share my recent experiences with 2 groups of travellers to hopefully promote healthy discussion rather than ignorant, hate speech.

In June 2016 a group of travellers camped on Trefusis Park next to Tulgey Woods. I have to admit that my intial reaction was one of worry but that was soon to be dispelled. I visited the camp the morning after it was set up and approached a couple of the residents to ask them a few questions to hopefully allay any fears I had. A few women came out from their caravans to chat to me about their intended stay. The women were very polite and their caravans were well maintained, there was no rubbish to be seen and the ladies were keen to seek water for the camp. It was a very hot day so I gave the ladies a crate of bottled water so they could give the kids a drink whilst they waited to find a more longstanding solution.

The first camp left after just three days and apart from one small garden waste deposit in the Community Orchard the site was left immaculate. The council had provided toilets and bins and the camp dwellers had used those resources considerately. 

The 2nd camp arrived in August 2016 bringing a different flavour to the discussion. Within hours of arrival there was rubbish thrown in the stream and across the park including a caravan TV thrown into the water. Music was being played loudly, echoing across the valley, and the barking of the many dogs on site was distressing for both neighbours and dog walkers.

Maybe I am wrong but it felt like the first group made every effort to work alongside the local community and the 2nd group did completely the opposite. Rubbish left by travellers on 16th August pictured below right.

Anyway I want to throw in a little diversion to encourage further debate. Many of the local residents/dogwalkers are the same people who also fly-tip and litter. Whether there are travellers in the park or not sadly there is always rubbish brought by humans. At the back of the Blandford Road houses there are dumped flatscreen TV's, mattresses and garden waste.  These items are not left by travellers so let's not be too quick to judge.

My next argument is aimed at those that claim Travellers don't pay taxes; I love the travellers concept of living off the land, working with the seasons and being free to roam rather than fixed to one place. However Mobile homes need fuel and that means travellers have to buy petrol to move around hence paying tax into the system. I would love to see more travellers using traditional methods but sadly it is hard to move around the country by natural methods with copious amounts of road and rail networks getting in the way of natural travel.

Whatever your views on travellers I would like to finish on one point, dumping your waste on someone elses property is not nice whoever you are. Even garden waste could contain chemicals or knotweed that you simply shouldn't dump.

Let the debate continue but let's try to educate each other rather then shaming each other :) xx

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Why I am voting out of the EU.

I have been trying to write this blog for over 2 weeks and everytime I try to put fingers to keyboard I simply get too angry to write. I have done a lot of writing, editing, deleting and rewriting. The campaign from both Remain and Vote Leave has been truly abhorent however believe that whatever the outcome on 23rd this referendum has provided important debate and highlighted that whatever happens we need serious change.

Here are a few arguments and counter arguements I have been discussing with various people. I should point out that I also attended a meeting with Lord Owen and MEP William Dartmouth where I was able to get more information on the EU, how it is run and how it affects our country. Today I, by chance, walked through the city with my local councillor Chaz Singh who is voting to remain and we were joined by a gentleman from the Out campaign so that added some more dimensions to my views:

  According to David Cameron voting out will cause another World War, the country will descend into madness, we will lose our pensions, our jobs and we will increase the risk from terrorism. If that wasn't enough scaremongering Tony Blair has also waded into the arguement, the very man who threw us into the middle of a conflict that we had no place to be in, also tells us we need to remain in. Whether or not you like Blair or Cameron, if you are registered to vote, you have been in a position to vote Blair and Cameron in or out which is a privilege you may not have with the presidents and vice presidents of the EU. If you don't believe this to be true then please reference the Brexit movie which explains how the EU is structured and how little say the UK has in EU decision making. If you thought the MP's expenses scandal was bad then the current EU arrangments make our MP's look honest and transparent!

Going back to one of Cameron's arguements that we need to join the eurozone to safeguard jobs. Have you looked at the current unemployment and in particular youth employment rate in many european countries. Look at Greece, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Croatia to name but a few. OK so the UK isn't great but I believe it could be way better out of Europe. Most of Europe, Germany excluded, is plunging deeper into recession with youth unemployment spiralling out of control. The average youth unemployment rate for Europe is 22% with Spain currently at 50% youth unemployment. The UK has a fairly strong economy when you compare it to most EU countries.

An interesting point that doesn't seem to be currently discusssed is the fact that some individuals in EU countries are actually urging their governments for a referendum so that they can vote out. They are placing Uk flags in their windows to support our move to give people a choice. Currently trying to find the news reference I found to support this. I can share this little blog about one fishermans frustration about EU rules.

