Ah, the Barry Island Rollerdome, long before the days of social media, online multi player playstation games, Whats app group messages and tablets, before all of this people use to go out a lot more, and socialise a lot more.
If you grew up during the mid 90’s you should remember the Rollerdome, you probably skated there once or twice, went on a date there, went to a children’s party or if you were even more talented, played in the hockey team. The Rollerdome was open for around 7 years from 1993 to 1999 and provided a place for budding skaters to practice their art or for children and adults to just have an hour or two of fun. If you were around during the latter days you may remember ‘walking the dog’ as part of the yoyo club, I certainly do anyway. Former owner Paul Haley set up the Rollerdome in 1992 and it officially opened in 1993 after 2 years of planning and trying to get funding, 6 years later, he sold the Rollerdome lease around November 1999 and the building became Triassic Towers.
These days, indoor skating just really isn’t ‘in’, there are a number of outdoor skating parks throughout the vale. But the Rollerdome has a pivotal part in Barry Island history.
We caught up with former owner of the Rollerdome, Paul Haley to roll back the years to look at the conception, its heyday and eventually the closure of one of Barry Island’s favourite places to spend your free time during the mid 90’s.
TDV – When did the idea of the roller dome first come about and how?
PH -During the daytime I was a Civil Servant, working for ECGD as an Internal Auditor in Cardiff. By night, I was a DJ and worked in virtually every pub, club & hotel in Barry, on the Island and throughout South Wales as “The Speed of Sound Disco” with my mate Russell. We ran the Hotel International on Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays which was very successful as a late night club in the late 80’s / early 90’s. One day, I had a phone call from the landlord of the Esplanade Building on Barry Island, a lovely old man called Gavin Millar, to see if I would turn it into a nightclub. Barry Island was just starting a regeneration scheme and the building was going to get a make-over. When I went to see it, I found a very dirty hall, no glass in the windows, leaky roof, a single smashed toilet, and generally in a dreadful state.
There was a picture of a 1950’s rollerskate dancer on the end wall, which gave an indication of what the Hall had been – a former disused skating rink.
I did some research and visited rollerskating rinks in Milton Keynes, Colchester, & other places. The internet showed a resurgence in the USA due to a new thing called inline skates. I began to think about skating rather than nightclub. Further work uncovered that the hall was built as a rollerskating rink – the Trocadero Skating Rink – in 1926. It became a requisitioned Army Barracks during World War 2, thereafter the Roxy Cinema until 1954 when it reverted to being a skating rink again. It then became a Tea Room which was run as an overspill to John’s Café, which still exists today. Then finally a store room for fairground equipment. In fact, the first animatronics – performing robotic people – were developed in this space by John Wardley for John Collins Pleasure Park.
My Civil Service department was being privatised, so I took redundancy and became only the 2nd regeneration project on Barry Island, after Quasar. I put a £100,000 funding package together to do some major works on electrics, heating, lighting, toilets, café, balcony, shop, and of course skates for hire. The landlord also had funding to replace the roof & windows which are huge. It was quite a task, but fantastic to see the original strip maple floor come back to life from underneath all the years of accumulated dirt. Barry Island Rollerdome was created, breathing new life and part of regenerating the whole building which included 12 flats.
TDV – How long did it take to get set up?
PH – I took redundancy in October 1992 and we opened in August 1993, so just under 2 years of planning, seeking finance, building works etc. I had an official opening in October 1994 (as we waited until all the facilities were fully completed) and it was a great moment to have Ithwyn & Elizabeth John, the original family owners of John’s Café, to cut the official ribbon. I was very fortunate to also meet the wife of Barry – I think it was Eileen – the owners of the rink in the 1950’s.
The Bluecoats at Majestic Holiday Camp used to bring groups of kids on holiday several times per week. Rhondda Cynon Taff and other local authorities would bus kids in during Summer: 1 in morning and 1 in afternoon in rotation, and generally they would go to the Hawking Centre for the other part of their day. We could do up to 6 birthday parties on a Saturday & Sunday. We provided mobile rollerdisco’s for most Cardiff leisure centres during half-terms. As we expanded, we also opened shops in Porthcawl, Swansea, and in Milford market, under the “Street Blades” name, as we didn’t think “Barry Island Rollerdome” would work for that side of the business.
TDV – What was the greatest achievement?
PH -Difficult to answer, I suppose actually getting the place open. But then we had to take the basic concept of rollerskating and make it appeal to different groups. So, we created a very successful rollerhockey team, which was coached by lovely local former members of the 1950’s Great Britain team: Haydyn Davies, Tommy, Peter, & Len.
We had a programme of rollerhockey on Mondays, Adult Skate Night on Tuesdays, Wednesday was Ramp Night, Thursday’s was a very popular “Learn to Skate” night with Donna, who continues to operate the Vale of Glamorgan Roller Dance Club, with Haydyn’s wife Sheila Davies. It’s funny how the skaters are still enjoying their sport. Saturdays & Sundays could be packed with birthday parties & groups, especially if it was a fine morning and then raining in the afternoon, with indoor attractions on Barry Island being few and far between.
