Three months in – life as a new massage tutor

As many of you know, Emma Conlon and Lydia Spry joined the teaching team here at BCMB at the start of the year.  3 months in Lydia Spry reflects on the journey so far…

When I graduated in December 2015 from the Holistic Massage course at BCMB I knew I wouldn’t be away for long. I knew I couldn’t be – the place means too much to me. This was a place where I felt truly supported. A place where I felt genuinely accepted. And – to top it off – I’d learned an amazing range of new skills that were going to set me on a new career path where I get paid for helping people feel better!

So – when the job of Assistant Tutor came up just a year later, I applied and hoped and prayed and interviewed and….

Well, here we are.

And of course,,, I should have guessed it… you might know what is coming… being a member of staff at BCMB feels… exactly the same!

BCMB are just as supportive, nurturing and accepting of new members of staff as their students. Not only were the first weekends treated as an ‘apprenticeship’ for me, not only did Andy give us training on being an Assistant Tutor, but also the lead tutors on my course have supported me at every step. I have been encouraged to push myself where I felt able and relax and be kind to myself when I felt something was going to be too challenging.

And it’s not just the staff – the students are the same. Emma Conlon got the job at the same time as me but started much quicker as she joined a course that had been running for 4 months. We talked about how tricky that might feel but she was teaching massage skills and up to her elbows in supervision groups before you could say ‘sternocleidomastoid’. Smiling, laughing and supporting everyone along the way. Everyone welcomed and accepted her in the same way that everyone is welcomed and accepted.

Because that is what BCMB is like. It is welcoming, it is accepting, it is nourishing. You can almost feel it in the air. Perhaps it’s coming down the stairs into the building – perhaps it is the welcoming cat at the door – perhaps it’s the memory of all those who’ve received massage in the building. Whatever it is you know that everyone feels it as soon as they come in the door.

News from our Worcester team

Our new Worcester students are now into the second week of their professional Holistic Massage Diploma training. Cleo and Colette, our assistant tutors on the Worcester team, tell us how the group is progressing, developing and growing – appropriately enough for spring!

“Bubble and Squeak?” asked one of the students with a look of surprise. “No, Bubbling Spring” replied Sarah as she was explaining a meridian point on the sole of the foot whilst students were learning about foot massage on this second weekend into BCMB Worcester’s 2017 Professional Training Course. We can still hear the laughter this question brought ringing around the lovely space we teach in.

We can safely say we are in for a year full of fun and laughter with this lovely 2017 group of students. We have been really looking forward to this year as it is our second year of teaching together as a team. We have found our mojo of working together and have lots of fun which creates a great environment in which to learn and explore. Sarah, our lead tutor is so experienced; a fantastic mentor who we are lucky enough to assist on the teaching team.

Our first weekend in February is usually quite an anxious one for the students. We both remember this feeling when embarking on our own BCMB training courses. Everyone is feeling a bit unsure and have so many questions swirling around their heads, “Will I get on with other students? Will I be able to learn the anatomy and physiology? Will I have to tell everyone about myself?”  It isn’t long though before they discover that everyone has their individual apprehensions and concerns and they are usually relieved when told that they don’t need to know each other’s stories. By lunchtime of the first day in the cafe (yes, we even have a fabulous cafe at the Fold in Bransford where we run the Worcester course) there is so much chatter and laughter as these students of mixed ages and backgrounds come together and get to know one another through their communal interest in massage.

This weekend in March was our second weekend together and everyone was so much more relaxed and connected. The students really enjoyed our supervision sessions where they get the opportunity to split into small groups, each group facilitated by one of us as tutors. In these small groups they have the opportunity to explore and share their successes, concerns and learn from one another’s experiences. This is a model that as a school, BCMB take forward throughout the course year and beyond into professional life as a massage therapist. We as tutors and assistant tutors all go to supervision to continue in our professional development, to share our experiences with peers and to talk through any difficulties and successes we have.

We look forward to observing and sharing in this year’s journey with 2017 Worcester BCMB group.

Cleo and Colette
Assistant Tutors BCMB Worcester

Cleo, Colette and Sarah all run private supervision groups for qualified practitioners in the Worcester area.  To find out more, including when our Bristol tutors run sessions, visit our supervision group section on our CPD page.

