Dragons breathe fire on Suffolk inventor

IMAGINE being able to exercise in the comfort of your living room - by using the armchair you have been sitting in to relax and watch TV.Inventor Peter Ashley has spent years working on a project in which an ordinary armchair can be transformed into a multi-gym, featuring all the equipment needed for all sorts of exercises.

IMAGINE being able to exercise in the comfort of your living room - by using the armchair you have been sitting in to relax and watch TV.

Inventor Peter Ashley has spent years working on a project in which an ordinary armchair can be transformed into a multi-gym, featuring all the equipment needed for all sorts of exercises.

No more trips to the gym - because hidden away in the chair is all the equipment needed for pull ups, cycling, rowing, bench press exercises and more.

But life is not easy for an inventor and Mr Ashley has been into the Dragons' Den to see if his creation is likely to change the world - and is tonight at 8pm featured on the BBC2 series pitching for cash to get his dream off the ground.


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He faced a grilling from the programme's five experts as he demonstrated how the exercise chair would work and tried to persuade them it was a business venture worth investing in.

Mr Ashley of Grange Road, Felixstowe said: “Their comments were quite hurtful, very critical at times.

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“But it was positive criticism. I think taken in context, I had to say, maybe that's right.

“I believe criticism can be helpful. The panel are all millionaires - they know the business world and what will work and what won't.

“So I have now made some changes to my design and have a new prototype, and I am moving forward and looking for a manufacturer.”

Mr Ashley - a former civil engineer with Felixstowe Urban District Council, and who works on stage as a hypnotist - cannot reveal too many details of what happens on Dragon's Den so as not to spoil it.

He said: “I can say it was great fun - and I made them cry . . . with laughter!”

He has been inventing things for decades in his spare time but believes the exercise chair could prove a real success. He made more than 50 prototypes before settling on his final designs.

Mr Ashley, who has a wife Maria and three grown-up children said: “The main problem with home exercise equipment is that it is so big - seven feet high at least - and people often have to keep it in a separate room or a loft or garage.

“I thought if you could adapt an ordinary chair to carry all the equipment you would need it could then be just like any other piece of furniture. Although gym equipment is so huge, you really only need 60cm space for lifting, bench presses and so on, if it is really super efficient.”

He created it in a one-room flat, sawing metal parts in a small room in the cellar, welding them together on a flat roof because of the welding fumes. He has spent thousands of pounds on British and world patents to protect his idea, and now needs backing to get it into production.

Mr Ashley, who also has a home in Gran Canaria, has many other ideas for inventions and is currently working on a new system for reducing health problems on long-haul flights and exercise apparatus for invalid chairs.

WEBLINKS: www.easyxchair.com

www.bbc.co.uk/dragonsden

Would you use an armchair which transformed into a mini-gym? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FACTFILE: The Dragons Peter faced:

British multi-millionairess Deborah Meaden started her career by launching her own glass and ceramics export company straight out of business college. Later, after several successful ventures in the leisure and retail sector, she became managing director of her family's holiday park business Weststar Holidays, acquiring the major shareholding in a management buyout and later selling the company for £33m.

Duncan Bannatyne started his career trading in cars and ice cream before switching to nursing homes, becoming a multi-millionaire. Since then he has built up a chain of health clubs, and owns casinos, bars and hotels. He is estimated to be worth £170m.

Australian multi-millionaire Richard Farleigh first made his millions trading the world's financial markets and is now a major investor in new UK companies, specialising in private equity investment in young high growth technology start-ups.

Peter Jones, 40, is one of the UK's leading young businessmen. He founded Phones International Group in 1998 - the telecommunications company now generates more than £200m a year turnover. His business interests range from telecoms, leisure, publishing and TV and media.

Cyprus-born Theo Paphitis started out as a tea boy at a City insurance broker. Working as a consultant he helped turn Ryman, Contessa, La Senza and Partners the Stationers into successful and profitable retail businesses. He now heads up a 350 store chain with a group turnover approaching £250m.

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