Calls for skater-only space on Brighton seafront

Skaters in Brighton are calling for a dedicated space for the rollerskate and inline community to use in the city.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 3:05 pm
Asha skating with her friend Kris. Photo by Peter Wingfield

The pandemic has seen the sport become hugely popular – but while skate-boarders have the skate park and cyclists have cycle lanes, skaters in Brighton currently have no space of their own where they can practice.

A new video, created by skate instructor Asha Kirby, the founder of teaching academy Skatefresh, outlines why a dedicated venue is needed.

She said: “We’ve had a great response, it’s just been really heartening.”

Asha has been teaching skating in the city for 13 years, as well as doing coaching around the world, and has never seen so much interest in the sport.

She used to recognise every single skater on the seafront, but now she said: “There are literally hundreds and hundreds of skaters in Brighton.

“It’s extraordinary to me... it’s a complete phenomenon.”

Skating is the perfect sport for a pandemic – it is naturally socially-distanced, can take place outside and, as many skaters attest, can help boost mental health.

The skating community in Brighton has tended to congregate at a smooth stretch of tarmac on Hove Lawns.

But without their own venue, Asha said: “Skaters just have to make do with whatever space we can.”

This means sharing the seafront promenades with everyone from cyclists and skateboarders to dog walkers and children.

Being forced to skate ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with pedestrians was potentially dangerous for everyone, Asha said.

Another problem facing skaters is the uneven terrain along the coast.

Skaters ideally need a totally flat and smooth surface to practice on, free of any debris. “One piece of gravel will have you on your face, if you didn’t see it,” Asha said.

She has suggested three locations where a skater-only rink could be created – on the seafront at the end of west street, at Hove Lawns or at Kemptown seafront – and plans to submit a formal proposal to the council.

Construction could be funded by section 106 funding, money which developers building in an area must contribute towards infrastructure projects.

Asha said she was inspired to take action after hearing about proposals for a temporary BMX pumptrack as part of the Black Rock site.

She wanted the council to realise just how much demand there was for a space for skaters which – perhaps unlike BMX bikers – are an ‘incredibly mixed’ group, made up of everyone from children to people in their seventies.

The rink could even be used to hold skate dances and festivals in the future, which could help bring in revenue for the council.

Asha hopes the video will start a conversation about what provisions could be made for Brighton’s growing community of skaters. “Anything would be better than what we’ve got now.”