The resurgence of a retro sport has seen one woman’s furlough hobby become an Instagram hit.
Alice Vosper from Bristol pulled on roller skates for the first time ever in August, and has built up 10,000 followers since setting up an account to track her progress.
The 24-year-old, who lives in Kingsdown, spontaneously took up roller skating after being furloughed from her job as a fashion photographer.
After weeks practising at a Bristol car park and mastering some dizzying moves, it has grown into a lifelong passion.
She said: “I had never skated before. The first day I stood up and fell straight back down, and almost put my skates back in the box. It was terrifying!”
Alice said she wanted to take up a hobby after struggling to fill her time while she was out of work.
She added: “I was furloughed for quite a long time, about eight months, and I just felt like I wasn’t using my time wisely. I was looking for a new goal or hobby, and one that wouldn’t be affected by future lockdowns. Because I had all this time, I could spend an hour or two a day just focusing on that.”
She spotted lots of roller skating videos on her Instagram feed and noticed people using the hash tag #365daysofskate, challenging themselves to clock up an entire year’s worth of skating practice.
She added: “I found it so interesting – you could see them from day one not even being able to stand up, and how far they’d come. It was definitely inspiring and I thought maybe I could do it.”
Having never skated before, she bought a pair of skates online and set up the Instagram page @aliceinrollerland simply as a way of logging her progress.
She said: “I started it literally just for myself, to document what I was doing, and started from zero [followers].
“I was so surprised that people were so interested in seeing my progress, saying it had made them think they could do it too.
“To inspire other people, that’s crazy.”
She has even now packed in her full-time job to go freelance, allowing her more time to focus on skating.
She added: “I absolutely love it – it’s like an addiction.
“I won’t do the chores, the hoovering or washing up, if I’m not wearing my skates!”
Her videos are mainly filmed at Trenchard Street Car Park, which offers plenty of smooth open space for practice.
Alice said: “I never thought I could love a car park, but it’s amazing, the view right from the top.
“I’ve just tried to learn in my own way, starting with the basics of going forward, back and stopping, and then looking on YouTube or Instagram to decide what I want to learn next.”
She said it probably took about two weeks to “click”, and since then she has learnt moves from heel spins to side surfing.
Roller skating gained popularity in the States in the 1930s with a boom during the 1970s disco era.
Alice said: “Here in England we’ve not really got anything – there is one roller rink near Bristol.
“I feel like it’s definitely getting bigger and bigger, and I wish that England had more facilities.
“It feels like a big part of my life now.”
She said there is a “big skating community in Bristol”, with BUMP Rollerdisco running classes and meet-ups in Millennium Square.
Alice now dreams of opening a roller skate shop or permanent outdoor rink in Bristol, and said she probably would never have discovered that passion if not for the pandemic.
Did you take up a new hobby in lockdown? Tell us about it in the comments section at the end of the story.
‘Be brave enough to be bad at something’
She encouraged other people to give it a try, even if it means a few embarrassing falls at the beginning.
She added: “On my first day [of the challenge], I put my skates on for the second time ever, stood up, and about 15 people came outside to eat their lunch, all watching.
“It’s actually better when you’re bad – if you’re good, that’s when you feel the pressure.
“You just have to be brave enough to be bad at something new.”