Sunday, 28 November 2010

An Elected Mayor for Plymouth?

Grovelling apologies not only for the lack of blogging but for the failure to blog about last weeks PoleDivas competitions, it was a fabulous event and I will blog about it and post pictures when I get a moment. 

However, an issue has arisen that I felt deserved today's blog space and was very time sensitive as the deadline for submission of comments is the 5th December. As you may know I have various issues with the way Plymouth City Council is run, so much so that I even stood for local elections last year (with no success), I care passionately about the city in which I live and feel we could be doing so much more to nurture and promote this beautiful harbour and surrunding countryside. 

It seems we, the people of Plymouth, have the opportunity to vote to have an elected mayor as opposed to the current arrangements of an unelected chief executive and unelected council leaders yet many people I have spoken to have no idea about the possibility of reform. A personal thanks to the Herald for bringing this matter to my attention.

Here are some links from the thisisplymouth website that help debate the issue and will give you a better idea of exactly what is going on:

I get the idea that our current council leaders don't want change as they are happy with their cosy positions but this is not about what they want, this is about what's best for Plymouth. OK, so details were posted on the PCC website but have you ever tried to navigate the PCC website? It is full of broken links and has a poor search function making it very difficult to actually find what you want. 

If, for example, you wanted to hire the Plymouth Guildhall you would find it difficult to find the right page and when you do find the 'halls for hire' section there are no pictures or information to encourage you to actually book the venue. What I am trying to say is that Plymouth always sells itself short, our waterfront is in a mess, our airport is threatened, our rail links are poor and in desperate need of repair, the bus station is an absolute disgrace and when a recent coach company approached Plymouth about arranging tours a PCC rep stated that Plymouth is not a tourist destination!
                             Would this poster encourage you to visit Plymouth?
Recently we have seen the re-branding of Plymouth, a controversial exercise costing thousands of pounds of taxpayers money with pathetic results, click here for some interesting reporting from the Herald. Surely rather than sitting around a desk talking about 'Positively Plymouth'  and making pretty pictures on a PC (or Mac) we would have gained more from some practical actions such as clearing the streets of litter or repainting the bus station.

Is it unfair to say that PCC has the alternative Midas touch i.e. everything it touches turns to rubbish? What about the East End development, The Pavillions, The Dome, Tinside Lido, The plans for Central park, The Life centre, The disaster that is the Mayflower tourist centre, The fact that PCC can't organise a thanksgiving and it is left to a few individuals to plan?  I could go on.......

Back to the real point of toay's blog, could we benefit from an elected mayor and are we fed up with existing council set-up which sees the same old faces making the same old decisions? I have already aired my opinion in favour of an elected mayor and have raised concerns about the lack of public awareness of this issue.

Here is the actual response I got from Tim Howes after I aired concerns about the mayoral reform option not being publicised enough:

"The option of having a directly elected Mayor came into being in 2000.  Plymouth had a referendum on having an elected Mayor in 2002, where the public rejected the option.

There is a provision where the public, via petition, can request a further referendum but not until10 years after the 2002 referendum. Incidentally, the cost of the referendum alone is £250-300,000.

A new Localism Bill is being published shortly which will provide further options for the political governance of the authority, including a return to the committee system, which was in place prior to 2000. On the basis of those changes, the Government has encouraged Council's to use the most cost-effective form of consultation.

The Council has discussed new executive arrangements in two meetings which were open to the public, the summons, agenda and minutes of those meetings are on our web-site. The Council will be considering this matter again on the 6th December, when again, the meeting will be open to the public.

The Council also published press releases relating to these changes and since October, several articles on the subject have appeared in the local press. Those same press releases were on our web-site.

People have written to the Council, sent e-mails and responded to the on-line consultation to date. That consultation remains open until the 5th December."

If you want your say just e-mail Tim Howes to request a copy of the consultation document and to air your views.

I will stop writing for now as it makes me rather angry but I hope that everyone gets the chance to air the views and that for once the council actually listens to its people.Well done to all those who do care abut Plymouth, the unsung heroes who arrange community activities, run businesses and do their best to make Plymouth great despite a failing council.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Thursday, 18 November 2010

From dying to 10 years younger!

For the last few weeks I thought I might be dying, I was getting increasingly frequent headaches as well as pins and needles in my right hand, I knew I had been training a lot but didn't realise quite how much damage I had done. 

You see the problem is that teaching is not the same as doing your own personal practice and quite often I find myself showing students how not do things to prevent injury and then sustaining those injuries myself. For example, one of my recent session plans, which was laid out over 3 consecutive hours of teaching, involved headstand grips and the potential for pressure to the neck, I showed students the correct technique and then showed them a more advanced technique that could result in neck damage. By the time I got home my neck was really aching but at least my students necks were left protected!

