'A real sense of community' - How a roller revolution is sweeping Norfolk

Amber Knowles, left, who has set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group with new member, reporter Em

Amber Knowles, left, who has set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group with new member, reporter Emily Thomson, enjoying lockdown roller skating. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

When you think of roller skating, you usually think of cheesy discos in your teens or women ‘jam skating’ along the beach in LA sunshine. 

But during lockdown it seems this retro hobby has rolled back into fashion, as more people are dusting off their skates and taking to the streets of Norfolk. 

Amber Knowles, front, who has set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group, enjoying lockdown roller s

Amber Knowles, front, who has set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group, enjoying lockdown roller skating with new member, reporter Emily Thomson. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Since the pandemic began more than a year ago, and three lockdowns later, daily walks have become par for the course, but the 590-plus members of Norwich Roller Girls have been swapping their two feet for eight wheels. 

Amber Knowles, from Norwich, started the group at the beginning of January this year, with hopes of finding other women in the city looking for places to skate outside as roller rinks closed.

But the 27-year-old did not expect just how popular the group would become. 

Roller skating, making a comeback during Lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Roller skating, making a comeback during Lockdown. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

She said: “Before lockdown I was really getting back into skating. I was dragging my friends along to Funkys over 18s disco on a Thursday night – which is a lot of fun. But when it closed the only place to skate was outside. 

“I was talking to a friend and she was saying that she has some roller skates but she was too nervous to go out by herself and I felt the same. 

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“So, I thought it would be good to set up a group where everyone can share skating spots.

“I was also wondering if other grown-up women were actually interested in roller skating, other than me.” 

Reporter Emily Thomson enjoying lockdown roller skating by joining Norwich Roller Girls Facebook gro

Reporter Emily Thomson enjoying lockdown roller skating by joining Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

After sharing the group on the ‘Secret Norwich’ Facebook page, Ms Knowles was inundated with member requests.  

Skaters of all ages and abilities, from across Norfolk, have been sharing videos, photos, locations, tip and tricks and advice on skates. But it has also become a place where friendships are being made.

Amber Knowles, who set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group, enjoying lockdown roller skating spin

Amber Knowles, who set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group, enjoying lockdown roller skating spin.  - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Ms Knowles added: “Skating is so fun, it makes you feel like a child again.  

“It brings me so much joy. You rarely see someone on roller skates who is not smiling, but also slightly scared of falling. 

“I also hopes this encourage slightly older women, because you can get to a certain age where you think ‘am I too old for this?’ but you’re not. 

“I have made so many friends, there is a real sense of community. Even if you do go out on your own you know you have support from the girls in the group.  

“It’s just a very encouraging and a positive place to be.” 

Amber Knowles, right, who has set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group with new member, reporter E

Amber Knowles, right, who has set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group with new member, reporter Emily Thomson, enjoying lockdown roller skating. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Ms Knowles is set to have ‘Norwich Roller Girls’ t-shirts printed, designed by a fellow member. She also hopes to arrange an official meet-up later on in the year. 

Whether you prefer skating outdoors or on a roller rink, many are looking forward to meeting up with friends and family to have some much-needed fun.  

And for Funkys Roller Skating & Adventure Play, located on Burton Road Business Park, they are hoping skaters old and new will return when lockdown lifts.

After remaining closed for the majority of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, the business has been hit hard. 

Following the government's proposed roadmap out of lockdown, it is hoping to reopen in May but is yet to set an official date.

Amber Knowles, front, who has set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group, enjoying lockdown roller s

Amber Knowles, front, who has set up Norwich Roller Girls Facebook group, enjoying lockdown roller skating with new member, reporter Emily Thomson. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Tom Mallett, a manager at Funkys, said: “Being open during the pandemic has been completely different for us as a rink.  

“We are a venue where people would come along with family or friends, whether its adult session on Thursday night or teenagers coming on weekends or after school.  

“To go to a place where we can only allow very limited numbers, because of restrictions. It has been extremely tough. 

“With lockdown still in place, this year has unfortunately been none existent for us as a business. 

“But it’s exciting to hear that so many people are getting out on their skates. It’s nice to know during all of this skating hasn’t been forgotten as an activity. 

“When restrictions lift, I hope they bring it inside as well as carrying it on outside. 

“For everyone who is skating, keep skating. Stay safe and come and see us when you can.” 

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