The Unique Qualities of Indian Head Massage

By Sarah Cohen, Indian Head Massage Course Leader

Another group of excited students have just gained their Indian Head Massage Certificate and are taking it out into the world – well done all of you!

I love teaching head massage – it has such a unique character all of its own. I am constantly searching for the essence of what makes it so different – as different it is. It comes from such a long line of teaching and healing being part of Ayurvedic understanding which dates back over 4000 years. It is an intrinsic part of life in Indian culture with children massaging their parents, mothers their babies, friends their friends and even stockbrokers seeking their heads to be massaged before deciding to sell/buy!

At the start of each course there is curiosity and hesitancy from students who often come from a holistic massage background and want to know ‘What is this?’ I try to explain but the understanding only comes – and it always comes – after hands on experience of a day or so – and excitement, smiles arrive. And still it can’t be easily vocalised.

My desire for the world is that touch/massage become part of our daily life for everyone. There will still be a need for specialised therapeutic massage – as there is in Ayurvedic medicine – but for everyone to be comfortable and happily touching others in our daily life would help our society to be so much more healthy. Head massage is so well suited to this as it can take place anywhere at anytime without clothes needing to be removed or special equipment needed. Despite its apparent ‘smallness’ as a therapy I am constantly amazed at how it can be so much more deeply relaxing and profound than any other discipline – and it is fabulous to watch that surprise in those receiving who expected something pleasant and relaxing and find it is on another plane.

The course itself is also a joy as although there is much to be learnt and homework to be done the whole essence of the therapy is that it is relaxed, laid back and so is the course within the context of learning. Charlotte Rooney, recent Indian Head Massage graduate (and BCMB Office Manager!) said “I have loved this course! It has added so much to my practice, and I particularly enjoyed learning about the Ayurvedic side of head massage including all the gorgeous hair oils.  I’d never thought if myself as an energy worker so it was intriguing to explore chakra work a bit more and realise how effective it can be even if it’s not your normal practice. It’s difficult to explain how it’s different from ‘normal’ head and face work or even seated massage but my clients certainly like it. Some of them now choose it in preference to holistic and in addition I see people who wouldn’t choose a table massage at all.”

If you want to join us in this exploration we have a course running at our Worcester centre starting 8th April and one in Bristol starting 2nd October – find out more including how to enroll.

Feel more calm and together in 2017


BCMB tutor, Sarah Hoare, interviewed Lucy Heard (pictured right) to find out why this creative arts freelancer regularly attends the BCMB Student Clinics…


SH: Lucy, thanks for sitting down with me today. Let’s crack on – when did you start having massage at the Student Clinic?

LH: 1912! Well, at least 2 years ago. I go weekly, as often as I can. I generally book a block of 5 then take a little rest and book another block. Apart from the time when I didn’t do any sessions, and that was just wrong!

It was difficult for me to go at first. Hard to let myself have that space. It felt very indulgent. Well, it still does, but now I let myself go anyway! I’ve learned the benefits outweigh the feelings of guilt and self-indulgence. When I tell other people I’m having massage most weeks they say, “What? Really? Can you DO that?” There’s a lot of permission giving going on within myself. I think it’s easier because I’m not spending £50-60 a time. The affordable price makes a real difference to me. When I started going I wasn’t earning much money at all.

SH: Tell me more about the benefits?

LH: I feel much more grounded in my own body. Let’s say I know when I DON’T go! It’s really noticeable when I don’t go. When I do though, I feel more calm and more together. And the benefits go on for days afterwards. It’s not just about having a nice time at the time. I find I continue to absorb and reflect afterwards. I’m in a different headspace.

I don’t get as angry. And I can see things in a much more orderly fashion. In exchange for an hour a week, I get to clear out my head. It just works.

SH: Has your experienced changed over the time you’ve been having the massages?

LH: In the beginning I used to spend time lying there feeling I didn’t deserve it. I’d be giving myself a hard time for having time out, time completely dedicated to me, as if that didn’t have any value in the grand scheme of things. Like I should be working or helping someone else or whatever.

SH: What changed for you?

LH: Ha! I told myself to get over myself and enjoy it! I also recognised that I am helping someone else by going. I’m helping the student to improve. I went round a lot of different students early on and that really helped me to trust the process. I would go and not know who I was getting each time, and I’ve never had an unpleasant massage. It became about trusting that everyone who’s there is there for a reason, and the variety’s given me an overarching experience of the training. The massage is never the same twice, but it’s coming from a consistent place, individual style with familiar elements. It’s a bit like my yoga practice – I do the same postures again and again, but I have a different experience every time. It’s not like BCMB is churning therapists out of a factory!

