Park life: How Chicks in Bowls is rejuvenating Wirral’s skate culture
Chicks in Bowls (CIB) is helping the Wirral stand proudly alongside major cities including New York, Beijing, Melbourne, Cape Town and Abu Dhabi.
Well, when it comes to skating, anyway, and it’s all thanks to Gioia Dalosso Hemnell. Better known to friends and family under the alias Joy Rider, she’s founded a Wirral chapter of Chicks in Bowls; a cult international skating community whose goal is to banish elitism from skating and get more amateurs involved in the sport.
“I’m the founder of the Wirral chapter. Chicks in Bowls originated in New Zealand from a lady called Samara Pepperell, she started out as a roller derby player and she started to roller skate on ramps, in bowls and in skate parks,” Joy tells us.
Pepperell, who also goes by the moniker ‘Lady Trample’, got the idea for Chicks in Bowls in her native New Zealand, November 2012, when skating with friend Calamity Cutthroat.
The movement became official in 2014 with the goal of world domination, and to inspire people from all backgrounds and genders to get into skating. Says the website: ‘We have a dream that you can show up at any skate park in the world and find people from all over shredding side by side. We have a goal to see the sport of quad-skating showcased with other extreme sports.’
“There are chapters all over the world. Local to us are Liverpool and North Wales. It’s for everybody and anybody; it’s about getting women into skate parks on quad skates, and we’re trying to bring that through, especially with women being a minority in skate parks. It’s an opportunity,” Joy adds.
“CIB produces videos to help teach people do the basics and inspire people to do incredible things at skate parks at whatever level they’re at. There’s no competition or structure, it’s all about having a good time.”
Skating costs ramping up
We have a flashback of trying to be cool in art in Year 11 at the start of the millennium, of listening to Blink 182 and At The Drive In to try and get in with the skater crowd, all while growing an horrific mullet because we wanted to be individual and non-conformist or something.
A good verbal kicking from a rugby willy in the playground was all it took for us to lob it off, so we can’t say we were too committed. The skater crowd, though, were a really lovely, inclusive lot that we eventually did get to know.
So it’s surprising to hear that skating has become quite elitist according to the CIB site, and that there actually needs to be a movement that tries to introduce the concept of skating to the amateur enthusiast.
“Affordability’s been a part of it across the culture, whether it’s skateboarding or inlining or roller derby, you can have incredible skates that cost up to £500 which is a lot of money,” says Joy.
“The idea is that with CIB, you don’t really need that. Skate parks are free and there are about three or four outdoor ones on the Wirral. You can buy a pair of good quad skates off eBay for £50 and get started.
“CIB encompasses it for everybody. It doesn’t matter about your skates or your age or gender. There is no level. If my mum wanted to come in her wheelchair she’d be welcome! There are a couple of girls that are in wheelchairs in New Zealand and they go into the bowls in their wheelchairs, it’s incredible to see.
“The majority of people that are interested are people that have previously skated. We talk to people on Facebook for instance that like to skate up and down New Brighton prom that can get together with other people.
“We’re trying to promote it within the skating community first and then hopefully expand out to people that have maybe never even put on a pair of skates before. That’s my hope; it’s also weather permitting, we want the spring to come and rain to bugger off before really engaging with people so we can all meet and get together!”
A quick look around though suggests there isn’t much in the way of skate parks on the Wirral, with Joy counting four.
There are a couple of old stories in the Echo and the Globe respectively; the first from 2013 detailing plans for the UK’s biggest skateboarding youth village, proposed by Rampworx, in Bidston with further details in 2014 saying a £20,000 council grant was given the green light to convert an old warehouse in Seacombe.
There’s no more information, the plans appear to have gone kaput. We’ve reached out to Rampworx to find out what happened; until then skaters looking for an indoor venue are better off heading over the water.
“CIB Wirral is very new. There’s nothing there; if you want to go to a skatepark from where I live in Prenton, it’s a half-hour drive to Rampworx in Liverpool or a half-hour drive the other way to Deeside, there are no indoor skate facilities on the Wirral at all.
“There is a really big skate culture on the Wirral. The outdoor skate parks we have are in Heswall, Bromborough, New Brighton and Moreton. They’re not fantastic but they’ll do!
“We meet with other chapters such as CIB Manchester to get together with other people and find out how best to make it work. Each different region has a different geographical make-up and we’re still at the start of discovering exactly what Wirral’s is.
“The culture’s very varied. It used to be about skate- and punk-rock, it was for a certain kind of person but that’s changed.
“Now, everyone’s involved. Looking at my roller derby team we have a doctor, a coffee shop owner, a pharmacist… These people lead everyday lives and are really passionate about the movement and skating. It’s becoming more mainstream and a place where you can be yourself and not fit in. There isn’t a big agenda around it, there are no exams to pass.”
Food for the bowl
We’re intrigued to see how the Wirral reacts to CIB and to see how it will grow. With 230 chapters across the globe (42 per cent of the world dominated according to the CIB website) there’s certainly an appetite for what the movement’s offering. On the other hand there’s no doubt that the Wirral is one of the most diverse areas in the UK today.
Joy’s convinced of the Wirral chapter’s success. “I went to a skate festival in Barcelona last year and it’s amazing the people that you meet that are connected with CIB on a global level. We all follow each other and watch videos of one another and got the chance to meet up in Spain.
“It brings people together. There’s so much personal information on the internet; the car you drive, what you own, where you go, what you look like …
“CIB is very counter-culture, it’s about getting sweaty, smelly and having a good time. It’s not about what you own or how big or skinny you are. That’s very rare at the moment, it’s fun.
“Some nights I go to Liverpool, I’m knackered from work and have a crap skate, but it’s a release. It’s not alcohol, drugs, or smoking – it’s a healthy way to relax and it’s good exercise. It’s a lovely movement and fun to be a part of, and the more the better.”