Reader Lana Gibson on her legendary K-Town teacherA few years back, I started attending aerobics classes in a cavernous hall at the Mornington Sports Centre. The walls were a gloomy green set off by diamond-shaped stained glass windows that shone as the sun went down. The classes felt like a 90s warehouse rave complete with hypnotic dance music; clubbing without the lechery or hangovers.
Then there was the brilliant range of people: a man who danced like he was exorcising instead of exercising; the women who shuffled happily out-of-time to the music at the back; the sprightly white-haired soul who put us all to shame at the front; and the Bez-alike who managed every move in the style of Happy Mondays.
After the sterile, shouty classes I’d been to in other chainstore gyms this was a godsend. The local characters, unique venue and down-to-earth feel really put me at ease. And it was the teacher – Miriam Wilks, a proud Kentishtowner for decades – who created the winning atmosphere. She didn’t say much or put on a rictus grin, instead working out with a quiet intensity for us all to get lost in grooving out to the music. She also had an amazing figure and looked about 20 years younger than her years. That, of course, inspired us more than anything.The Mornington Sports Centre closed in December 2011, and we reluctantly moved to the glossy new interiors of both the Kentish Town Sports Centre and Talacre. The classes filled up with dozens of 20-something professional blondes (I confess I’m one too), the polished wood and perky flouro gym equipment glowing in every corner a far cry from the swampy feel of Mornington.
But the change of location and gym-goers hasn’t ruined the classes. Instead, Miriam has managed to bring the unique charm of the old to the new. The pumping bass of the dance music still fills the packed room, and I see enough people going beyond weight-watching-obligation to dancing mode to know I’m not the only one who loves the classes (the sneaky hip-shakes always reveal us).Miriam’s been working in Camden and Kentish Town since 1989. “I’ve been here for the past twenty-three years and love my job,” she says. “The main thing that most people want is to feel good about themselves and gain a higher level of fitness. Most people come initially to lose weight for holidays, boyfriends or bikinis. All of this is achievable, but the main thing I hope people leave with is a smile. And I get the same benefits as the people who attend,” she says. “You put in the effort and get the endorphins back.”
The classes are, in some ways, a self-created family: “People are chatty and engaged,” she says, “and some have created strong friendships through them. But others just want a group to work out with and release a bit of tension after a demanding day at the office, university or home.”
All over our area good quality, down-to-earth ventures from passionate people are taking off. And as long as there are people like Miriam to keep us rocking to the real K-Town rhythm we’ll be all right.
Words: Lana Gibson. Lana works in SEO