With the new year’s resolutions pending Belfast pole fitness expert El Fegan has already had an influx of people ready to get in shape at her city centre studio in 2020.
Despite being around for over a decade there’s no sign of pole fitness losing its appeal according to El.
El has been offering pole dancing, pole athletics and other fun activities from her Polercise premises in Belfast’s Donegall Street for almost fifteen years. The studio is located in the former premises of Clark’s Dance Studio and El admits that when she first opened, she expected a bit of opposition.
“Looking back now, I think I was just a bit nervous,” she said. “Given the reputation of the US ‘pole dancing’, I expected to see banners and protests right outside the door, but there was nothing and it all worked out well. I think Northern Ireland – and Belfast in particular – has moved on now.
“We’ve had great interest in the classes for the new year with people coming for a variety of reasons from confidence building and self esteem reasons to exercise, fitness and even core strengthening and more.
“I definitely feel that the popularity of pole certainly hasn’t waned and, in fact, there’s been a little resurgence recently since Belfast hosted the World Pole Sports and Fitness Championships.”
For those who don’t know, pole exercise has remained a popular exercise trend in recent years, with participants able to have fun and get healthy at the same time.
El first came across pole fitness during a trip to Australia.
“I saw this article in a magazine and I was really intrigued,” she explained. “I immediately thought ‘hey, I could do that. I remember going and asking about the classes. For about three weeks I sneaked off to classes but didn’t tell my boyfriend at the time.”
El quickly got the pole ‘bug’ and decided to pursue a career in the activity. But first she had to overcome a bit of a blip!
“When I came home in October 2004,” she added, “I set up a pole in my brother’s house because I didn’t want to speak to my parents about it. I didn’t think they would understand because, at that time, pole still had a seedy sort of image, so I sneaked over to my brother’s house for a while to practise. Pole was, however, becoming more prominent in England and was getting press coverage, so I would leave magazines open for my mum to pick up on it so that she would understand it wasn’t seedy, but a great way of getting stronger, both physically and mentally.”
Since those early days El has pioneered the benefits of pole for all ages – particularly for girls and is encouraging people to consider signing up to the new term next month.
“We’ve actually had girls come in and tell us that pole has changed their lives,” she said. “Through pole, they develop their body confidence and self-confidence, and this can help them in their relationships. Some have come from an abusive relationship and they are able to get the strength to just go and move on from there. And, that, for me, is probably the best, the biggest thing that we get out of it.”
El’s classes are now a major attraction for all types of people. From mothers and daughters to younger children, her classes are a mix of people who are there for fun and for the health benefits.
There’s even a growing number of men joining in.
“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “This year has been good for stag parties and we’ve had a couple of stags who have come in to do pole and had a really great time.”
With taster sessions on the first Friday of every month starting January 3 the one hour long class is perfect for people looking to try before they commit.
And no one should feel it’s not for them. Those who take part in the Polercise classes come in all shapes and sizes.
“We get small girls who have absolutely no upper body strength, and they’re not able to lift their own body,” she explained. “And then, we’ll get stronger, bigger, girls who can just climb up that pole, no bother. It’s just all about being able to lift your own bodyweight, and work from there.
“We have people who are gymnastic, people who come from absolutely no background and love the sexy side of it, and love putting the hands on. We’re not a school that’s going to go ‘No, you’re not allowed to wear high heels, you’re not allowed to do that’.”
In addition to classes, Polercise also offers fun events for parties.
“We offer any kind of themed dance party, like the whole Burlesque, cheerleading, Grease, Dirty Dancing and the like,” El said. “This year is going to be the hustlers, so we’re going to be offering strip tease workshops. We’ve already run a few of those, and they went down a storm. While the classes involve a full-on body workout, the parties are a bit more fun. Everyone comes in and we play a few party games, followed by a champagne reception.”
If you’re intrigued about pole fitness, but not sure whether it’s for you, El suggests a beginners’ class where you learn the basics.
“Everyone starts out as a beginner,” she explained. “Initially we focus on the basics like technique and building your strength. Come and try it and see if it’s for you.”
