Skate Yarmouth... Town celebrates its roller skating history

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

Debby Besford's exhibition, The Art Of Roller Skating, is now on display at Primeyarc art gallery in Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

It is a town known for its long history of fishing and holidaymaking.

But a new exhibition in Great Yarmouth is celebrating a slightly less obvious aspect of the resort's heritage... roller skating.

The activity has been a popular pursuit in the town since the early 1900s when venues like the Winter Gardens first hosted roller skaters.

Sport -- Roller Skating Rollerskating at Gt. YarmouthDated 4 June, 1967Negative n0969

Roller skating at Great Yarmouth, dated 4 June, 1967. - Credit: Archant

Yarmouth was also at the forefront of a revival in the craze in the 1960s - when special performances would pack out seafront attractions and local skaters earned national prominence - and the town is still home to a thriving scene.

The new exhibition - the Art of Roller Skating - opened at the weekend at the Primeyarc art gallery, inside Market Gates.

The show tells the story of Yarmouth's long relationship with the activity through archive photographs and also features a skating rink for visitors to use.

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The Art Of Roller Skating. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The exhibition has been put together by photographer Debby Besford, and also includes mementoes from well-known skaters, as well as new portraits of people still involved in the scene.

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This element was inspired by Debby's own memories.

She was born and raised in the town and spent many evenings training for and competing in roller skating competitions.

She said: "Skating shaped me and my life. It taught me about disappointment as well as what success was.

"I started to think about the way my mother would photograph me after competitions and she would take pictures of me around the house or around the garden."

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

Photos such as these - of a young Debby Besford clad in her skating gear and holding trophies - inspired her exhibition The Art of Roller Skating. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Archive photographs of the likes of prominent skaters Jocelyn Taylor, Valerie Scott and George Thompson are also part of the exhibition.

"I remember them vividly from my experiences as a young skater," Debby said.

"I was quite young, but I also remember Barrie Bigg and they all feature in the archive.

"I wanted to document the heritage of the sport in the town as it has always been really important. So many people have happy memories of being at the Winter Gardens, the outdoor skating rink, Gorleston Rollerdrome and Retroskate.

"It felt like I was part of something really exciting and magical."

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

Debby Besford said roller skating shaped her life. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The exhibition - which runs until May 1 - also has a section called The Jump, which focuses on the moment skaters are in mid-flight while taking a jump or double-jump, as well as photographs documenting the preparation of skates, costumes and hairstyles that all added to the spectacle of the sport. 

For more information, please visit Debby Besford's website.

SKATE TOWN

The borough has been host to roller skating for over 100 years.

It first featured prominently at the Winter Gardens in the early 1900s.

In the 1960s, an outdoor skating rink in the Wellington Pier Gardens was constructed for the summer time and was used for both leisure skating and evening performances.

Sport -- Roller Skating Rollerskating at Gt. YarmouthDated 4 June, 1967Negative n0964l

FLASHBACK: Geoffrey Richer, Jane Gosling, Richard Balls, Barrie Bigg and Carol Wooden. June 4, 1967. - Credit: Archant

Holidaymakers loved the performances, packing the spectator areas and hoping rain would not force a premature end to the enjoyment.

Casts included club members who had achieved national success - including Barrie Bigg, of Great Yarmouth Roller Skating Club (GYRSC), who held the title of British Pairs Champion and was a runner-up for pairs skating in the European Championships. In 1975, he appeared as a stunt double in the Hollywood film Rollerball.

GY/EVENTSROLLER SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPSDATED 1970NEG 869Carol Wooden & Barrie BiggFOA Ma

Carol Wooden and Barrie Bigg at the roller skating championships in 1970. - Credit: Archant

Retroskate, previously located inside the old Marina Centre, was reckoned to be the largest and most successful artistic skating club in the country, claiming more than 100 medallists and 10 British title holders in 2019. The club, now known as Retro Skate Academy is now based at Breydon Arena in Mill Road, Bradwell, and has more than 60 members.

Sport -- Roller Skating Rollerskating at Gt. YarmouthDated 4 June, 1967Negative n0960

Roller skating at Great Yarmouth. Dated 4 June, 1967. - Credit: Archant

Barrie Bigg. Pictures: Submitted

Barrie Bigg on the outdoor skating rink by Wellington Pier. - Credit: Submitted

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

A still from The Jump section of The Art of Roller Skating exhibition. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

Debby is pictured as a young roller skater in the 70s. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

A lot of preparation goes into roller skating. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

Debby Besford took the skating rink at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The Art Of Roller Skating. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

Costumes donated by members of Great Yarmouth's roller skating community were donated to the exhibition. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

The Art of Roller Skating exhibition is currently being held at Primeyarc art gallery inside Market Gates shopping centre, Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Documentary and Editorial photographer Debby Besford at her exhibition in Great Yarmouth called The

A modern costume on display at the Art of Roller Skating exhibition in Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Sonya Duncan