'I just want a shot at a decent life': Bristol dancer works in strip club to fund circus dream

Amelie works at Urban Tiger so she can train to become a full-time circus performer. Credit: BPM Media / Bristol Live

Amelie, 25, works as a dancer at a strip club in Bristol to help fund her dream of becoming a full-time circus performer.

“For me, if I was to get a minimum wage job, that’s my circus career down the drain, as I’d have to work five or six days a week,” she told ITV West Country.

“It’s my dream. I’ve been training circus since I was sive years old. It’s my life. I’m not going to give that up.”

But Amelie’s ambition could be at risk if Bristol City Council decides to impose a nil-cap policy on Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs).

If approved, the new policy would force Urban Tiger and Central Chambers to close, which campaigners argue could put more than 100 people out of work.

“Across the two clubs there are about 100 people working,” she explained.

“Bouncers, door staff, bar staff, cleaners, managers. That would be about 100 people losing their jobs.

“Some dancers have been working there for more than 10 years. Same for the bouncers. For people, they wouldn't just lose their livelihoods, they could lose their lives.”

The proposals, which have gone out to public consultation, could see Bristol become one of the biggest cities in the UK to ban strip clubs.

It is a debate which has grabbed attention all over the world, and campaigners fear it would spell the end of strip clubs across the country.

“Our job makes some people feel uncomfortable"

“People who still uphold questionable values, old conservative values, people who aren’t comfortable with sexuality and a woman being financially independent," Amelie said.

“The difference is consent. I consent to working in the club.”

Bristol’s strip clubs are heavily regulated, according to Amelie, and are subject to regular checks from the police and Bristol City Council.

“We’ve got CCTV everywhere. It couldn’t be stricter than it is,” she said.

Amelie wants people to change their perceptions of strip clubs.

Reports of drink spiking and sexual assaults in night clubs have placed even more focus on women’s safety in recent weeks.

Police figures show the three licensed premises in Bristol with the most reports of rape and sexual assault are Pryzm, OMG and The 02 Academy.

“If the main argument you are going to push for is that it’s for women’s safety, then there are other clubs you should have a look at first before you come to us,” Amelie added.

“If that’s really your main concern, you should go and close down Pryzm.”

For many dancers like Amelie, the financial independence which comes from working in a strip club is another appealing factor of the job.

On a good night, Amelie can make up to four digits.

“I just want to have money and a shot at a decent life - that’s all it is," she said.

The 25-year-old is one of many working in a strip club to make ends meet.

But she calls herself one of the “privileged dancers”.

“Some people do it for survival and some people do it because it’s the only thing they can do,” she said.

“Some have disabilities which means they can’t work normal 9 to 5 jobs. Others are carers. Some are single mums, and that’s the only option they have.

“The people behind are your neighbours, your friends, your sisters. We’re just normal people. We don’t exist in a vacuum. We don’t just live and work in a strip club. We are people with normal lives.”

The public consultation closes on 19 December.