Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Cut the pay to £50K!

So the first stage of our Plymouth Pay Protest started today with a group of us standing outside the council chambers with placards, thanks to all of those who turned up to support this campaign. For those of you who turned up late you would have missed the vitriole spouted by Plymouth City Council leader Viven Pengelly who clearly missed the point of the protest, failed to communicate with me and instead resorted to bullying tactics and threats of legal action. Whilst bullying tactics may work in Ms Pengelly's own cabinet they do not work on me. Whatever my actions I did not deserve the torrent of abuse that Ms Pengelly gave and I was extremely disappointed that she would not give me a chance to explain my point of view or the point of the protest.

I should explain that the original protest was started after I read an article on the thisisplymouth website about pay rises awarded to senior civil servants, the figures that the article quoted were taken from the Taxpayers alliance who released their figures under the Freedom of information act. Here are the Taxpayers alliance figures. Plymouth City Council are keen to deny the figures stating that they are inaccurate, I had asked the democratic office for the 'correct' figures but have received no reply.

Whether the figures are correct or not is not really the point, those at the top are being paid too much and are not taking the same cuts as those at the bottom. Check out this story from a lady called 'Anne' who works for the council and who spoke to us today at the protest. "I am finding it really hard, all my overtime has been cut, I was on a low wage anyway and now I can't make ends meet. I haven't had a pay rise in years and the cuts now mean I earn less now than I did three years ago. To make matters worse the cost of living has gone up so I am actually earning far less than I have ever done in my life. "

Also at today's protest was an off-duty police officer who commented that his annual income has been reduced by £6,000 per year and he will be looking at an early retirement as the force seeks further cuts.

A follow up protest is now in the offing as well as a petition to campaign for the reduction of the wages of those at the top level of salaries.

So campaign continues and I will update you as and when I have news. Thanks to all of those who supported me and those who bothered to turn up today and thanks to Heart FM, Radio Plymouth and ITN news for covering things to date.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Plymouth Pay Protest

None of us can escape the growing sense of unease at the growing divide between rich and poor, we have all seen the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and now we watch with interest the developments in the Yemen, Bahrain and more worryingly Libya.

Of course the dissatisfaction with local and national government is not confined to foreign shores and most of us are feeling the pinch of the rising cost of living whilst dealing with pay cuts, job losses and major cuts to front line services.

On Wednesday morning I read the Heralds coverage of the pay-rises (check out the comments) awarded to senior council officials and my stomach churned. The figures, which are denied by Plymouth City Council but confirmed by the Taxpayers alliance under figures they received under the Freedom of Information act, state that Barry Keel, the current P.C.C chief executive has been awarded a pay rise of 18.6 percent resulting in his pay rising from £170,000 per year to £203,000. A 36,000 pay rise in a time of cuts is simply obscene.

So whilst Mr Keel and many other senior council enjoy their huge salaries, generous pensions and expenses the rest of us carry on suffering.

In response to the pay rises I have organised the first of several targeted protests aimed to send a clear message to the council that we will not tolerate cuts at the bottom without cuts at the top. I personally would like to see a £50,000 cap on wages for council leaders, this would still allow them to have a more than comfortable standard of living and would free up finance to spend on more important city issues.

Those, such as Barry Keel, will argue that their wages are in-line with private sector pay so I challenge them to seek employment in the private sector instead and allow people who genuinely care about the people of Plymouth to fill the vacant posts on the proposed capped salary.

If you feel angry at the recent council pay rises and the growing divide between rich and poor in the city then please join us at our Plymouth Pay Protest to be held on Tuesday 29th March at 1.30pm outside the council chambers. This will be a peaceful protest and I ask if everyone can wear something red as a symbol of your anger towards our city fat cats.

There is a Plymouth Pay Protest facebook group that you can join to be kept up to date with all protest events and there is an events page for the protest planned for the 29th. Hope to see you all there.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Changing perceptions of pole dancing

As some of you may know there have been lots of celebrations in Plymouth this week for International Women's day, the events are a chance to appreciate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Being involved with some of these events has been a fantastic experience.

