by Mel @troubleon8wheels
It's been a long time since we felt confident enough to plan for a trip hasn't it?
With the swell of the worldwide roller skate community that has happened over the past two years, international roller skate parties hold a huge amount of promise and SLB is pretty special.
I've been to quite a few editions of the festival since 2015. A holiday to indulge my passion is something my family would have struggled to afford before then and as much as skating is self care, this needs to be balanced with the cost of living!
My first festival experience was life changing. Until that point, I had put a ceiling on my roller skating, having been fully conditioned by society that 'play is something adults don't do' and that if you are in any way serious about having a career and family, play is not really for you. Thank goodness I learned that was a pretty unhealthy way of thinking and living! I also learned about roller dance at Skate Love. When I heard about this 'roller dance festival' I wrongly assumed it was a big roller disco, and people skate around. That is true to some degree, but there is so much more nuance to roller dance than I could have known.
Adults of all ages, with the most amazing and different roller skates, doing easy-looking moves on their skates - until you try! The glass ceiling in my head was officially smashed and I was totally hooked on roller dance.
Thank you Skate Love BCN and Michelle Barrios, for creating this space to bring the International roller dancers together.
Since then, I have assisted the Skate Love team with booking workshops. I love learning, and to be able to bring a selection of teachers from around the world together to deliver their expertise is a fabulous experience. Being part of the festival team has also helped me understand larger scale events and the amount of work that goes into these, so everyone can have a great time.
It's also been really useful for planning events with Roller Girl Gang (though we have no ambition to plan a festival!)
The question I hear a lot is: It's expensive. Is it worth it?
The (very) long answer:
Let me pose a question back to you. What do you value? Skate Love BCN is an unforgettable experience. I don't need photos or video to remember my favourite moments, as they are etched in memory. In fact, I now measure a good time as how few photos/videos I took. I want to be lost in the moment, unaware of time passing. Michael-walking with Dee Upshaw and Karen, joining in with Richard Humphrey's Wave and having Skate Fantacee save you a space in her slow-walk routine are pretty amazing moments! It's rare I can do this (I struggle to switch off) but when I can, it's nourishing for the soul.
The first year I went to Skate Love, I considered myself a decent skater. I learned to skate playing roller derby, had ventured into skate parks and was volunteering at my local roller disco. I had put in the hours and assumed (I'm unlearning assumptions) that I'd be fine. I was fine, but if I had had some roller dance knowledge, it would have made the whole experience better. The following year, with some learning behind me I felt more able to join in. Two years after that, I reached another level of confidence with my roller dance, and was actually able to keep up with Downtown Sam and knew most of the Grade School variations. By that time, I was thirsty for more roller dance, had started teaching classes and travelling to learn from other folks. I prefer to learn from people rather than video, as often what looks like is happening, is not what is happening.
I value the effort the volunteer staff team put into the festival preparation. I value the energy every skater attending the festival brings. The recognition and respect that this is a space for sharing and dancing together, even if you don't speak the same language. Lasting friendships can be made in just a few days.
However, you may think it is not worth it if you are not up for a challenge.
The days are long, and it is hot. We are not used to prolonged warm weather in the UK! If you have uncomfortable roller skates, your feet will likely swell up with the heat and you'll be uncomfortable. Get the best you can afford and then spend time getting used to your equipment. Better to take older, broken in skates than try to break in brand new ones that weekend. (Ouch)
You may have heard or seen that the pre- and post festival skate meets in Barcelona are amazing, and you don't need to get a ticket to attend those. True. You don't need to attend the festival to skate in a public space. You also don't need a license to use that space to play music, you don't need to hire in facilities or consider insurance, write risk assessments or anything else that comes with organised events. By privatising a space and selling tickets to be able to pay for that space, suddenly you become Responsible, with a capital R. Yikes. Do you sort out public liability insurance to meet your pals in the park? Of course not! But want to hold an event in the park? Yes, you absolutely will need it, because if someone trips over a stone and slices their leg on someone else's skate, resulting in a life changing injury, it now becomes your fault.
It's up to you to decide if you feel ready for Skate Love BCN. I'm not here to convince you to go.
I've started my skate preparation for this year already by dancing more. Our roller dance classes will have more structure, as well as being differentiated into two classes for different skill levels, and we are having skate meets and roll outs outside when possible. I also want to order some boots, so that they will arrive in time for me to break in.
I'm really looking forward to seeing my international skate family again and seeing how everyone has progressed. I know that locally, many skaters are also talking about heading out to BCN for their first Skate Love festival experience and I equally look forward to skating with them in a different environment.
The short answer: In my opinion, yes.