This summer we ran a pop-up roller rink in a huge shop unit at St John's Shopping Centre, in central Leeds. It was a whirlwind of an experience, as we only had the space for just over three weeks in total - including setting up time! Sure, we would have loved to have the space for longer. Sure, we would have loved to have the space to be confirmed sooner, so there would have been more time to prepare before our launch. But we didn't, and it was still great!
Our aim was to create a space where everybody felt welcome to try roller skating, as we recognise that many people would be trying this activity for the first time, or would likely have limited experience. Roller skating is harder than you think at first! We learned to roller skate as adults, so we completely understand the anxiety that may hold you back. The fitted really well with the mental health awareness and support for MIND that St John's Centre have been offering this summer.
Huge thanks to Rookie Skates for sorting out our extra skates so quickly. We wanted to make sure we had a good selection of sizes, and we choose Rookie Artistic skates for our rental skates, as we feel they offer good support for beginners, and have decent enough build quality that more experienced skaters would be able to use them too. We have tried and tested these ourselves at classes and like them a lot! For children, we chose the Rookie Ace Junior, as they are adjustable. The hard boot offers decent ankle support for wobbly legs, but they are super padded. We wanted our younger attendees to be comfortable in their initial skate experience. Our 10% off promotion for Rookie skates is running throughout September - use RINK10 at the checkout.
As we knew the space would be temporary, we needed to get the word out as quickly as possible. Thank you to our fantastic followers who did so much to share the event page at their workplaces and among friends. Thank you also to Playful Anywhere Anytime, Child Friendly Leeds and St John's Centre for re-sharing our posts on their social media channels. Finally, thank you to the hundreds of people who passed by, took photos or picked up information. Some of those people came back, and we were blown away! Mostly, it was absolute beginners (of all ages) who with a rink space in front of them and roller skates to hire, now had no more excuses. However, the people who made repeat visits are the people we are most in awe of. We saw determination to move on eight wheels.
For those who already had some experience, we saw a desire to improve and learn new tricks. We know how quickly roller skating can hook you, release those endorphins and make you feel invincible. It should! This is a tricky skill that you have chosen to try. The learning curve is steep at the beginning, so it really does take some resilience to stick out the part where you simply feel like you are going to stack it every time you lace up. But, once you get past that part - and it is a different amount of time for everybody - you open yourself to a new world on wheels. The confidence that you have built from learning this skill will spill over to other areas of your life - see our blog posts of readers' stories.
As the person at the rink every day, it was a amazing to see this determination in so many people. We know the session times at the pop-up roller rink were not ideal for many. Had we had the space for longer, we would have been able to do so much more. Help us find our own permanent space and we can show you!
To everyone that made the effort to come to the rink, whether it was for one session, part of one session or multiple visits, we love you! You are the skate community we are proud to be a part of and want to continue to build in the north of England. We know you came from all over the country just to say hi and skate in the space. Your support is greatly appreciated. Many of our friendships have started through roller skating - huge thank you to all our extended skate family who gave us a shout out on their social media, brought us cake or gave us a hug. We are so thrilled you are a part of our lives. If you were with us in spirit, we really hope you can make it down if we have an opportunity like this again.
Highlights from the sessions include the Dino Disco, with two amazing inflatable dinosaur costumes that our friend Jemma brought along.
The late night sessions were great fun too. We opened up the area to use the full space, and it was huge!
Take a look at the highlights on our Instagram page @roller_girl_gang
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