A point that I have heard raised by people voting to remain is their concerns about where the UK is going, they worry that we are becoming too right wing. The rise of UKIP and Britain's First is certainly a concern but the UK is not alone in this worrying trend. Germany is seeing a huge rise in it's far right movement. Mein Kampff has been re-released for sale. This is something we have to tackle whether in or out but it does concern me deeply and makes me think twice about the ties we are forming with the various EU governments. Security is another issue that has been barely touched upon in the mainstream media but do we want to hand over control of our Trident and military? The British Military is generally respected across the world and rumours (that may be unfounded) about an EU army certainly give rise to concern. 

Travel is another big issue. Do you think that if we leave the EU you will lose the right to travel or work abroad? Hardly! If you want to backpack in Thailand or flydrive to the US then there is nothing stopping you and I am sure the EU countries will not ban travellers from the UK if they want to visit, work or holiday. All that is likely to happen is that you may need to get a visa to work in France, Germany or any other EU country. It is not a big deal we are already happy to do this to travel to Australia or Thailand for example. The aforementioned countries use the visa system to give them more control over who they let into their country so they can choose the most skilled people to benefit their society and/or their tourism industry. If we vote out we can still eat croissants in Paris, teach in Vietnam and backpack in Thailand.

I come back to the idea of decentralisation, can an EU council make decision that are in the best interests of the UK people?

The problem is that both sides, 'Vote leave' and 'Vote Remain' are feeding us lies and propoganda but I think if you sift through this and look at the basics we are better off retaining our independence and therefore retaining our power to make our own decisions.

Going back to Cameron's pledge today that if we vote out we will lose our pensions makes me question what exactly is wrong?  We pay into a scheme to pay our pension and then someone in europe is going to have the right to say we are no longer entitled to our money? How exactly does that work?

So the EU funding can have some benefits for us, I spoke to a university lecturer who explained how some of the research at Plymouth University relies on Eu funding. Surely if we pull out of the EU people around the world will still want to invest in our research and if we get a good government then they can use some of the EU money to further invest in UK research? I use the example of one of my students who just found her funding cut but has been offered funding from the US.

If I am honest I think that by voting in we stand a chance to vote out our current electorate who, in my opinion, have let us down badly. We could be brave and create a new country that could lead the world, we could use our consumer power to help tackle tax evasion and help fight the massive divide between rich and poor. I should use an example of this that I think it rather lovely. Slavery in this country was mainly abolished due to women who didn't agree with slavery stopping purchasing sugar, this had a direct affect on the income of the sugar plantation owners and the sugar importers within the UK, change was forced through by the consumers decision. We can all make a difference by spending our money more carefully and more ethcially, this could bring about dramatic change.

I am not about to take sides with those career politicians who have no real interest in what is best for the country, please put Boris, Farage, Cameron and Blair aside and take a moment to think about what you think may be best for our future, not just your future but our future.

If we do elect to vote in don't be surprised if you see the likes of Farage, Cameron and Johnson jumping on the gravy train and taking up unelected posts in the EU! Let's face it Blair has certainly milked his post prime ministerial career.

Basically I haven't heard one argument yet that has convinced me that remaining is a better option than the risk of leaving and I do resepect that there is a risk from leaving as it will be an uncertain time, however I think this will be short term as the country establishes how it moves forward. 

If we vote in we must ensure that whoever is in power sticks to their promises and that the money we currenlty invest into the EU is given back to the people/organisations that need it. We do have the power to make this happen, to see more money pumped back into our NHS and spent on the real issues in this country. We can rebuild our economy, we can enjoy migration and benefit from skilled workers who want to work in the UK and who contribute highly to our society. We can make better environmental decisions and protect the vulnerable in our society.

When you vote to remain in do you know for sure that the presidents and vice presidents in the EU council are any better than those who 'serve' us in the UK? Are you sure that Juncker, with his strong catholic beliefs, and his colleagues are going to decide a better future for us?

  There are no 100% guarantees whichever decision we make but I know that on the 23rd June I will definitely be voting out. Lets stay in the UK, vote out our current lunatics and try to form a country we can truly be proud of, a country that can still work closely with people from across the globe not just Europe.

Stay Healthy

Sam :) x x

p.s. Off to hide somewhere as I am sure there will be some varied opinions on my writing!

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