I feel like I’m learning massage from the inside out. I’m getting insight into what the students are learning, and it’s nice when they share that with me, whether it’s telling me muscle names or what a particular technique is for.

And I like to pretend I really don’t give a monkey’s about taking my clothes off, when really I do! It’s all interconnected with life. It’s all about being present and being seen, if It’s OK to get deep and philosophical about it!

When I first started going I felt they needed to beat the s**t out of me, like it needed to be painful with big pressure on the tenderest parts. Now, with the regularity and the experience, I don’t feel I need that level of force. It can be a really pleasant experience, not seeking to fix anything or change anything, it can just be as it is in that moment.

It’s learning about letting go. Learning I don’t need to ‘help’ by say holding or moving my arm for the student. I am getting better at letting go. And I notice when my mind wanders, and I feel my body respond to the thoughts. Sometimes I catch myself tensing up and realise my mind’s drifted back to some tricky moment from the day.

There are moments of revelation too, suddenly getting clarity, or solutions, realising , “of course that’s what I should do!”

It’s also just really nice to know you’ve got a warm, comfortable, safe space booked in once a week. That’s nice!

The only downside is just getting to develop little relationships over perhaps 3-4 sessions. I don’t get to experience an ongoing relationship with one person, but that’s a compromise I’m willing to make because I know the quality will always be there.

SH: How do you schedule the sessions into your life?

LH: I try to plan so I’m not doing anything after my massage. I like to keep my clear head afterwards. The massage is like a signal, “this is the end of my day”, so I don’t lie there thinking about all the things I need to do later.

SH: With all your experience, any top tips for first timers?

LH: Let the students practice what they need to – be open to it and you’ll get a better session as a result. There’s no need to fight what’s being offered. I haven’t gone in with an agenda of my own, say to sort my shoulders out, for a long time. When you get comfortable with letting the student practice what they need to, you get great attention because they are really into it, really appreciative and really focused. It’s an exchange. They’re there to learn, and you’ll be surprised how working in areas other than your shoulders can help so much!

And you get to see them progress and grow in confidence. They really change along the way, and there’s always an interesting mix of people on the course, from dance instructors to boxers!

SH: And if someone was thinking about going to the Student Clinic, what would you say to them?

LH: Do it! Get on with it! Stop wasting your life!

SH: Well, that’s a perfect moment to end on! Thanks for taking the time to chat, Lucy. Happy Massage and Happy New Year to you!

If you want to start attending the BCMB Student Clinics, contact the office on 0117 946 6371

Reminder – Workshop Price Rise

Just a reminder  that from January 2017, the following prices rises will occur:

Introductory Workshops:

Current Price – £120 or £100 concessionary rate
New Price – £130 or £110 concessionary rate

Advanced Workshops:

Current Price – Early Bird Price of £65 per day, Full Price of £70 per day
New Price – Early Bird Price of £75 per day, Full Price of £80 per day

Massage Practice Days:

Current Price – £59 or £49 concessionary rate
New Price – £69 or £59 concessionary rate

Want to book onto a course next year but not pay the higher prices?  Book and pay before 1st January and we’ll honour our current prices. Book online now:

Book onto an Introductory Workshop here

Book onto an Advanced Workshop or Massage Practice Day here

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year


Merry Christmas from the BCMB Team.  We’re wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Please note that between Christmas and New Year we will only be open for some of Thursday 29th December. Apart from this date, the college will be closed until returning to normal working hours on Tuesday 3rd January.

Workshops Price Changes from January 2017

From January 2017, the following prices rises will occur:

Introductory Workshops:

Current Price – £120 or £100 concessionary rate
New Price – £130 or £110 concessionary rate

Advanced Workshops:

Current Price – Early Bird Price of £65 per day, Full Price of £70 per day
New Price – Early Bird Price of £75 per day, Full Price of £80 per day

Massage Practice Days:

Current Price – £59 or £49 concessionary rate
New Price – £69 or £59 concessionary rate

My glide into retirement


A message from Andy Fagg.

