Roller disco is back and so are the legwarmers. Make like Madonna and rediscover the retro appeal of rolling on eight wheels.
Words by Emily Murray
Illustration by Katie Wood
In a dark, run down back street in London’s seedy Kings Cross something strange is happening. A large, excited crowd of neon-clad 20-somethings is eagerly awaiting entry into a nightclub. But this isn’t just any club. This is Roller Disco.
Step, or roll, inside and the buzz hits you instantly. Five hundred girls and guys on retrostyle four-wheel roller skates are slipping, sliding, jumping and jiving on the dance floor. A few are slumped on the surrounding sofas, sipping beer and chatting with mates. These are the lucky ones. Such is Roller Disco’s popularity that organisers are now turning away more than 200 people a night.
At this Roller Disco, skaters are treated to three separate rooms each with different music – disco, house and R&B. Styles suit different abilities: beginners can pick up those all-important dance steps in the slower-paced R&B room, while divas can head for pumping house and whirl around the rink in a blur.
‘There’s such a vibrant atmosphere here,’ says 26-year-old regular Kate Hilder. ‘It’s more of a sport than a nightclub but it’s also great for music lovers like me. And of course, with the feel, the music and the setting it’s like walking into 1985!’
Tom Realey, 21, has been a Roller Disco regular for the past two years and thinks it’s the perfect venue for meeting – or bumping – into girls. ‘When you’re roller skating the easy way to break the ice is to accidentally fall on top of someone,’ he laughs. ‘There’s such an open, easy feel to the place that no-one ever gets angry.’
I Will Survive
The man who’s led this roller revival is 72 years young Tony Askew. Askew was so convinced roller disco was due a second heyday that he splashed out £12,000 on roller skates so people could hire them at the door.
‘At first I was told I was wasting my time,’ says Askew. but once he’d got the skates and found the venue – the Canvas nightclub in King’s Cross – roller disco was reborn and the risk quickly paid off. ‘We began with roller disco nights on Thursdays, now they’re every Thursday, Friday and Sunday,’ he says.
Thanks to Askew, skating nights are mushrooming across the UK and Europe. Top shop even called on him to set up a roller disco rink in its flagship London store as part
of the summer’s Miami-themed celebrations.
Skate Wicked, in Middlesex, opened its doors in February and has been pumping out its “high rollin’ soft feeling, fun havin’ music” every Tuesday night since to the delight of up to 100 roller dudes and dolls.
Disco funk and urban sounds get the party started at Video roller disco in East Grinstead’s Billie Rox nightclub, attracting around the same numbers as Skate Wicked. Outrageous outfits add to the Thursday thrills and prizes are handed out for best fancy dress.
Partying on roller skates is just as popular in Germany and France as it is in the UK. The twist is that these parties happen in the streets rather than in rinks and clubs.
Billed as one of the largest night skate events in Europe, the Löwenbräu Blade Night in Munich rolls through the city every Monday evening. Guys with ghettoblasters skate alongside to get everyone grooving. Food and drink booths provide refreshment while DJs and the local radio station keep the 12,000 partygoers entertained. The fantastic atmosphere attracts loads of young skaters, from trick-tastic professionals to girls who just wanna have fun. Fancy dress is encouraged, with various themes such as Oktoberfest.
Over in Paris the 30km city-centre skate event, Friday Night Fever, claims to gather together the largest number of roller skaters in the world. Roads are cleared especially, and the atmosphere is one big social whirl. ‘It’s a great way to catch up with friends while improving your skating technique, although it took me a while before I could stop without crashing into shop windows,’ says 24-year-old Christina Cleron.
While skaters are busy having fun, learning new moves and whirling around the city streets, dance floors and roller rinks, they’re also burning a huge amount of energy. According to personal trainer Becky Soppitt, 31, eight-wheel skating recruits your abs, inner and outer thigh muscles and your bum, and it burns an impressive 400 calories an hour.
So what are you waiting for? Get your skates on!
Roller Disco at Canvas, London
Every Thursday, Friday and Sunday night, for over 18s. Visit www.rollerdisco.info or call 0207 630 6625.
Skate Wicked, Middlesex
Over 18s only from 8pm to 12am every Tuesday. Call 07944 692591 or 07719 004965.
Video Roller Disco, East Grinstead
Roller World, Colchester
Fridays 7-11pm, Saturdays 7.30-11.30pm. Ages eight to 80 welcome. Visit www.rollerworld.co.uk or call 01206 868868.
Roller City, Welwyn Garden City
Dreamskate on Thursday nights 8.30pm-10.30pm is best for party animals. Visit www.rollercity.co.uk or call 01707 357000.
Löwenbräu Blade Night, Munich
From 9pm every Monday evening. Visit www.muenchnerbladenight.de.
Friday Night Fever, Paris
Starts at 9.30pm every Friday at the bottom of the Montparnasse Tower. Visit www.pari-roller.com.
The Disco Diva Kit
The Little Bag
Dazzle the roller rink with this 70’s inspired disco bag from Joe Browns. £11.00, www.joebrowns.co.uk
A must for retro-chicks, legwarmers also help to visually balance out the hips. These knitted numbers in white, pink, grey or black, look great with leggings and a loose top. £8, www.sweatyBetty.com
Go retro with the rio roller girl skate, great for novices and for those who love pink. From £35. Or go disco diva with the La Lights Quad skate, and watch the wheels flash as you whirl. £40, both from www.prolineskates.com.
will give your look a street-savvy appeal and protect your joints if everything goes pear-shaped. £6.95, from Nike.
From a standing start, lean on your inside foot and let the outside skate roll around you in a semi-circle. Gradually shift your weight to your outside foot (which becomes your inside foot) and repeat with the other leg. Keep going – you shouldn’t move from the spot.
Skating backwards is so 1980s! Instead, surf sideways by keeping your feet turned out like a ballerina, and propel yourself along by moving your trailing skate backwards and forwards.
Not for the faint-hearted. While skating forwards, swivel your back skate round by 180 degrees, bend your knee and put weight on to this foot, while twisting to face sideways. Your front skate should be at 90 degrees to the direction you are going. You will eventually grind to a stylish halt.