Another problem with teaching is that quite often you are not working to your maximum ability especially when you are teaching less advanced groups. It is difficult to stay warm in some classes and that makes the muscles more prone to injury. The 20+ pole dancing inductions last month certainly had a part to play in my knotted muscles.

Teaching a lot also means I tend to neglect my personal pole dance training and this was reflected in my recent performance at the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club showcase at Plymouth University. I had lost some of my usual fluidity and grace and will definitely no perform again without more rehearsal time. Videos of mine and Tamar's performance to follow very, very soon!

So due to the high number of hours teaching and the lack of time to keep up my own personal yoga practice or regular sports massage  I have been building up a series of niggling injuries. There was I thinking that I was dying when all I needed was a good massage and some nice stretches. Help came in the form of Glen, a local sports masseuse with years of experience and a price tag of just £15 for a whole hour :). I should at this point apologise to my usual masseuse for not getting in contact but I know our hectic diaries sometimes make it difficult for me to get an appointment especially at short notice.

My hour long massage and consultation was exactly the cure I needed and the hour of pummeling meant I could walk out of the treatment room feeling 10 years younger. Since Monday's appointment I have had no more headaches, no more pins and needles and have suddenly regained movement in my back and shoulders that I haven't had for months. I will not be leaving it so long before my next massage.

So my students should be warned that once I return from judging at the finals of PoleDivas this weekend in Manchester I will be bursting full of energy with some very special extra evil session plans. You have been warned.

N.B. Image at top of blog is the fabulous novelty toothpick holder from Worldwide Fred. Click here to view or buy.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembering and hoping for better.

As I started today's blog, that was going to be about my sore shoulder, I suddenly realised it was Remembrance Sunday and the idea of merely winging about a small ache in my body seemed completely selfish. To think that so many have lost their lives and so many have been left permanently scarred both physically and mentally definitely outweighs my pole-pain!

I would like to take a moment to remember all those who have suffered both in recent conflict and in wars of the past, the many men, women and children who have been caught up in cruel and bloody conflict. I would love to think that we had said goodbye to the last fatalities of war, that in this day and age no-one would have to die over arguments about religion and oil but I am sure we will see many more lose their lives yet.

My thoughts go out to all those who have lost loved ones or those who still suffer at the hands of war.  I normally sign off my blog with the words 'Stay Healthy' but war has taken that right away from so many. I hope that we can learn from the past and try to avoid such atrocities in the future.

Sam x

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Continuing Professional Development.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending another Keep Fit Association (KFA) training day at Derriford Church Hall in Plymouth. The course was divided into 2 parts with the morning being devoted to a theoretical session looking at Equality and Diversity with Carolyn Drew from Somerset County Council. We also touched on the Disability Discrimination act of 2005. I have to be honest that having come from a NHS and Social services background specialising in adults with learning disabilities the course did not really offer me anything new but was a gentle reminder of basic policy and good practice. The course also tackled institutional racism,  prejudice (click here for a clip of the Equal Somerset film currently being used as a teaching aid in the UK and the US) and its manifestation within the workplace. Carolyn presented well and provoked a few good discussions as well as inviting us to check that our classes are as inclusive as they can be.

The afternoon was devoted to a practical session on personal performance and being a good role model for you students. We looked at learning routines and ensuring we proceed them correctly for our students as well as providing good demonstrations. We used fabulous references about the 7 secrets of Super performers, click here for this great source of advice, I will certainly be reading this resource prior to my next performance.
What I love about the KFA style is that it allows for more freedom of movement than the REP's ETM (Register of Exercise Professionals Exercise to Music course), I found the ETM style very restrictive whereas the KFA allows much more artistic license which I feel gives the students more benefits.

I am always welcomed on the KFA courses and at just £35 for the whole day the courses are great value. I think ongoing training helps to keep your mind open so your classes don't stagnate, to constantly evaluate both my practice and that of those who work with me is an essential part of my business and my responsibilty to my students and staff.

Another bonus of the South West KFA courses is that local trainer, Dell, always brings home made cake and the lemon cake she brought yesterday did not disappoint. The SWKFA ladies are a true pleasure to work with and they are a real inspiration with several members still teaching in their 70's and 80's, I believe Ruth is now 83 and she still looks fabulous.  Recently the SWKFA ladies choreographed an amazing ABBA inspired routine to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, click here to read more.

What was also great about yesterday was that the course reinforced the fact that at the art of dance we are teaching to the best of our ability and within the law. I am so proud of my staff team and the wonderful session plans they provide for our students.

It is now time to sign of for a Sunday Brunch followed by some personal pole dancing practice later this afternoon as I prepare for Tuesdays pending showcase at the Student Union at Plymouth University

More news to follow soon including more pole dance competition judging news (AWPC, Bristol Pole Championships and PoleDivas) as well as a new fitness DVD review and promising new pole dance magazine.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x