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If you thought joining the Women's Institute would drive you up the pole...

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 03, 2012

The women of St Giles in the Wood WI try a pole dancing session. Inset Jeanne Hellyer and Mirand Goldring show them how to do it

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A Women's Institute group conjures up a whole host of stereotypes; ladies of a certain age with a passion for lace doilies, jam making and cake baking.

However, one rural WI branch has well and truly broken this assumption when they opted for a pole dancing lesson during their latest meeting.

The fledgling St Giles In The Wood group in North Devon, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, opted for the unusual athletic activity during their monthly meeting last Wednesday.

Miranda Goldring from Pole Affinity and her student Jeanne Hellyer brought two poles to set up in the village hall for the evening lesson.

Club president Kate Corbin, 39, said: "It all started as a bit of a running joke. We said if we started a WI group we should do pole dancing at our first meeting. That didn't happen –, we ended up de-boning a chicken instead."

Kate and other committee members organise the group's programme nine months in advance. Kate said they approached Miranda for a session.

The ladies were taught basic beginner moves including a fireman's spin, a pivot turn, a front hook spin and a jump and slide.

Group member Jemma Doyle said: "The pole dancing was great fun. We are all mums, we have young children. We aren't old, we aren't what people would imagine a WI group would be like.

"I knew some of the ladies before, we always have a great laugh. I have some firm friends here. When you live in a rural area it's great to get out and about. We are all very like-minded."

Sophie Cadogan, who is in her 40s and lives in Stevenstone said the pole dancing session was not what she expected.

She said: "I thought it would be really complicated but it wasn't because the moves were broken down step by step and were easy to follow.

"I was surprised how quickly we all picked it up."

Emily Pulleine, the club's secretary, said: "Everyone had a go, we like learning new skills and taking part in new activities.

"We try to be more modern in our approach. We have lots of respect for the more traditional WI groups.

"The traditional groups tend to suit older ladies who are perhaps retired with grown up children. We are at a different stage because we have young children."

Miranda, who has been teaching pole dancing for four years thought the group did very well considering this was their first session.

She said: "It was nice, they were all keen to learn. The art is to make the sequences look flawless, effortless and graceful.

"Some people think pole dancing is easy, until they have a go and say they ache the next day.

"I was quite surprised when the WI group called me. This shows they have younger blood.

"They are a lovely bunch of people and I was pleased to have been asked along."

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