by Mel Blackwood @troubleon8wheels
In our final pre-Skate Love BCN chat, I managed to get hold of Jen, Karen and Ronke over Zoom. You would think that living and working close would make it easier to chat to people right? But actually getting them all in the same place and same time is surprisingly hard!
Ronke, Jen, Mel and Karen
Anyway, we moved mountains to get together on Zoom, and here is our chat. We had a good giggle, and there will be some quotes from this for sure!
As a newer skater, you want to join in, but you don't know how. That's what we are teaching.
Okay, we did our best to keep it brief. Below is most of the audio transcribed.
Mel: We have finally managed gather on Zoom! I think it's really funny that despite all the time we have spent together, we didn't have time to actually have a chat. Even though we spent a full weekend together at We Out Here.
Please introduce yourselves. Point at each other on screen now.
Lots of giggling!
Jen: Hi I'm Jen. I have been skating for 4 years now. I started skating because I saw some skate boarders who were older than me - they had grey hair and beards - and they were hill bombing in my local park. I thought what do I do which brings me so much joy? Oooh roller skating! So I bought some skates, and stalked Roller Girl Gang for a while, then went to a class. After that I never looked back.
Ronke: Hi everyone, I am Ronke. similar to Jen, I have been skating about 4 - 4.5 years. I have always wanted to learn how to roller skate. In my 20s I didn't really have the confidence to learn, so I put it on hold. When I moved to Leeds, I came across the Roller Girl Gang, saw they were doing a taster session, and never looked back. I love it, brings me so much joy. I love skating by myself or with the rest of the skate crew. Its a great activity to destress.
Karen; Hi I'm Karen. I can't remember how long I've been skating, I think its 4-5 years. The reason I started skating, is because I got to 29 and realised I don't have any hobbies, so I decided to do something about that. I saw an advert and it said 'Do you want to try roller skating' and I thought yes. I did all the classes, learn to skate, roller dance, it's a great hobby to have gained.
Mel: And you all started skating as adults which is important for people coming to our classes. I love that you always strive to do the best and now its come full circle and you are supporting others as a skate coach. It's so lovely.
Jen: It's the best thing, going beginners class. It's very rewarding, seeing people go from I can't do that, to, oh yes I can!
Karen: It's seeing the joy in other people. It's so heartwarming.
Mel: Spoken like true teachers. Now let's think about skate parties?
Ronke: I suppose it's a bit of a mixed bag in what I have experienced. Locally, in Leeds, we don't have a skate rink. I would say that skate parties have often been in sports halls, although we do have the fantastic Leeds Corn Exchange. Mel how many people come?
Mel: I think about 350 if it's sold out. People come for the vibe and to chat. The biggest problem with that venue is the missing piece in the floor (that overlooks the lower ground floor!)
Ronke: I guess it's more day events I have experience with. We have travelled as a group of friends to different venues across the UK. recently we went to Birmingham, we also have been to Wigan, Derby. We are definitely up to travel to a skate location. I have been to Skate Love once, its the biggest event I have been to.
Karen: Very similar to Ronke, my experience in the UK is more of a sports hall, disco lights and a speaker, rather than full rinks. I have been to the NC event, Roll on London. That was my fist time this year, that was my first, bigger event. It was completely different to anything else from anything else in the UK. This will be my 3rd Skate Love festival. I think the biggest thing I have taken away is every event is unique. And even within the same event it is different year on year.
Jen: When I first started skating, I was desperate to see what everyone else had. Local (within half an hours drive), I went to everything. Often the dedicated rinks don't have adult only sessions, there are lots of kids, or inline skaters going round and round at speed, but I don't care about being the only person dancing in the middle. It was amazing going to Roll On London this year. I mostly do marshalling for Roller Girl Gang, and pick up people off the floor. I think my favourite space is our own Friday Night Social, as we can be in charge of the space and set the rules.
Mel: I think people who come to our space are really respectful of what we are trying to create and supportive of that. If they don't support it, they don't come back - I guess! It's testament to how amazing our skate marshalls are.
I feel quit privileged to have travelled a lot to skate. I have never been to a skate party (in the US) the only event I have been to is RollerCon, which is a huuuuuuuge event. I can't even imagine how the planning works! This year, I went to France - to Rendezvous a Paris - a collaboration with Wheelz and Feet. They created a really fresh and vibrant space. They picked some great locations - beautiful and architectural. It was great to see dancers in the middle on wheels and feet. It was refreshing because if people want to dance on their feet, they will often be sloshing a drink around, so they need a it more educating! It was really cool and it kind of gave permission to allow people to give their feet a break and join in with the dancing.
