On Sunday, Shez Blake, 40, from South London, he will have been roller skating for a month. He has been skating with his six-year-old son and speaks enthusiastically of this historic date for the joy the sport has brought him. “Skating gives you that feeling of freedom … it’s like flying in the wind,” he says.
After struggling through the pandemic, skating helped lift her spirits. “There is a great sense of community. We welcome you immediately. “
Spooky Ruko in Clissold Park, North London; Shez Blake and Krystal Stal in Burgess Park, South London.
Blake is among a growing number of people who have started skating amid repeated lockdowns, but the growing community of skaters in London is asking for better spaces to go as they currently use tennis courts that have been closed as part of the Covid-19 measures. and fighting for other flat spaces to use in parks or streets.
“It is essential for mental health. Even where I skate at Burgess Park, it’s not the best surface, but it’s the only space we can use. My son is only six years old and full of gravel, so when he falls he gets gravel on his hands, ”Shez says.
While figures from retailers like Locoskates and Slick Willies highlight how popular skating has become during the pandemic (companies have seen sales grow between 500 and 800% in the last 12 months), finding a place to skate is more difficult.
Many, like 25-year-old Amir Bacchos-Marquis, who has been skating since he was eight and started out in a “ramshackle room rented by someone” in Tottenham, have been campaigning for more space for years. They have fought against the constant relocation of parking lots and car parks; some areas are even laying gravel to stop skaters, he says.
But he says it’s difficult to get people to listen to or engage with officials, a problem he attributes in part to the roots of the UK’s inherently black skating culture.
“Skating, especially in America, is deeply ingrained in black culture. It came to the UK as a kind of underground scene for disenfranchised black people using skating to get together, congregate and have a good meal, ”he says.
“I think because the community has always been very black, there is a lot of trauma when it comes to speaking or contacting government officials, people who can make a difference and support the community and what we are doing,” he says. Bacchos. Marquis.
He adds: “Even those who have tried to address it have not been taken seriously as someone else.”
Bacchos-Marquis says they organize by word of mouth because the community is “so big” and they also use social media. “The community is huge, so it’s easy to tell someone to meet us on Tuesday at 9 am that we will be here. It resonates around, ”he says.
He started skating at Stratford Mall in East London until it was no longer allowed. “We moved into parking lots,” he says, adding that he is constantly being kicked out of areas and driven away.
“I’ve experienced little episodes of violence and really mean, nasty people in terms of people who see what we’re doing and think we’re trying to be uncomfortable about it,” he says, adding that it’s a way for young people to “keep their straight heads ”. “We have no safe place to go after dark,” he says.
Bacchos-Marquis says that skating is about freedom and mental health. He says he used skating as a tool to stay sane when his sister passed away when he was young. “It’s always been that way for me,” he says.
Elizabeth Melinek has launched a campaign in Hackney, East London, for the city council to use some of their remodel budgets to create a flat and level multipurpose skating space and it is finished 1,000 signatures. As a mother of two, she says that she has “seen the impact of confinement on adolescents” and feels that it is “important to create free social facilities for young people.”
“There are seven tennis courts in Clissold Park. During the confinement they were being used by more than 100 socially distanced people as opposed to the 12 people who normally use them… I am not anti-tennis or anti-golf but they are sports traditionally associated with the elite. Sports on wheels, including skateboards, are accessible to everyone and are now widely enjoyed by a wide and diverse range of people who need space to practice, ”she says.
She adds: “It’s really important to note that roller skating also has a long and rich history in the black community, and it is primarily black skaters and working-class origin skaters who have kept the activity alive and fighting for. an increasingly reduced space. . “
Lenka Kopecka, who has been skating for 15 years, also believes that skating is a great booster for mental health. “The increase in interest during the lockdown is because people are thinking: how do I keep busy? It is a healthy option. I am a psychotherapist and I have many clients who do not know what to do with themselves ”.
“When you look at the skaters, there is an immediate positive energy compared to other sports. Everyone is always smiling. “
Nikki and Andrew Brandt, 50 and 54, skated as teenagers in South London. “It’s completely inclusive, you have people of all ages, including children, and all kinds of races and backgrounds doing it … People mix very easily,” says Nikki.
His partner, Andrew, adds: “I’ve been roller skating for probably over 30 years. I used to play roller hockey when I was younger and then I used to skate on the street.”
They both think that given the freedom that sport brings, their increased growth won’t go away, so a solution to the lack of space is needed. “There were a lot of new skaters last year and that continued through the winter and hasn’t stopped,” says Andrew. “It’s therapeutic, fun, and good for weight loss and mental health. It will be quite popular again this summer. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism