A growing group of Dundonians is leading a resurgence in roller skating in the city.
Inspired by the skaters at New York City’s Central Park, Ninewells nurse Susan Smith persuaded friends and family to skate with her in Dundee’s Slessor Gardens in the spring.
The idea grew and after setting up Facebook page Skate Buddies Dundee, informal skating sessions were arranged in the city centre.
The page now has more than 1,100 likes and dozens regularly attend weekly classes delivered by Susan and fellow skater Karen Scrimgeour.
The event, between 1pm and 7pm, is being organised by Dundee videomaker Dylan Drummond.
So far, more than £2,00 has been raised. To donate, click here.
Back to the 1980s
The growth in the popularity of roller skating has brought back memories of the 1980s, when Rollerama operated in the former Aristocrat Leisure Centre in North Lindsay Street.
Before it opened on April 1, 1982 it was billed in the Evening Telegraph as: “A place to which parents can take the whole family for an entire day if they want and know that, even although the kids aren’t by their side all the time, they are in complete safety.”
The upstairs and downstairs sections mixed roller skating with dancing, pool, video lounge and an American-style cafe.
Sadly the venture was short-lived and closed a few years after opening.
Karen, 48, remembers going to Rollerama when she was eight years old with her younger sister Denise.
“I loved it,” she recalls. “I would go to the ice rink on the Saturday and Rollerama on the Sunday.
“I remember there were slush puppy machines and a big video screen that played new pop songs.
“We used to make up dances and do roller dancing shows at home in the garden.”
Inspired by New York
On her trips to New York City, Dundonian Susan Smith has watched the roller skaters in Central Park with fascination.
“They have roller discos there all summer,” she says. “They have a DJ and people dancing in the middle.
“It is amazing and it is always something wanted to do.”
But Susan, 45, has had to be patient to fulfil her roller skating ambition.
After buying skates and safety gear for her family and friends in Christmas 2020 it was another four months before she had coaxed them into some mutual wheel-wearing.
The learning process has been swift – as has the size of the roller skating community that Susan helped set up.
“I have taught myself how to skate through YouTube tutorials and TikTok videos,” Susan says.
“I also play netball and compared to that, or running, it is much easier on your joints.
“I work at Ninewells and when I tell people there about the skating most say they couldn’t do it because they have terrible balance.
“But it is amazing how people of all ages have taken to roller skating.”
People as young as four and as old as 66 partake in the sessions, with as many as 40 skaters attending the weekly classes.
The Facebook group is also used to arrange informal sessions either outdoors in the city or at the Dundee Ducks rink at Manhattan Works.
Susan is participating in the Skate-a-thon in memory of a close relative who recently passed away after developing cancer at a young age.
‘I was captivated’
Dylan Drummond bought his first pair of roller skates less than three months ago and is now “addicted”.
The 51 year old creates marketing and educational videos for organisations such as V&A Dundee, the University of Dundee and Dundee City Council.
He was inspired to take up roller skating in the spring after filming a five-minute video on the Dundee Skate Buddies community.
“I was interested in filming some roller-skating so went along to the Greenmarket, where they were skating,” he says.
“I was captivated and I joined them the next week.
“Eleven weeks ago I got a pair of roller skates and now I am addicted!”
Dylan, who lives in the Maryfield area, was a breakdancer in his teenage years during the era of Grandmaster Flash.
“If, like me, you are in your 50s you may not go to nightclubs anymore and I missed the dancing so roller skating is good for that,” he adds.
“It’s a joyful feeling; you ride the curves and work on balancing. You can reimagine the city through roller skates.”
“It is something that makes you feel youthful at any age and brings a great sense of freedom and movement,” Dylan adds.
“Roller skating is experiencing something of a resurgence at the moment and I think that the paved areas down at Slessor Gardens, V&A Dundee and the new urban beach all have the vibe of Brighton or Venice Beach.
“I saw that the Teenage Cancer Trust were holding a national Skate-a-thon on the weekend of the 17th and thought I would love to do something like that.”
‘It’s great being with a group’
Despite enjoying Rollerama when she was a child, Karen Scrimgeour only returned to roller skating six years ago.
This was when the Broughty Ferry resident decided to skate along the local cycle path for exercise.
Now Karen, 48, is voluntarily helping people at Dundee Skate Buddies develop their skills.
“It’s great being with a group,” she says. “We have been learning dance and jam moves and it is great to have people of all ages, including older ones.
“Some people pick it up quickly while others don’t, but you do have to practice.
“One of the big factors is how much fear people have. You have to wear safety equipment such as a helmet and pads.”
Karen has performed in circuses, including the Millennium Dome in 2000, so was perfectly qualified to take on stilt-walking duties in the group’s recent circus-themed roller disco.
“We also had a breakdancer, balloon lady, hula-hooping and a fortune teller,” she says. “There were 70 people there.
“Roller skating has really taken off in Dundee. We have over 1,000 members in our community and Facebook page and when you add in all the roller derby and roller hockey players there are a lot of people who roller skate in the city.”
On Saturday Karen is skating in honour of Perth teen Lily Douglas, 13, who recently won a Pride of Scotland Award for courage.
Karen says: “I have met her a few times as her and her family is a friends of friends. She is a true inspiration.”