Leila is a 25-year-old Queer professional pole dancer, instructor, choreographer and model from South East London, based at Kelechnekoff studio in Peckham. Leila is the founder of Blackstage Pole, a project that aims to showcase BPOC pole dancers, who are often underrepresented in the pole industry. Leila says that she started Blackstage because “I was tired of the lack of representation of BPOC and I was tired of the white, non-sex worker allied, pole narrative which also erases trans and non-binary polers. I wanted a space for the community I love and see, to be loved and seen by all as it should be. I want the pole industry to be decolonised!”. Leila is a recurring panellist and guest speaker for The New Black Film Collective and various other events covering topics such as racism, sex work, decolonising education, and qtibpoc liberation
“Hi I’m Gemma, I’ve been in the pole world for nearly 14 years. I love all pole but the dance and musicality of movement is what’s kept me around for so long. Incredibly honoured to be chosen to judge.”
Luke started Pole nearly 8 years ago whilst at University with no prior dance training. He instantly fell in love with the sport and began his instructing career 7 years ago, teaching the Beginners class at Sussex University whilst still a student himself. He then began instructing professionally at Gemini Pole Studio in Brighton, where he is now Head Instructor and Owner.
Luke is an avid pole performer and competitor, having won titles up and down the UK. His favourite thing about performing is meshing the pole moves with a theme and a character, and he can’t wait to see the amazing talent that the UKPPC competitors will bring to the stage this year.
Mel trained as a pianist and musicologist before discovering pole in 2012 and now spends far more time on chrome than on the piano bench. Outside of pole, she works at Arts Council England developing national strategy and policy relating to cultural education, talent development, and pathways into the creative industries. She has served as a panelist for grants, awards, and prizes for major arts funders. She is also a Trustee of Magpie Dance, a charity that supports people with learning disabilities to reach their full potential through dance. Mel is excited about working with UKPPC to create an inclusive space where all competitors are empowered to showcase their unique strengths and styles.
Gemma is a full time pole instructor, sex worker and sex worker right’s activist. Drawing from her performance background and stripping experience, Gemma is most passionate about helping students connect with their own sexuality through empowering techniques. Gemma also loves contemporary and lyrical style pole, as her dance background is rooted in classical training. Gemma is the vice chair of the Northern Sex Workers Collective @nswcuk, advocating for sex worker rights and building a sex worker community. One of Gemma’s goals in the pole world is to demand respect for its founders by destigmatising and demystifying sex work.
Gemma has competed in several national and international pole competitions, including IPAAT, PSUK and The Authentic Pole Dance. She won the Pole2Pole Cup and Essex Pole Dance Championship in 2017. This is Gemma’s first judging position and she is so excited her first experience is with UKPPC. She feels strongly about giving constructive and fair feedback and cannot wait to see competitors have their moment on stage
Jade Strugnell is the owner of the pole studio Aerial Sports in Cheshire. She has been poling for over 8 years now and specialises in quirky character routines and heel work. Alongside owning her studio – Jade and her partner Stephen founded Total Grip – A UK based liquid chalk company which delivers superior grip performance for pole. Outside of pole, her favourite things in the world are cross stitching, sweeties and pyjamas – seeing Jade in regular clothing is a rare sight!