What is thought to be the only custom-built roller skating venue in the country is coming to Tottenham. Nearly 100 years ago the majestic space in Bruce Grove was a cinema but now Tony Askew and David French are transforming it into a mecca for roller lovers everywhere.
Opening daily thousands of people are expected through the doors of this “nightclub on wheels” on a weekly basis in a revival of the roller disco scene which last had its heyday in the 1980s. We spoke to the pioneering duo to discuss their business and to find out how the Opportunity Investment Fund has benefitted them.
Why the name?
(David) “The name Roller Nation is all-encompassing. It says that our venue is for everyone – young and old, black and white, pink and blue! It’s very cosmopolitan and summarises what we’re about.”
(David) “I always say that we didn’t choose Tottenham…Tottenham chose us! I kept seeing articles about Tottenham being the new this and that with lots of interesting events happening here. And I kept thinking that perhaps there’s something in the suggestions that Tottenham is the next place to be. I’ve been doing a lot of interviewing for jobs lately and everyone I speak to is really positive about what’s happening here with the regeneration of the area.”
(Tony) “It’s an area where redevelopment is taking place and, talking to the OIF people, we realised that they obviously wanted us here and felt we were offering something to the local community. We hope it will rival the new Spurs’ stadium for attendance!”
How did you find this space?
(David) “Well, for quite a while now we’ve been looking around for a venue and we’ve found some amazing spaces in some good locations but they were only willing to give us a short lease. Then one of the other directors heard about the Opportunity Investment Fund, we found the ideal venue - plus the lease is for 18 years!”
What has the OIF money been used for?
(David) “It has been used for the development of the place and general fit out – so the special sprung floor and the ceiling and the seating. Without the loan it would certainly have been a much different proposition; much more scaled back.”
(Tony) “To be honest without the OIF money I don’t think we could have taken this place.”
What else has been good about the OIF?
(David) “For me it was the post-grant support. I have used HEST (Haringey Employment and Skills Team) a lot and they’ve found me some good staff. We’re opening with 21 full-time staff on a pro rata basis but within 12 months it should rise to about 31. We’ll also be taking on an apprentice and some work experience once we’re up and running.”
How have you found working with the council on the loan and wider business support?
(David) “It’s been good. We’ve had a lot of contact with Keith and Sandra at the council who have been very supportive. The application itself was very thorough and it does take time but it was relatively straightforward. There’s an understanding you have to hit targets in terms of your business plan and financial programming but that’s important because we’re not talking about peanuts here. And the OIF has a responsibility to the council to ensure it’s all being done responsibly.”
Would you recommend the OIF to other businesses?
(David) “Without a doubt. It’s been a very positive experience and I have been impressed by how supportive the council has been.”
Tell us some more about your business…
(Tony) “As a kid I loved roller skating and I used to play roller hockey at Alexandra Palace. In the late 1970s roller discos came over here from the US and Aristoc, the tights people, asked me to put on a show showcasing their new skating gear! So I whizzed around the country on tour and I then put on a roller panto where Cinderella goes to the roller disco ball and loses her skates! Fifteen years ago, running a few roller disco nights in King’s Cross, I met David and we then put our heads together to run a successful weekly event in Vauxhall.”
(David) “But this will be something else and from my point of view you will be entering a full-on, high production value space that no other skating venue in the world even approaches. There will be a roller diner serving food and glitterballs hanging from the ceiling and a huge screen showing films or a live feed. And we’ll be running different theme music nights. So, for example, on Wednesdays it will be aimed at students; on Thursdays perhaps a ‘soul skate’ for the over 30s; and on Saturdays we’ll be celebrating the golden age of disco!
"And then we’ll be hosting junior events on Saturday and Sundays geared more to birthday packages. It really will be a great venue for parties and outings for all ages. There will always be instructors on hands to help the novices – to be honest, within five minutes they should have you skating – and the cost for adults will be around £10 in the week rising to £15 on Fridays and £17.50 on Saturdays which include the hire of the skates.”
Keep in touch and find out more about the opening at: https://rollernation.com (external link)