Roller skating returns to the Barrowland Ballroom - for one night only

The Glasgow Building Preservation Trust will bring Roller Skating back to the Barrowland Ballroom, for one night only.

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The Glasgow Building Preservation Trust has announced the premiere of Skate the City, a short film which celebrates Glasgow’s roller-skating heritage. The premier will take place at the Barrowland Ballroom and will be followed by a roller skate party in the historic hall.

This event is the culmination of the Trusts’ My Historic Neighbourhood project which celebrates the heritage on the doorsteps of communities around Glasgow and is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to money raised by National Lottery Players.

Roller-skating has its origins in the world of theatre and was developed in the late 1700sRoller-skating has its origins in the world of theatre and was developed in the late 1700s
Roller-skating has its origins in the world of theatre and was developed in the late 1700s

Roller-skating has its origins in the world of theatre and was developed in the late 1700s to simulate ice-skating on stage in musical and theatrical performances. Since then, skate crazes have periodically swept the nation, and Glasgow has not been exempt from these.

These crazes have been inspired by broader social and societal factors, such as sport and recreational activities becoming more available to women in the early 1900s and skating rinks becoming safe spaces where women could gather with less formality and scrutiny.

In Glasgow, there were 20 ‘rollering rinks’ by 1911, including the famous ‘Zoo Rink’ on New City Road. Other famous rinks include the American Roller Rink (1909) on Victoria Road, The Locarno (1929) on Sauchiehall Street and more recently Fantasia at the Barrowland Ballroom (1981), opened by the Lord Provost on skates.

2020 saw another period of roller-mania. During the pandemic, people had to find safe, creative ways to exercise and socialise when gyms and other indoor physical activities were put on hold. In Glasgow, a group of young women found community by learning to roller-skate and seeking new places to skate around the city.

This film project has aimed to spotlight the hidden history of roller-skating in the city, whilst also helping this group of young skaters explore heritage spaces, connect with the historical trailblazers of their sport and find new indoor spaces to skate in.

Meredith Ellington, Roller Skater, said “When you go to a museum and see how people used to live you feel a connection with those from another generation. We get to be connected to skaters from the past, just by putting on our little wheely shoes. Cause we’re all doing it for the same reasons: we love dancing, we love going really fast, we love having the attention of onlookers, and the feeling of freedom skating brings.”

Stephen Sheriff, Events and Development Coordinator at GBPT said “It was a real surprise to find out that folks have been roller skating in Glasgow since the 1870’s, and that the city has been home to more than 40 roller rinks.

“We’re really excited to share the film and hope that it might contribute to the current craze for roller skating, encouraging more people to get their skates on.”

This event comes in the lead up to Glasgow Doors Open Day Festival, a week of programmed events, and tours of heritage buildings around the city. This festival is a special one for the Trust, as it also marks their 40th anniversary, look out for events celebrating the work of Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, rescuing historic buildings and returning them to their communities across the city.

The event will take place at the Barrowland Ballroom on Friday 2nd September, from 7PM till 9PM, doors at 6:45PM. The event is free but ticketed. Booking is essential, tickets will be available through the Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival website from 12pm on Friday 19th August.

Skate hire will be provided free of charge. You are of course welcome to bring your own skates, but please make sure the wheels are rubber (polyurethane). The event will be dry.

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