The Museum of Youth Culture is excited to present The Art of Roller-skating by
Debby Besford, the first exhibition to be held at the museum’s new pop-up space in
Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, London.
The free exhibition, which documents the journeys of seven young local female artistic
roller-skaters as they train and develop their skills, is open Wednesdays to Sundays
from 12-6pm until 26 June and showcases this exhilarating but often-forgotten sport.
Besford has been documenting the female roller-skaters’ journeys over the past five
years, a project which was naturally inspired by her own love of the sport.
Growing up in Great Yarmouth, Besford trained as an artistic roller-skater as a
teenager, then went on to judge at a national level, travelling all over the country to
Debby Besford said: “I wanted to reveal the visual contrast by removing the skaters
from the ‘show’ of the rink and instead using the background of a domestic, intimate
situation, reminiscent of my own experience – where my proud parents would take
photos of me poised in my skates with trophies clasped in hand. These moments
marked a truly important chapter in my teenage life and I felt this would be an
interesting approach to celebrate the girls in the project.”
She continues: “The images have a slightly surreal quality, showing the girls in their
performance clothes out of context, with the dissonance between the domestic setting.
I wanted to highlight the balance between growing up as a teenager and the dedication
and commitment required to become a professional sportsperson.”
Also documented are the objects that accompany the life of an artistic roller-skater –
roller-skates, costumes, trophies and galas. In addition, Besford has produced a series
of slow-motion videos showing the detail and intricacy of the movements, the skill,
athleticism and emotion it takes to jump in mid-air as athletes try to create the perfect
With the increasing popularity of shows like Dancing on Ice, artistic roller-skating is
often overshadowed by ice skating although the sport has many facets to it, from artistic
figure and free skating to disco and street skating.
The Museum of Youth Culture’s new pop-up space in Coal Drops Yard will be open
throughout the summer 2022 with more exhibitions to come, including:
July – ‘Grown up In Britain’ to coincide with our show at the Herbert Art Gallery in
August – Major new show from the photography archives of Museum of Youth
Jon Swinstead, founder of Museum of Youth Culture, added: “We are thrilled to
return to this amazing space in King’s Cross – it is an incredible creative, design and
retail destination and I am sure that tourists, students, locals and shoppers will enjoy
visiting our rolling visual feast of British social history.”