Next question - what are we doing at Skate Love Barcelona this year?
Karen: We are doing roller dance! For the person who has never really roller danced before. I know in my experience, there are all these amazing skaters doing moves and grooves and jams. As a new skater, you want to join in, but you don't know how. That's what we are teaching, so you can feel a bit less self conscious and get into the groove of the festival.
Mel: She has summed that up really well.
Ronke: Perfectly Karen
Mel: Do you know where our class is going to be? Have I told you?!
Jen: I have never been, so just point me and I will follow!
Mel: There are 2 types of classes this year, Masterclasses, which require an extra ticket and Workshops that do not. We are kicking off the festival at the main skate Land! Our workshop is the very first thing that will happen in that space. Hopefully everyone will get registered nice and early and then come and gently loose their inhibitions.
If you have been in previous year, this time around will be a completely different experience. Last year was different compared to before the pandemic. This year, there will be some freshly poured concrete, and everything will be within a purpose created space. Big up Michelle for doing a lot of work behind the scenes.
One tip, for anyone going to Skate Love for the first time? Who ever has a tip - go!
Ronke: JOIN IN. If you see a group dancing, and you think I want to get involved. Just get involved. Last year was my first experience at Skate Love, when I first got to the venue, I was like this is amazing. There were so many people in groups dancing. At first I was a bit nervous, so I didn't join in. But then I realised everyone was really welcoming, and want you to join in, I actually had a fantastic time.
Karen: That's an amazing tip. I think it has already been covered, by Mo, but I would say - PACE YOURSELF. That's my tip - don't forget to eat. If you are worried that you are going to miss out on the action, just take your food and sit at the edges. There is something going on ALL THE TIME. That's my tip - take it all in with some great Spanish food.
Jen: I don't know if I have a tip really, as it's my first year at Skate Love. It's not really tip - I would say, be inspired, but not by looking at skaters thinking wow they're amazing, I can't do that. They're probably been doing it for ages, or will have different life to you. Just be happy with feeling the joy of everybody dancing. Maybe learn one new thing, don't put extra pressure on yourself to become the best skater. Even a good 80s step-touch can be fun! Enjoy the feel of it. As long as you're not standing still and you've got a smile, you can just have a great time.
Mel: That's dependent on your personal outlook and your values?
Jen: I guess that comes from a personal place, s it is easy to watch everyone and think, oh my goodness I am never going to get there. What do you want from skating? If you want to be the best skater in the world, you are going to have to put your skates on a lot and work hard. Perhaps it is achievable for you. But certainly in our classes, most of us just want to feel the groove and have a good time. And if you are not feeling that, what are you doing it for?
Mel: Amen to that! Yeah, we do talk about the emotional journey a lot in our classes, because I have looked at other people (certainly on social media) and thought I am working on tat move right now and they have only been working on it for a month and have achieved it already. But our circumstances are probably different. I had to look inwards and work on myself and think I can just enjoy myself, without jealousy. Everyone can wave their arms about right?
The final thing I wanted to say is thank you for being here and I am so excited to be teaching a workshop alongside you. I hope we can share their love with a lot of people and make people think, wow I can see myself doing that, I can try!
Ronke came into the shop yesterday and we talked about holding a space within the festival for people who may feel overwhelmed. We have a little marketplace stall within SkateLand. I have a bag of embroidery thread - there are going to be things for sale - but we also want people to see it as a break out zone. If you feel overwhelmed, come and make a friendship bracelet with us, sit down and have a chat. That is all, and I am going to thank you in advance for bringing me food. I know that Roll On London would have been a very different experience without you doing that.
Jen: It is in our best interest to keep you alive Mel.
Ronke: Are you feeling the love?
Mel: I can't say fairer than that really! I think the next time I will see you Ronke, is actually going to be in Spain?
Ronke: Yes, and I will be dragging Jen.
Mel: And Karen and I will be going on Tuesday so we will scope out all the food spots.
Karen: I already have snacks for the car - it's always snack o'clock.
Mel: Thank you all so much!
This is the final interview in the Skate Love Chat pre-festival series. If you are travelling to Skate Love Barcelona this year, we hope you have a great time, and if you are not, we hope these interviews inspire you to travel with your wheels.