Andy FaggI qualified in massage in April 1984.  At the time, I had no idea that this lovely new pastime would become my career, indeed my life’s work.  The development of my different massage roles has been an amazing process, including my work as a therapist, teacher, supervisor, mentor, colleague, College founder and Chair of a national professional body.  I have loved every minute of it and perhaps one day will tell some of the stories, but not yet.

For today I am writing about the drawing to a close of that journey.  I will describe the when, the why and the how of “my glide into retirement”.


I intend to stop my massage work before my 64th birthday i.e. by November 2018.  Is that set in stone?  Well, never say never, but it is the trajectory I am set on.


There are two main reasons.

The first is personal.  At Easter 2015 my wife Cathy decided that she would retire from her career as a senior NHS manager within a year.  She duly did so in March this year. She has flourished since retirement and a clear mismatch in our lifestyles has emerged.  That is fine for the time being but cannot continue for ever.  In brief, I want to spend more time her.

The second reason concerns legacy. As I said I have loved and am passionate about my massage work, whether that be with clients, students, supervisees or teaching colleagues.  I wish the work to continue, especially through BCMB.  I am very proud of what I have created, with the support of the community of students, graduates and tutor colleagues.

Some 12 months ago I realised that I needed to hand on the flame of connection and healing that massage represents whilst I am still passionate about it.  If I wait until I become tired, jaded and burnt out, there would be no worthwhile legacy left.  In brief, I need to stop whilst I am ahead.

The process of change is already under way:

In April 2014, I stepped down as a Director of the Massage Training Institute. I am very grateful to Tim Bartlett, of BCMB, for picking up that role.

In July this year, I finished teaching the Holistic Massage Diploma course, which is still the foundation and heartbeat of BCMB. It is being taken forward by the talented tutor teams in Bristol and Worcester. Many thanks to Sarah Hoare, Sarah McLellan, Jacquie Kelly, Jeremy Dymond and Sarah Cohen for your devotion and hard work, along with your extremely able assistants.

I have been gradually winding up my Supervision groups and will stop them altogether by Christmas this year. BCMB tutor colleagues will continue to offer supervision.

And for the future:

63770_3528_1_M036I am about to embark on a last round of CPD courses, between this October and November 2017. I will be shadowed by BCMB colleagues who intend to offer them in the future. My next one will be Deep Tissue Massage on 28-30 October, with Sarah Hoare.

A Working Party has been meeting since January, to look at the Management of BCMB. From January 2017, governance will change from the present benign dictatorship (ie me!) to a Board structure. I will Chair that Board for at least the first year.

My client work is likely to be the last to go, at a suitable time in 2018. The precise date is yet to be decided.

More details of the coming changes will be sent round shortly, especially about CPD courses and the management of BCMB.

Many thanks


Recruiting – Holistic Massage Diploma Assistant Tutor

Are you interested in massage teaching with the BCMB?

The staff team at BCMB continues to evolve! In December 2016 Gill Ayshford will be leaving the Holistic Massage Diploma teaching team. She has been fantastic over the last 10 or so years, providing her wise, grounded support to many many students. Thank you Gill!

So, from February 2016, there will be a vacancy for a new assistant tutor, to join the team with Jacquie Kelly, Jeremy Dymond and Ros Cooper.

We are recruiting now to give the new person time for induction and experience on the course currently in progress and an Introductory Workshop or two.

Would you like to get involved?

The Job

The Assistant Role in the Professional Training is a very important one. This includes experiencing again the course itself; supporting students; receiving lots of massage (!), mentoring63769_3527_1_M010 and other support; and opportunities for future development. At BCMB we have a staff development process – this represents the first stage.

The role involves attending all the course weekends, including the residential one at Poulstone near Hereford.  There may also be a need to attend some of the Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology days on Friday. Hence the commitment being asked is for around 25 days between February and December 2016.  There is also a time commitment between course weekends in terms of planning and review meetings plus, when required, 1-1 support or catch-up sessions with students.  The catch-up sessions are paid for by the student, as specified in the Learning Contract.

