HEREFORD’S Annie Norris took pole position at a prestigious awards ceremony recognising the movers and shakers within one of the fastest growing parts of the leisure industry.

The owner of Pure-Studios in Hereford was voted the "Most Influential Person in the UK pole dancing industry at the Pole World Festival.

Judges also made Annie runner up in the Best Instructor in the UK category while the studio itself came runner up as the best of its kind in the country.

Annie said: “I’ve been in the industry for 17 years now, and I was so delighted to have been nominated — so to win and come runner up is amazing.

“I’ve been thinking about what ‘most influential person’ means — and I hope it means I inspire people.

"Not just to get up and dance, but to have the confidence to try something new, to work hard at it, and maybe even to perform on stage.”

And one evening this summer that is exactly what Annie's students did.

Hereford's Courtyard was the location for a special show of pole dancing talent in front of 400 spectators.

“I have never been more proud in my life than when we put on the Showcase — it really highlights what an amazing group we have here," added Annie.

The awards are, according to Annie, the culmination of years of hard work.

"I’m very lucky to have a job that’s also my passion," she added.

“But my main goal for the studio is for women and men of all ages, shapes, and sizes to come along and find a place they can call home from home.

"It can be very daunting walking into a gym, or health club, or dance class — especially to try something different like pole dancing.

"There’s always this image attached — that all the women will be very slim with great bums and tiny pants. And we do have those amazing ladies at Pure-Studios. But we also have women and men of all shapes and sizes and abilities."

Annie admits that 'walking into a roomful of strangers is scary' but she aimed to create a space where participants are made to feel welcome.

"It’s wonderful watching people’s journeys from nerves and tracksuit bottoms to confidence and short-shorts," she added.

"To see the looks on their faces when they nail a new move. And to be there when they finally think, ‘I love my body. Not for what it looks like, but for what it can do.’ That’s incredible.”