Mayor at full stretch

Charity Pilates class at Banner Cross Methodist Church: Lord Mayor Sylvia Dunkley
Charity Pilates class at Banner Cross Methodist Church: Lord Mayor Sylvia Dunkley

THE royal family take part in pilates, it seems, so why not Sheffield’s Lord Mayor?

In fact, Sylvia Dunkley was a regular pilates participant for several years before her mayoral schedule curtailed some of her leisure activities – but she intends to return to the exercise regime in future.

“It’s so good for you,” she said at her special charity pilates session at Banner Cross Methodist Church on Saturday.

“Many of us are stuck in front of computers all day, and we tend to slump, but when I was doing pilates it really helped. You stand up better and feel better.”

Nearly 30 people took part in the special hour long session run by pilates teacher and physiotherapist Sheila Kellett, raising nearly £500 for the Lord Mayor’s charities (along with other fund raising events on the day).

Jane Emerson and Sue Coggin were representing one of the Lord Mayor’s twin charities, the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, which is based in Mappin Street.

“Everyone, sighted and non-sighted, can join in together when you do pilates,” said Sue Coggin. “I think it’s good for the mind and the body. The Lord Mayor has been very supportive of Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, and she’s helping to raise awareness.”

World Sight Day today (Thursday) encourages people to have eye checks. “Your eyes should have a regular MOT as some conditions can be prevented with early detection,” said Sue.

The Lord Mayor’s second charity is the British Heart Foundation, whose local representative, Beryl Gilmartin, was also grateful for the Lord Mayor’s support.

“It helps us to highlight the problems of heart disease,” she said, “and to say it’s not just with older people. It’s important to get the message across even to children, that we should all make an effort to take more exercise and eat better food.”

In straitened times, exercise need not cost money, she added. “There are so many free things people can do in Sheffield, there are hundreds of walking groups for example, there’s no necessity to join a gym.”

Pilates teacher Sheila Kellet and the Banner Cross Methodist Church had provided their services free for the charity event.

“A lot of people have weak core muscles,” Sheila said. “Bad posture puts a strain on our bodies, which leads to aches and pains elsewhere and stiffness which ends up in a downward spiral of weakness and pain and inability.

“I’ve been seeing people with acute problems as a physiotherapist for 33 years and I researched into pilates and found these symptoms decrease for people who’ve stuck with it.”

Banner Cross minister the Rev Robert Lewis said: “I doubt there is anyone here whose friends or family aren’t affected in one way or another by one of these diseases.

“We have so many other concerns in society and churches and other faith groups respond by being part of people’s lives. A Christian word often used is salvation, which actually means a healing wholeness and having an interest in the here and now as well as the hereafter. “

Sylvia Dunkley’s campaign for her two health charities will continue with musical events over November and Christmas and a charity dinner in February.

Local community groups have also been inspired by the aims to promote eye and heart health. During Ramadan, the local Muslim community raised over £4,000 for the charities.

Robert Lewis lived in the USA before arriving here eight years ago and noted the similarities between the two countries relating to heart disease in particular.

“It affects us all in Western society,” he said. “We have jobs without physical labour, changes in food and patterns of eating and we see in the United States and the UK we have to take the issue seriously or we’re all going to suffer.”

After her stretching and ‘centring’ and concentrating exercise at Banner Cross, Sylvia Dunkley put her chain back on and returned to her mayoral duties.

“I feel better after doing the session this morning,” she said. “I just need to keep it up.”