Welcome to this new series, where I take you along with me to have an exclusive peek into the underground, niche, and secret things going on in the vivid city of Manchester. I invite you to come along on this journey in the hopes that maybe you will discover a new passion, check out a new area, or find a new pocket of yourself that was perhaps previously unknown to you. Whatever it is, I hope you’re able to take away something positive from these virtual tours of the weird and wonderful in Manchester.
A few Fridays ago, as a complete newbie to the world of roller-skating, I bravely attended a roller-skating event. After buying a second-hand pair of Skechers skates from eBay and packing my bag of essentials for the day; plasters, antiseptic gel, and a hefty bottle of water – I was ready.
Tucked away underneath the Mancunian way flyover, about a ten-minute walk from Manchester Picadilly Station, lies Projeckts MCR.
After swapping out my Nikes for my skates and fumbling around with helmets and knee-pads, I was dressed for battle. I awkwardly glided out onto the terrain where I was met with instant warmth and camaraderie from everyone else in the skatepark.
Unlike the other times where I’ve found myself at skateparks where the vibe seems to be exclusive, gatekeep-y, or intimidating – all the roller-skaters around me made me feel like I was home. From compliments on my trousers to useful tips to help me improve – the community welcomed me with open arms.
One aspect of this which really stood out for me was the diversity of the crowd. There were groups of mates and solo skaters, men and women, old and young, pros and beginners – and they were all happily coexisting and sharing the same space together.
It was nice to see this kind of effortless unity, especially on the back of just coming out of a lockdown where we have all lacked true social interaction. Not only did I enjoy the novelty of trying out something new for the first time, but I really felt a sort of freedom on the skates.
It was a freedom to look a bit silly, to fall over and not care, to learn a whole new skill, to meet a whole new group of people, to float around rather than plod along, and to do something a little bit different.
I met an incredible skater and generally lovely human being, Kalléo, a Mancunion-based roller-skater who wowed me with his skills at Projekts. Kalléo is an example of the kind of person who you wouldn’t typically meet if you were only mixing in limited, student, Fallowfield-based circles. Talking to him about his past, philosophy of life and future ambitions was such a refreshing break from the monotonous Zoom meetings, dissertation anxiety, and pub small-talk.
After the event had ended, a few tumbles later, I went out to the Northern Quarter for a drink with a bunch of people who were strangers to me just a few hours earlier. I felt a kind of pride walking around town with my skates hanging out my bag – as if I had just been accepted into some kind of great tradition.
Feeling buzzed and, conveniently, having the weekend off work, I decided to go down to the skatepark in Platt Field’s the next day. I went completely alone with an understanding that other skaters would be there and that it would be cool to hang out with them for the day.
And, just as I’d expected, a group of lovely people were congregating in the corner of the skatepark, beckoning me over. We spent hours falling, laughing, teaching, and learning from each other. When the sun went down and my legs got tired and I was just about to head out, I overheard a conversation that made me smile quietly to myself.
‘I always get so much face ache when I leave the skatepark.’
‘From all the smiling!’
Now, I’m not saying that roller-skating is for everyone, but it certainly acts as a microcosm for community and a wholesome alternative to the typical, homogenous student culture we can all get sucked in to. It’s a strange period we are all living in right now. It seems to be the “age of adaptation”, as we are constantly adjusting to new stop-start ways of living.
As someone in their early-20s, it can be strange to do something new for the first time. It’s as if we already think we know, and are bound to, our passions, hobbies, and identities. But why stay tethered to something plainly out of habit? Why not broaden your horizons, throw yourself in the deep end, and just go out and grab life while you can?
If you’re interested in any of this and want to join the ever-expanding community, then check out the University’s roller-skating society!