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Amora - The Academy of Sex and Relationships based at the Trocadero in Piccadilly, which opened on the 18th April 2007, is London's newest tourist attraction. Featuring 'Seven Zones of Love', the 10,500 square foot exhibit is apparently designed to "separate fact from myth and educate everyone into being better lovers".

The launch of this adults only sex theme park (you have to be eighteen or over to gain admittance) is supported by a temporary exhibition, billed as the world premiere of the "Amorgasm experience", which is described as "an immersive and sensory journey where you can discover what happens in the mind and body in the moments before, during and after an orgasm."

Visitors will be able to construct their perfect mate on a computer, experience the 'orgasm tunnel' and view some three dimensional CGI graphics explaining various kissing techniques. Other attractions include an anatomically accurate model of the female genitalia into which visitors invited to insert a digit and find the G spot - the model responds with an audible "that's it" when you identify the correct location. (In the interests of gender equality there is male version which generates the same response when the prostate is located.) Afterwards visitors can relax in the 'Aphrodisiac Lounge' where they can "enjoy smoothies and cocktails made from recipes known for their aphrodisiac qualities", or browse the 'Amora Boutique' which features "a broad range of carefully selected, best-selling products".

The management of the venture appear extremely eager to make it known that it is all in the best possible taste, and that Amora is "not a sex museum like those in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris". The "emphasis is on fun and information rather than titillation", and the exhibition is "sensual, not seedy" providing "an engaging and insightful visit". Indeed the whole point of labelling the business as an 'academy' is designed to give the whole affair an aura of respectability that might otherwise be absent if it simply described itself as a sex exhibition. Not everyone is convinced by such earnestness, the Business pages of the Daily Telegraph seemed less than impressed, noting that the company was so "terrified of being labelled sleazy" that it was "pimping itself as a health and education experience".


Amora is the brainchild of Johan Rizki, a Frenchman who graduated from Harvard Business School, became an investment banker, and now apparently wants to "make the world a sexier place". In 2004 he came to the conclusion that Britain was ready for "the world’s first exhaustive reference centre on the subject of sex and relationships". As chief executive of the Academy, Rizki recruited Dr Sarah Brewer, the "award-winning health journalist" to head the professional advisory board and become director of exhibits. She in turn has put together a team of twenty-one medical doctors and sex therapists (which have "underpinned the integrity of the brand") who have been busy double-checking the output of the writers who have spent a year or more producing data for the 'info-hubs'.

The financing for the venture has largely come from private equity investors including two former bankers from BNP Paribas, two Deloitte liquidators, Christopher Morris and Roger Powdrill (famed for their work on the BCCI case) and other figures from the City of London such as Rupert Webb of Freedom Finance, and Jon Moulton of Alchemy. As a fixed-cost, cash-based business the current management believe that they can attract 500,000 visitors a year, spending £20 a head thus generating an income a £10m. Set against the £2m annual running costs this should generate a surplus sufficient to repay the initial investors within two years and bumper profits all round. (An internal rate of return of ninety per cent is apparently anticipated on the invested.) They apparently view these estimates as conservative and believe that annual visitor numbers could rise as high as 800,000, and have plans for a 3,000 square foot Amora roadshow which will tour Britain's cities and for future expansion into other European capitals.

Not everything has however clearly gone to plan. The business had to endure a minor row in 2006 when the Academy claimed that it had received the endorsement of an number of leading charities, including the Terrence Higgins Trust, and who then promptly denied issuing any such endorsement. More importantly there have clearly been problems with actually getting things working. In October 2005 the BBC was reporting that the exhibition would be "opening next year". By May 2006 it was reporting that it was "to open in London's West End later this year". Five months later, and with no opening date in sight, the Academy was claiming that "We’ll definitely be open in time for the holidays". Christmas came and went and the Academy's doors remained firmly shut, and it is only now in April 2007 that it is finally opening, being at least a year, if not eighteen months behind schedule. These delays also appear to have had an impact on costs, whereas in 2005 the BBC referred to the "£4.7m London Academy of Sex and Relationships", six months later it had become a "£7m sex theme park". Presumably costs have further escalated since then and we are now talking about £10 million or more.


Amora apparently "cares that you have access to all the knowledge you need to enhance your sex life and to enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships", and according to one Tracey Cox, who is described as a sex and relationship expert, "You can walk in to that place knowing nothing about sex and come out pretty much knowing everything there is to know, and able to go and have a very satisfying relationship." Such statements, which can be taken as an expression of the underlying philosophy behind the whole Amora concept, reflect the widespread misconception that achieving a "satisfying relationship" is simply a matter of obtaining the necessary technical information regarding the mechanics of coitus. Even if this were the case, it does not necessarily follow that the best way of delivering such information is through the medium of a public exhibition. Or indeed, that the British public will select that particular medium in preference to any other, such as say, the internet, which is of course awash with this sort of thing and doesn't cost fifteen pounds a pop to access.

But then again, even if the natives do stay away in droves, one suspects that the whole 'academy' concept and the 'educational' nature of the venture was simply a smokescreen to enable the business to get the necessary planning permission from Westminster City Council (which might have balked at allowing a 10,500 square foot sex shop to open within its borders). The real target market for the Academy may well be the hordes of American and Japanese tourists who descend on London each year, and who might well be persuaded to while away a wet afternoon being titillated in an educational way rather than traipse around the British Museum.


Amora - The Academy of Sex and Relationships is located at The Trocadero which is at 13 Coventry Street, Piccadilly, London, W1; the nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus. It is open daily between 11:00 am and 12:00 midnight. Ticket Prices for the day sessions (between 11:00 and 16:00) are £12.00, and for the evening sessions (between 17:00 and 22:00) are £15.00, Full time students and senior citizens (over 60) get a 10% discount on these prices.


SOURCES

  • Polly Curtis, Art of spanking at the sex academy, The Guardian April 17, 2007
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/britain/article/0,,2058842,00.html
  • Hannah Summers, Interactive sex academy, The London Paper 17 April 2007
    http://www.thelondonpaper.com/cs/Satellite/london/news/article/1157147106577?
    packedargs=aid%3D1157147106577%26suffix%3DArticleController
  • BBC News Sex academy' offers lovers tips, 7 October 2005 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4319424.stm
  • BBC News Sex theme park to open in London, 24 May 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/5012334.stm
  • A Seductive Investment, Mayfair Times, October 2006 an interview with Johan Rizki found at ttp://www.lasr.co.uk/
  • Sophie Brodie, Business diary, Daily Telegraph 14/04/2006
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2006/04/14/ccdiary14.xml
  • Various bits and pieces at;
    http://www.amoralondon.com
    http://www.lastminute.com/
    http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk

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