In response to the number of accidents on roads involving skaters, we developed a “Safe Skate” programme as none existed at the time. We created a programme, with a strapline “safe skate kids wear pads and lids” and the local health authority and schools bussed in Vale schools. We won a major award from Good Health Wales in 1997, which was followed by a Wales Road Safety Award in 1999.
We developed the “Street Blades Stunt Team” which took the very best aggressive stunt skaters from South Wales and we competed in London, Wakefield, Brighton, Bristol and many other places. Many people will remember a memorable night when we invited the Bauer Promotional Stunt Team to perform, around 1995/6. Probably one of our busiest nights with a large number of skates sold. It turned out though that our own home grown Barry skaters were better. The late Richard Taylor was discovered that night, joined Bauer, and went on to world fame as he became a professionally endorsed skater & developed his extraordinary talent combined with gymnastic athleticism to incredible achievements & well deserved accolades. Always a Barry boy, Richard would help any local budding would-be stunt skater and often bring fellow professional team mates from around the world back home to Barry. It’s a great tribute that the Skate Park at the Knap was created in his memory and gives back to future generations of skaters.
That reminds me. When we were building the Rollerdome, weeks before we opened to the public, 3 young lads came in on inline skates and asked if they could have a go – Richard Taylor, Michael Rolf, & Andrew Sullivan. They had got their skates from a trip to the States, and so were not only the first in Barry to have inlines, they were the first to skate in the Rollerdome, so there was a destiny about Richard & his friends.
In 1999, I became President of Barry Chamber of Trade and the late Graeme Jones of Harmony Furnishings was Barry Rotary Club Chair. Their Annual Fireworks was being held at the Knap. We worked together and with the monies collected, for an Air Show that wasn’t permitted to take place in 1997, from Island Traders, we ensured that November 1999 saw the return of the Annual Fireworks Display to Barry Island and it has been held their ever since – a fantastic investment for the Island. A long forgotten legacy I suppose of those times.
In terms of major events, I was responsible for bringing the Galaxy 101 Radio Roadshow to Barry Island in 1994, with acts including Mark Morrison & Peter Andre. It virtually brought the island to a standstill as more people came then expected, cafes ran out of produce, and the Police threatened live on air to pull the show if people didn’t get down off the roof of Merrie Friars building and from the lamp-posts and John Zeraschi’s café.
TDV – Did any famous people ever get their skates on?
PH – Another achievement, well not quite, was when we tried to break the World’s Largest Rollerskating Conga Record along Barry Island Promenade. I think the record was 300 people. We didn’t reach that, but we had a great turnout of participants and spectators, had great fun, and raised some money for “Help The Aged”. However, for some reason MTV got in touch and asked if they could come along and film. They used our stunt skaters and staff members Ryan & Kevin to do tricks down the steps onto the Promenade whilst the TV host introduced various music items. Have a look at the photo and see if you can spot who the TV host was. Yes, a young Davina McCall.
We had many TV programmes filmed, with all sorts of presenters. There is an Open University Safe Skate programme that used to air several times a year, so we became famous for a bit.
Roy Noble did a TV programme which featured our rollerhockey coaches. I remember being interviewed by BBC Wales Frances Donovan, by BBC News Wyre Davies & Gail Foley. We often had TV crews that came to film, they liked it that our skaters were bilingual.
TDV – What eventually led to its closure?
PH – Locals used the Rollerdome outside of the Summer months and on rainy days. The loss of the Holiday Camp in 1997 meant we had to work incredibly harder to attract people in the Summer. We also noticed that as our younger customers grew up, they would either go skating outdoors, or become “too old”. We had a fantastic 18 months in creating a Yoyo Club as we were at the forefront in the UK of sales of yoyos and strings, attracting about 200 youngsters on a Friday. But this just amplified we were in a fad market for youngsters. I couldn’t spot an obvious successor to the yoyo boom, and when options came along to move on, I took them. I had developed a tremendous skill set which has opened up many other opportunities for me since that time, which I recall with great fondness.
TDV – What are your fondest memories?
PH – All of the above – never a dull moment! I have very fond memories of all the people I met along that journey and especially those I’m still in touch with such as Marco Zeraschi & his family, and all the skaters & customers that I still occasionally bump into. Also, those that were just great people to be around with lots of ideas for improving Barry Island, who are no longer with us such as Brian Osbourne, Armando Armelin, Ken Rogers, & Rick Wright. Our stunt skaters, including Richard Taylor, used to take part in the Friday Night Blue Coat show at Majestic Holiday Camp, and used to skate down the inclined aisles, up the stage stairs ramps, and then perform all Summer season – payment was in the form of burgers and cokes!
Paul’s final comments to the TDV –
“Thanks for asking me these questions, which have given tremendous pleasure, as I looked through all the memorabilia and photos I have in the attic. Great memories. Perhaps I should set up a facebook page as there is so much stuff?”
What is your favourite memory of the Rollerdome, do you have any pics up in your attic? Would you like to see a Facebook page set up in memory? Let us know.
TDV would like to personally thank Paul for taking time to answer these questions and providing so much information, it has certainly given us some nostalgic memories. Now, who wouldn’t like to get their skates on just one more time?
Check out our selection of pics below!