Leeds and West Yorkshire
By Mel Blackwood @troubleon8wheels
It came as a welcome surprise during lockdown that Roller Girl Gang won a service award.
That award was collected today from Hazlewood Castle Hotel, near Leeds.
Mel, Jenny, Ronke and Karen at Hazlewood Castle Hotel.
We have always worked hard to provide the best possible experience for anyone attending classes and events and during full UK lockdown this simply wasn't possible. It quickly became clear that all the groups and individuals we highly respect in the worldwide skate community were able to take their classes online and offer a fabulous selection of online learning. Running a selection of classes online is surprisingly hard work, as you need to create a dedicated space to broadcast from, as well as put your own anxiety aside for the time you are teaching the session. The individuals, groups and organisations who managed this are an amazing bunch of people!
Instead of having an online class timetable, we created a membership area. Always wanted to be a Roller Girl Gang Gangster? Truth is, you only need a pair of skates and enthusiasm to be part of our gang, but here is an official title! We recommended some of our favourite people to learn from online, made short video tutorials for our members, providing opportunity for a daily check-in on Zoom and held our Friday Night Social online, which generally featured a virtual group hug. You can still sign up - it's £10 for a lifetime membership. Download the WIX app, and you can still access the tutorials we made, and have access to the forums, including our Breaking News.
Gangster Skate Crew (GSC) to the rescue!
Thanks to these individuals, the business was saved, and actually propelled forward. The belief you had in us as a small business gave us the confidence to keep going. With no classes to teach, we were able to channel the energy into providing the best possible customer experience for the online shop. At first this was fine. We were all used to things taking longer, and most people could see that our postal services were handling more mail than Christmas! Then the skates started to run out. In the history of roller skating, there has never been a time when it has been so popular. The way our online shop holds stock has drastically changed compared to before lockdown. We do our best to make clear where a product is available for pre-order, available in the UK with one of our suppliers or actually in stock at RGG HQ. To say thank you to our GSC members, we let them know first about new things - new stock arriving, new classes to book and any exciting developments.
Our latest development is securing a permanent premises in the Corn Exchange in Leeds city centre. It will still be a couple of weeks until it is fully operational and the online shop service will continue uninterrupted. We are excited to have everything in one place and have RGG HQ here. The Corn Exchange have supported Roller Girl Gang since the very first pop up shop back in 2018 - since then the shop has been visited by so many people, often making long journeys to come. Thank you for this, as the support the shop has received has helped the centre manager realise that roller skating is here to stay, and is not just for kids.
When the shop is ready, it will become the base for the online shop, a workshop space and provide a meeting point for the community. The Corn Exchange is warm and dry as we head into Autumn and Winter, there is a new cafe opening, and a lot of independent retailers to support, with everything from soap and posters to plants, earrings to clothing and collectibles. We have lots of plans about how we can run sessions to benefit skaters both locally and further afield.
Thank you to the small business and micro businesses who continue to supply Roller Girl Gang with their products, Disco Tech, Derby Laces, RollerStuff, Better Bearings, Moxi Roller Skates, Rookie Roller Skates and the new products we are now able to stock including Luna Skates, Bont, Moonlight Roller Skates, and Chaya. Special thanks go to Luna skates and Disco Tech who both offered products to give away - the generosity was a lovely surprise! Derby Laces have also designed our latest sticker sheet that is going out with all orders and offered to support RGG wherever possible. Truly kindness makes the world go round.
Since September, Roller Girl Gang have slowly re-introduced in-person learning, and with our new instructor team in place, we are considering online classes too. We have been hesitant about these as we know you that providing meaningful feedback via camera is really tricky - huge respect to those amazing teachers who do this - but we will give it a try to support people who are either self-isolating or a little too far to make regular trips to our classes.
However, nothing can replace the feeling of roller skating with others, and we look forward to planning some amazing events for 2021. We are committed to safety and will not take any unnecessary risks in order to roller skate. We also look forward to continuing to collaborate and support other groups in the skate community including Skate Love Barcelona, PlayTone, Skater Booty, We The NC, SLiQ, Skate Temple, CIB Crews around the UK and many more.
Roller skating is a journey that reflects life's journey. We try something new, we stumble. Our friends support and catch us and encourage us to keep going and try again. We develop resilience to the stumbles and each time we encounter a trip hazard, we learn to recognise it and roll past ever more swiftly. Our confidence in our own ability grows, and we try new things we never thought possible, stumble and fall. This time the starting point is different as we know if we keep trying, we will achieve, and our mindset has changed. It all started with a pair of boots with wheels on them.
Roller Girl Gang are committed to making roller skating as accessible as possible and have lots of plans to work with local organisations within the local, national and global community to provide and support opportunities to skate. We seem to attract people who are as passionate about this lifestyle as we are. These plans are a bit more complicated than usual due to COVID-19, however we are still able to make a lot of progress and put groundwork into place for the future. Of course, our GSC members will be the first to know when new information is ready to be announced!
How do you know you have been well and truly bitten by the skate bug?
You know you are a skater when you start noticing paths and grades of tarmac in a different way. When you start carrying a brush in your kit bag. When you read, watch and listen to as much as you can about wheels and other equipment. When you notice how much better you feel after you have been for a skate. When you inspire others to try, because they see that you are alike in so many ways. Parents, folks who work, teachers, nurses, scientists, professionals, students. This is not an activity 'just for kids'. We are learning to let go of our embarrassment of falling in front of strangers and once we do, it is liberating. Instead of being hard on ourselves "Why didn't I get this the first time?" we learn to tell ourselves, "I was a bit closer than the last time I tried that."
We continue to celebrate your progress - thank you for tagging @roller_girl_gang on Instagram to show us your order has arrived and you have upgraded your kit, or you have made progress towards nailing that trick. Thank you for recommending us to your friends, family and followers. No celebration is ever too small as your journey is fully personal. We hope that our paths will cross sometime in the skate world, we hope to be a small part of your journey and we are grateful when you choose to include us. Community is the goal. At the inception of Roller Girl Gang, there was no recreational roller skate community in Leeds, and that is what we wanted to build. It has taken nearly 6 years and a pandemic to get these, but we are closer now than ever before.
2020 has been a year of huge change for us all and we look forward to our bright future.
Let the good times roll!
Huge thanks to the Roller Girl Gang Team.
Dan Wetherall - builder of units, designed our new little characters
Craig Jiggy - designer of BLM leaflets, mental wellness advocate
Sarah Ayache - instructor, health and safety and safeguarding
Ronke Alao - instructor, roller dance advocate
Jenny James - instructor, website design manager
Karen Orme - instructor, choreographer and so much more!
Emma Fothergill - instructor, choreographer
Nicola Firth - business mentor
High fives and hugs to the OG Skate Team who have been unwavering in their support:
Steffi Schelzig - based in NZ @steffietopia
Kat Marshall - based in Australia @kat_teabags
Marcos Rocha - based in Brazil @foxycaffeine
Yanka Dietvorst - based in Belgium @jiggydust
Jess Glithero - based in Surrey, UK @jess_glithero
Asher Blackmore - based in Penzance, UK @mama_alien
Charlotte Davies - based in Cardiff, UK @charlkatedavies
Amy Murray - based in Cardiff, UK @amylou135
Mel Alexandrou - based in Macclesfield, UK @mjalexandrou
Emma Fothergill - based in Leeds, UK @littlefovz
Karen Orme - based in Leeds, UK @dallas_pops
To all our customers past, present and future - thank you.
To everyone who has ever come to a class, course, workshop or event (there are around 4000 of you over the years!) - thank you.
Let's roll into our future together.