Taster sessions for Polercise start on Friday January 3 with the 4-week beginners class starting on Monday January 6.
For more information go to https://www.polerciseni.com/
£10million Investment in Transformation of New Train Station for York Street
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced a £10m investment project that will see the construction of a new train station at York Street, Belfast.
Having recently secured planning permission, this exciting regeneration project will be the next station to be transformed into a high-quality sustainable transport hub, to attract more people to make public transport their first choice for greener and healthier travel.
Announcing the funding, Minister Mallon said: “I am committed to delivering sustainable infrastructure that will transform communities, improve lives and help tackle the climate crisis. Key to that commitment is ensuring we have a functioning and thriving public transport network and that is why I want to invest in our infrastructure and our rail infrastructure in particular, which will deliver for local people and visitors now and well into the future.
“Last year I launched a public consultation on proposals to redevelop this new train station at York Street. Following the completion of the consultation process, and the subsequent receipt of planning approval, I am delighted to confirm that this £10million project can move towards construction phase.
“Our public transport network is vital in our recovery from Covid-19 both economically and socially. Pre-covid the current facility was one of the busiest train stations in Northern Ireland. With the move of Ulster University to this part of Belfast, it is expected this will grow further with improved facilities, including better links to walking and cycling options in the area, making it even easier for people to choose sustainable travel as their smarter travel mode.”
The Minister added: “As well as improving connectivity and making public transport a more attractive offering the redevelopment of the station will also help to secure jobs in the local construction industry. I look forward to seeing work commence later this year and the completion of the new station in 2023.”
Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive said: “This is really good news for the city. It will provide better connectivity for everyone particularly with the opening of the new Ulster University campus this year and the planned City Quays development.
“Passengers will enjoy modern, more accessible amenities including a new Changing Places facility and better links to walking and cycling options with more access to cycle parking and local cycle networks. A new footbridge will link to wider platforms and new canopies.
“The external design will boast an enhanced station layout with high quality landscaping and provision of a public realm area at the front of the station.
“We would like to thank the Minister and her department for the essential funding to deliver this vital infrastructure scheme which will significantly shape the future of this area. It will provide the people of North Belfast with connections that can improve the area’s liveability and the community’s employability. We will continue to work with all our stakeholders as the development progresses”, Chris concluded.
Stormont Play Park ‘Quiet Hour’ Launched
Finance Minister, Conor Murphy has announced a special ‘Quiet Hour’ at the Mo Mowlam Playpark on the Stormont Estate, making the facilities more inclusive for all.
The playpark, which is designed for children of all abilities and includes a dedicated sensory area, will now be opened one hour earlier each Wednesday morning during July, creating a calmer environment for children with additional needs.
The Quiet Hour will run from 8.30am-9.30am for an initial four-week trial and if successful, will become a regular fixture.
Speaking during a visit to the playpark along with Health Minister this morning, Minister Murphy said: “Inclusive play is at the heart of this wonderful facility which is extremely popular with families and children.
“We recognise that due to its popularity, the playpark can get very busy and this can be overwhelming for some children. So we’re delighted to be able to open the gates an hour earlier one day a week to allow those with additional needs to be able to play in a quieter setting.”
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I am delighted to support this initiative and to meet the young people and their families for whom it will undoubtedly prove a popular addition to the facilities available with the Stormont Estate. Making all aspects of society as accessible and inclusive as possible to all our citizens and in particular the young is an ambition which we must all continue to work towards.”
Welcoming the initiative, Autism NI CEO Kerry Boyd said: “It is great to see that the playpark will be introducing a special Quiet Hour for children with additional needs. Many of our autistic families have enjoyed the facility since it has opened and will benefit greatly from the park opening an hour early. We hope others will follow this great example and help to build an inclusive society for everyone.”
The Quiet Hour was championed by a number of parents who have been engaging with Stormont Estate staff in recent weeks. After meeting with parents and children at the park, Minister Murphy said: “I was delighted to speak with parents who have been instrumental in making this a reality. It’s so important that children of all abilities can continue to enjoy this excellent playpark as much as possible. I’m very pleased to be able to facilitate this Quiet Hour and I hope it proves to be a great success.”