Updated: Aug 25
by Mel Blackwood @troubleon8wheels
Bradford, we love you.
Thank you to Sport England who provided the funding for these sessions. We're now consulting with the group to make sure we get the right days for the Autumn term. If you are in the BD8 and surrounding postcode areas, are a women from an ethnic minority, click on the link below to register and be notified when the sessions resume. (If you do not meet any of the qualifying criteria, you can still register, though we may ask you to pay a small fee).
My goodness, I am grateful for the women in this group. They have been kind and patient as we get to grips with establishing skate classes in a new venue - something we haven't done for a long time, as since the start of 2022, we now use the Ramgarhia Sikh sports centre in Leeds to run all our classes. Throughout 2021 and before the pandemic, we were operating from various spaces across the city, and it was hard! Each venue, however welcoming, has it's own operating policies and procedures, its own quirks and ways of doing things, and its own staff members.
Even though we didn't quite feel ready to start this term, (having only had about ten days to share session dates), we decided to go for it anyway. Word of mouth is often the best way for us to reach people. We were a bit stunned by the response. Not only have the amazing women we have met been an absolute joy to get to know, they have also fully supported our aims, taken flyers, told their friends and family and more.
In our first few weeks of roller skate classes in Bradford, we have seen a average of eight women per session. It's a great start!
We were expecting nervous new skaters. We were expecting to need to load and unload our equipment, and get used to weightlifting again. We were expecting to hunt for those mismatched pads, support women who couldn't find the venue or were not used to being physically active, yet we found so much more.
We found women of all ages wanting to learn something new. We found students, mothers, grandmothers, working women, carers and those who wanted to be more active. We found nervousness and also determination.
We found a willingness to share our life experiences - sure, learning to roller skate, and additionally in our final session, we ended up having a discussion about systemic racism.
What was interesting yet also cheerless in our chat, was that we have all common experiences. Being searched when travelling, being asked about your heritage / culture / identity, like you are no more than a curio, and should have a label. Being told "You're not like those other ones" [who wear a hijab]. That "you speak English well." That you're 'exotic' or your name is too difficult to say.
All of these are microaggressions and cause stress to the individual. Suffering many of these each day mounts up and eventually takes it's toll. If you are reading this and don't understand why any of this is an issue, please go and Google systemic racism. The opposite of this is anti-racism, where individuals or organisations actively work to create racial equality. It means diversity and inclusion is at the heart of everything we do and is part of our driving force.
We have dished out stickers at the ends of sessions, as our participants work towards their first pair of roller skates, and we have ignited a new passion within these women. To be able to have this space was a blessing, for us all!
Thank you all for wholeheartedly going for it!
The Roll Forward Project (started by All In Community Roller Derby) aims to remove barriers to roller skating for those who would otherwise not be able to afford to access the sport.
Our Sports England Funding will allow us to run taster sessions and classes in Bradford during term time. These sessions are for women and female-identifying participants only, to allow Muslim women to feel comfortable to join. A 2017 report commissioned by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation cites many barriers to sport for Muslim women, particularly in the UK. Other key elements that may help Muslim (possibly all) women more comfortable include: we will not take photographs or video without permission from those present at the session and our coached sessions are led by women.
Classes and taster sessions are free to access for local women. If you are outside BD8 or its surrounding areas, we are happy for you to access the programme if there is space. We will add you to the waiting list. There will be a nominal fee of £5 if you are outside the area, and do not fit any of the qualifying criteria.
We appreciate you sharing this post to raise awareness, so we can make sure we have full classes in September.
Can't wait to get rolling with you!