Clapton gym owner 'taught Lord of the Dance to weigh-lift'
PUBLISHED: 13:36 14 June 2016 | UPDATED: 13:46 14 June 2016
Not many ex-gang members can say they taught "Lord of the Dance" Michael Flatley how to weight-lift, but gym owner Ian Dowe is a bit of a special case.
Ian Dowe, 62, is a former world champion bodybuilder and successful personal trainer – but life could have been very different.
He arrived in Clapton from Jamaica aged nine and got into bodybuilding through his PE teacher at Brooke House school, now BSix college.
While training at Wag Bennett’s now famous gym in Forest Gate, he got to know a young Austrian upstart named Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s fair to say their lives took different routes.
After leaving school, Ian began surrounding himself with what he calls “bad company” – gangsters.
“I was always the one called to help them beat someone up,” he said. “But I realised I could get myself killed and on New Year’s Eve in 1973 I saw all my friends for the last time. I walked away from it and never looked back.”
As he travelled the world winning competitions, including the IFBB bodybuilding world championships, Ian would hear about his old friends – some went to jail on kidnap charges and some were killed, like Barrington Page.
Ian used to MC as “The Black Panther” with Barrington DJ-ing on the same soundsystem around Clapton and Stoke Newington.
In 1999 Barrington was found headless and handless in the River Lea. His murder remains unsolved.
"If I hadn’t got out of it, I’d be dead or in jail too"
“If I hadn’t got out of it, I’d be dead or in jail too,” said Ian. “Weight training saved my life.”
He still lives in Upper Clapton (where his dad once baulked at the £5,000 asking price for a house), but for the last 22 years he has made the early-morning trip to his gym, Dowe Dynamics in Archway Road.
He enjoys spending his days training people in the sport he loves, and has had some high profile clients including Nigel Benn and Michael Flatley.
“He [Flatley] was good – fast feet,” said Ian. “He invited me to watch his show and I did think: ‘Do I have to go?’
“But it was one of the best things I’ve ever been to.”