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The Interview

Bryony Mylroie-Smith

Local writer and storyteller, George Murphy interviews local characters and personalities

My name's Bryony, I'm the owner of The Bridge Pilates Studio, based at the Birchcliffe Centre in Hebden Bridge. I was born in Halifax and grew up "on the tops" above Hebden Bridge. My favourite memories of my childhood in the valley are of helping Jill and then Martin Jones delivering and caring for lambs up at the lamb sheds during the school holidays, walks to Stoodley Pike, and to Walkleys Clogs for pick 'n' mix and "troll bridge walks" searching for adventures.

At 17, I found the Valley quite suffocating and so when the opportunity arose I moved away to train in contemporary dance performance. My early career and continued education took me to London, Derby and then I returned to Leeds. When I re-met my partner in 2014, we decided to move back to Hebden Bridge and so in 2017 I opened my Pilates studio in my home town.

I took a break from teaching in 2019, when my son was born, and returned to teaching in 2020, during the first lockdown. The last 10 months have been fairly challenging for my business, as we (like so many others) have had to adapt and change our plans and our business so many times, and often over night, to accommodate the new rules. Thankfully, with the power of the internet and the dedication of those wanting to continue practising their Pilates, we've managed to make it work!

Q & A

What is your favourite book?

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.When I’m going through a difficult patch or struggling, there’s usually something within the pages of that book which shapes a little perspective for me.

How much TV do you watch?

I’ve never watched much as I’m used to working in the evenings, but I’d say in the last year or so I’ve started watching a little more in the evenings.

I’m a fan of binge-watching boxsets and movies. We’ve loved watching a few series on Netflix recently: The OA, Dead to Me and Young. We’ve also enjoyed watching a lot of Taskmaster and Masterchef recently too.

Favourite holiday place?

I love trips to the Dordogne, as it’s always been a family favourite, but in recent years I’ve also enjoyed visiting Malaysia and Singapore so I can visit my brother and his wife.

How has lockdown affected you?

Lockdown hit whilst I was still on maternity leave, so at the time - whilst I wasn’t working - I was used to a busy schedule of baby classes and days out, planned around meeting people with my baby. Lockdown taught me to slow down a little and enjoy being home a little bit more. I enjoyed walking more and it reminded me of the importance of physical activity and how much I need to move my body to feel physically and mentally well.

Where did you meet your partner?

We went to school together at Calder High. He was the year above me at school. We didn’t reconnect though until around 10 years later, through Facebook.

How were your school days?

On the whole I found school okay, I had a lot of friends in lots of different friendship groups, so I was quite happy spending time with them. I enjoy learning and some subjects came quite naturally to me, so the education side of things was never a struggle.

Describe your job

I am the owner of the Bridge Pilates Studio, based in the Birchcliffe Centre. I opened the studio in 2017, in one of the smaller offices in the building. We’ve now expanded to a bigger space, where we can run sessions on the bigger Pilates equipment (a lot of which looks like torture equipment, but I promise it’s not!), such as The Reformer, The Cadillac and The Wunda Chair.

When I first opened the studio it was just me teaching there, but now we are a team of 4 and we teach both 1-2-1s and group sessions throughout the week from Monday – Saturday.

I love Pilates because it supports you in so many ways; it helps you to feel better physically and mentally, you feel more in tune with your body and it can complement other movement practices, such as running or any kind of sport, and it is also great for rehabilitating from injury or preventing injuries.

Whats the age range of people attending your Pilates sessions?

At the moment, I’d say the age range is from 20 – 80+ year olds; however, I have taught teenagers in the past.

Any time for hobbies?

Rarely time for hobbies at the moment, but some of my favourite things to do are: reading, dancing, gardening, walking and spending time with my friends and family.

Did you enjoy your student courses?

Yes, every single one of them. I love learning, so I’ve spent a lot of my adult life finding ways to educate myself more. My studies have taken me from Contemporary Dance Performance to Dance in the Community Post Graduate study; then on to Leeds University to read English and, whilst completing my degree, I decided to train in Pilates.

I think people often think of Pilates Instructor training as one of those courses you can do over two long weekends of study; however, my Pilates training on the full studio equipment involved 12 months of course weekends learning from the course educators. Then, before I could enter myself for the examination process, I had to complete 100 hours of Self Practice, 100 hours of teaching practice and 100 hours of observation, plus have every exercise in the syllabus signed off by my mentor to prove that she’d seen me teach and perform the exercises!

My education continues though, as to stay accredited I must complete training throughout the year and attend regular courses.

Favourite food?

This is a difficult question to answer, especially over Christmas as I’ve been overindulging and there’s been a lot of different delicious foods to enjoy. I think my favourite food often depends on my mood. Pasta with a delicious sauce or a lasagne are always good choices though!

Are you happy?

Yes, generally I’d say I’m fairly happy and can often find the positives in situations.

How has life in the Calder Valley been for you?

It hasn’t always been the easiest for me, living in the Calder Valley, and as a teenager I couldn’t wait to move away (I left home at 17 to study dance in Scotland), but distance does make the heart grow fonder and now I am incredibly grateful to be back in the Valley. I love having lots of memories from growing up here, lots of friends to bump in to regularly and it is very special to live so near to my mum, my sister and her family, and my partner’s family too.

First memory?

My brother trying to abandon me at the bottom of the garden in his toy tractor trailer!

What makes you angry?


What music do you love?

Another difficult question. I like a lot of different music for different reasons, some for the memories or creativity (choreographically) it evokes, other music to get lost in the rhythm or forget about choreography or counting the beats! I grew up listening to Eric Clapton, The Beatles, James and Runrig. I also enjoy Mumford and Sons, Trombone Shorty and Colour Haze.

What aims have you got for the future?

Keeping it simple and not thinking too far in to the future (2020 has made it fairly hard to plan ahead!). I’d like to grow more vegetables than I did last year, see more friends than I did in 2020 and continue to meet fantastic people through my work providing Pilates and positive movement experiences for people in the Calder Valley.

Photographs: Janet Wareing Photography

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