Specifically, the role includes the following:

  • Attending planning meetings.
  • Before each course weekend, liaising with the team; this includes preparation and mentoring on specific inputs the Assistant will make.
  • During the weekend, one-to one support of students whilst they are practising techniques at the massage table.
  • Sharing personal and professional experience during group processes.
  • Some demonstration of techniques (this is small to begin with but more opportunities are created as the Assistant gathers confidence and experience).
  • Feedback to students on their folders of work.
  • Helping to clear up after breaks and at lunch times – and encouraging students to get involved!
  • Attending de-briefing meetings at the end of each course weekend.
  • Attending review weekends at the end of a training.
  • Sitting in on Introductory Workshops with more experienced staff

The positions are paid at a rate that varies depending on the size of the group. As a not for profit company BCMB acts as a cooperative, so staff fees are negotiated and agreed at the start of each course. Recently, new assistants received £90 per day in their first year rising to £100 in their second. This includes mentoring and support from the course leaders.

Entry Criteria

Andy teachingThe following list is desirable but not all necessarily mandatory. We would much prefer to get the right person – man or woman – rather than tick all the boxes. So the desirable criteria are:

  • To have completed the BCMB professional training.
  • Some Advanced Training experience through BCMB’s CPD programme or elsewhere.
  • To have or be developing an independent professional practice.
  • To have been qualified for at least a year.
  • To be in on-going professional supervision (or to be willing to enter supervision once engaged as a teaching assistant).
  • Some experience of working with groups including teaching.

Future Developments

As stated above this is the first stage on the BCMB staff development programme. This can lead ultimately to becoming a full MTI tutor.  The speed of this process can vary but MTI criteria specifies that it must include at least 3 years teaching experience.

What to do Next

If you might be interested, please get in touch with us at:

Please indicate:

  • What interests you about the work.
  • What qualities you would bring to the role.
  • Background information including how you meet the entry criteria.
  • How you would see the work fitting in to your future development.

The closing date for applications is Friday 16th September 2016 with interviews taking place on Monday 26th September 2016. This gives time for some induction training in the run up to Christmas.

We look forward to hearing from you.

With Best Wishes

Andy Fagg

BCMB Director

Teaching the long and the short: and I’m not talking body types!

By Jeremy Dymond, Holistic Massage Diploma Tutor

I spend most of my time as a tutor at Bristol College of Massage & Bodywork (BCMB) teaching the Level 4 Diploma in Holistic Massage. And I love it.

You get to see people with little or no experience of massage start to dip a toe in; dive headlong; swim, sometimes flounder a little; gain support, knowledge & experience; grow confident; and sail on beyond with a professional skill for helping others under their belt.

This weekend though I’ve been teaching an ‘Introduction to Massage’ two-day workshop at BCMB. Which I also love.

Like the Diploma course you get to see people with little or no experience of massage start to dip a toe in; dive headlong; swim, sometimes flounder a little; gain support, knowledge & experience; grow confident; – you may have spotted some repetition here! – and sail on beyond to carry some of these basic skills in to their lives (and maybe on into the Diploma course).

So what’s my point – why the repetition?!63768_3526_1_H007

…well, the two courses are so different to teach… in the full Diploma course there’s so much juicy detail, intriguing anatomical learning, valuable physiology & pathology information, developing & refining of people skills, creation of clear a supportive connection with people, and interesting ways to effectively apply this knowledge to the hands-on work of the actual massage.

There’s no way you can cover even a tenth of this in a 2day Introduction to Massage workshop!..

… but one of the reasons I love the short Introductory workshop is because I’m unendingly in awe of how it captures the essence of the full Diploma course… in just two days!

It reflects the person centred, nurturing, accepting ethos of the Diploma course, and of the College as a whole.

It captures the main principles underpinning the Diploma course and offers a lot of the, oh-so-important, sensitive, connecting, hands-on work.

The two days may not give anything like the superb depth of knowledge and growth of skills people gain form the Diploma course but it really does capture the college’s essence, and it is this essence that drew me to BCMB and gives me the greatest pleasure to share it with others.

Jeremy Dymond

Jeremy Dymond

Jeremy Dymond was drawn to massage having experienced many benefits from it while suffering a back condition. He trained with BCMB in 2010 and now works in private practice in Bath where he also lives. He is an assistant on the BCMB Professional Training Course in Worcester. He uses influences from Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi to look after himself and further support his massage work. Always keen to be outdoors and active, be it on his bike or walking and camping, Jeremy forever looks to make better use of his body and to find effective ways to relax his mind. He finds great satisfaction in using massage to help others get the best from their bodies.

Teaches: Holistic Massage (Bristol)

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