Hosting a Pole Dancing Show in Care Home

On the 18th February, I arranged for the talented performers of The Pole Dance Factory to come and perform a 30 minute show at Fairmile Grange. Little did I know that this small and private showcase would turn into a national debate…

Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of a lecture on literature review, Fairmile’s Marketing Manager called to let me know that an ‘anonymous’ person complained to the local press about the showcase. The morning after, the Bournemouth Echo published an article highlighting the critics of this oh-so-scandalous event ( link to the scandal here ). By ‘critics’, I refer to County Councillor Peter Hall and champion for older people in Christchurch, Denise Jones (I like to name and shame!), who claimed loud and clear that such performance was ‘completely inappropriate for a care home’.

I was upset and angry to see that what had ultimately been a very successful and positive event painted in a negative light. Firstly, the organisation of this event came from a discussion with the residents who requested new and modern entertainment, and each resident was given an individual choice to attend or not. Secondly, Pole Dancing does not mean ‘lap-dancing’; it is a recognised sport which demands much strength, flexibility and class. Finally, who are the Councillors to decide what adult care home residents can or cannot do? As far as I am aware, everyone in the room was well over 18…

It quickly became obvious that I was not the only one to feel this way, as more and more people started to comment on the article and show their support. By the following day, the story had been picked up by all national papers and was even the topic of serious debate on national radio and TV. The comments and support of the public have been overwhelmingly positive and made me realise that stigma around older people and dementia were starting to be challenged. Celia Walden and Max Davidson published two brilliant opinion pieces in the Telegraph, highlighting the right for older people to experience life to its fullest. As both writers point out, care home residents are also entitled to live their sexuality, and nobody should be able to choose for them.

Looking back on what happened, I am happy that the story was published and that it backfired on the person who tried to turn it into something shameful. I am proud of having organised this event, and I certainly do not regret it. Although there are still many obstacles to overcome, it is debates like these which make society go forward. I hope that care homes will unapologetically keep hosting pole shows, take risks and just keep remembering that older people (with or without dementia) have the right to live life in its fullest (and most fun!) extent.


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