The Intergenerational event was held at Plymouth Guildhall on Friday 11th March, (Herald article on the intergenerational event) it was an amazing event with women of all ages getting together to create this special occasion. The fashion show saw women from the age of 15 to 91 hitting the catwalk wearing clothing from the 1910's through to the modern day. Their was music from the intergenerational choir as well as choirs from Montpelier (my old school) and Mary Dean's Primary School.

I had been invited to pole dance at the event and I was excited to set up my x-pole next to the Tor Lace group and the cake stand. The array of fresh, home-made cakes baked by Platform 51 was mouth-watering and free but I resisted temptation and stuck with a nice cup of tea instead!

The event gave me a chance to meet women from different walks of life and of varying ages. Most of the ladies who watched my pole dancing demonstrations were between 14 and 16 and they were full of questions about what I do and how I earn my living. They, like many, assumed that I worked in a lap dancing club and could not get their heads around the fact that I earn money from teaching pole dancing to members of the public.

One young lady asked me if I was a slut which kid of sums up some peoples ignorance to fitness pole dancing. The lady in question was soon asking questions of a different nature and seemed eager to learn pole dancing for herself. Now that the young ladies were being entertained by gymnastics and not the exotic dancing they were expecting they were asking me to repeat tricks such as death drops and allegras, one lady chose the death drop as her favourite move whilst another loved the shoulder mounts, it was great to capture the attention of these young women and I hope to see some of them again very soon for some lessons.

It wasn't just the younger generation who came to watch me, many of the ladies from Age Concern grabbed a table next to me so they could watch my performances whilst enjoying the fabulous cakes too. Many of the ladies took pictures and perhaps the most common questions were "Doesn't it hurt your skin?" and "Aren't you frightened of falling off?" The answer to both questions was Yes.

If the ladies were amazed by what I was doing I had to admit being amazed by the Tor Lace group whose intricate work was simply beautiful. The piece pictured below had taken one lady nearly 2 years to complete. The ladies were working throughout the event creating their mini masterpieces for all to enjoy. The group also provides a social network for women to meet, swap patterns and enjoy each others company. If you are interested in joining the group simply e-mail Alison.

The intergenerational event also gave me a chance to celebrate the life of Elspeth Sitter, founder of Plymouth Age Concern. Elspeth's tireless work to ensure better conditions for the elderly has not gone unrecognised. Read more about Elspeth Sitter's remarkable life.

Another inspiring aspect of the event was that it was held in the place I got married, Plymouth Guildhall has many special memories for me and it was lovely to perform there again just as I had on the day of my wedding. Finally Plymouth Guildhall has been given a maintenance budget allowing essential repairs to begin at long last, the crumbling building is so important to Plymouth that I am surprised it has taken so long for the money to be found to begin work. The most important thing is that work is taking place and slowly the building can start to return to its former glory.

The pole dancing demonstration had an unexpected outcome for me as I managed to irritate a ligament injury to my knee, within 30 minutes of the end of my demo my knee was starting to throb and swell. Rosanna and I returned stepped in at short notice to cover my classes (than you Rosanna x) home hoping that ice, elevation and rest may be enough to repair the damage.

Unfortunately my plan failed and by 2am on Saturday morning I was in agony, I was also terrified as an injury to my knee could spell the end of my dancing career. It was time to visit the local minor injuries unit to get some professional advice. After a 2 hour wait, and much hilarity in the waiting room as my husband and I bumped into local licensee's Phil and Lyndsay Gill, I was booked into an appointment with a consultant at the fracture clinic on Tuesday morning. I now have to wait till then to see how long I need off work and what the exact prognosis is. I am gutted but hope that the outcome will be less serous than I fear.

Before I sign off for today I want to send my thoughts and best wishes to the people caught up in Japan's devastating earthquake, the images we are seeing are breathtaking for all the wrong reasons and the death toll looks set to rise beyond expectation. You can help by donating via one of the many charities, such as Oxfam, who will be sending aid direct to the disaster zone.

More news to follow soon on my unexpected drinking session last night with council leaders Vivien Pengelly and Ian Bowyer.

Stay Healthy

Sam x