The organiser of a pole dancing contest to be held in a pub in Leith has sparked outrage by encouraging girls as young as 16 to take part.
Teens wearing hotpants and crop tops will perform in the “Edinburgh Pole” competition, thought to be the first event of its kind in the city.
And the firm behind it – GoesWell Dance Fitness – admits it has coached girls as young as nine at its classes.
The contest, which has been widely criticised, is to be held in a function room at The Granary pub in Leith.
Organiser Anne Goswell, 35, said: “The reason we are running this contest is lots of people have bought poles for their homes, there’s a market for this. There’s absolutely no connotations with sex – it’s not about the club scene – a lot of the girls that come to me are dancers.
“I do teach a lot of girls aged around 16, but we’re more pole fitness than pole dance. I certainly don’t have people dancing in G-strings.”
Ms Goswell said the youngest student who had come to a class – a nine-year-old – had attended with her mum and sisters.
But the contest, which will take place in April before an audience, has been slammed by Leith councillor Gordon Munro. “I’m no prude, but I don’t think this event is appropriate. I just don’t think it’s something teenagers should be encouraged to do – you can’t take pole dancing away from its sexual context,” he said.
“This is just about the objectification of women – it’s taking Leith back to the 1970s when it was the home of Go-Go dancing.”
Peter Cairney, a spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church, described the event as an example of the “early sexualisation” of children.
“We know that we have one of the worst records in Europe for STIs and teenage pregnancies and we need to join the dots.
“When we encourage groups of girls to present themselves as nothing more than sex objects we can’t be surprised at those statistics.”
The contest will see entrants compete on 13ft poles at amateur, intermediate and professional levels, with set dance and freestyle categories.
Competitors who are under 18 will have to leave early to comply with licensing rules.
GoesWell Dance runs classes in Edinburgh, Musselburgh and Glasgow and also teaches Zumba, burlesque and can-can.
Shona Moore, 17, who started pole dancing when she was 16, said: “Me and my friends really enjoy it – it helps build up your confidence and people should know that it’s not just about dirty dancing – it’s really good for your fitness.”
The beauty therapy student, who plans to enter next year’s contest, described it as a hobby.
Nineteen-year-old zoology student Seonaidh Jamieson also started going to classes at 16. “The sexual connotations are there, but I think people need to give it a chance – who doesn’t enjoy hanging upside down?”
Women’s charity Zero Tolerance – which is campaigning against what it calls “pornified Scotland” – said “This competition is part of the increasing sexualisation of our culture which encourages people to see women as objects, valuable only for their physical appeal and ability to perform in a sexual way.
“The fact that girls as young as 16 are being invited to participate makes it even more worrying.”
A spokesman for The Granary declined to comment.