22311 West 8 Mile Road, Detroit, 2007. Rollerskating with Kenny Dixon Jnr

March 25, 2009

The front of Northland Roller Rink, viewed from 8 Mile Road

The front of Northland Roller Rink, viewed from 8 Mile Road

Northland Roller Rink (Inc) was built in 1986. As Roller Rinks go it seems to be a pretty decent one, offering lessons for old and young alike, and catering for freestyle, inline and jam skating. Getting in will cost you five or six Dollars, and another two if you need to rent some skates. Northland’s facilities and staff have earned it a respectable four-and-a-half out of five stars from the readers of Rinktime.

Some of the enticements outside the rink

Some of the enticements outside

Northland is on the famous 8 Mile road (or ‘8’ as it’s often known locally), which separates the city of Detroit from its suburbs. It’s called 8 Mile road because it’s eight miles from the intersection of Woodward and Michigan Avenue. One mile further into the city you hit 7 Mile road, and so on until you get to downtown. Simple. Town planning enthusiasts can read more on the Mile Road System here.

There are a number of rules that must be observed at the rink

There are a number of rules that must be observed at the rink

We knew that Soul Skate would be at Northland prior to arriving in Detroit, and had already sorted out tickets for the event before leaving the UK. As neither a skater nor a resident of Detroit I didn’t know what to expect from Soul Skate, other than that there would be food and Moodymann would be playing records. Generally I only need one out of those two to make a trip worthwhile, so the combination was, as you can imagine, irresistible.

Residents of Detroit got to buy their tickets from Kenny

Residents of Detroit got to buy their tickets from Kenny

Movement (the Detroit Electronic Music Festival) itself had a predominantly young, white, attendance. Having spent all day with them it was pretty much the type of people I expected to see at Soul Skate. A rollerskating themed extension of the festival, with Moody playing records. This was not the case. On arrival we found ourselves queuing for the extensive security checks and scans with a crowd of all ages. Lot’s of people arrived with their own skates, costumes, wigs and other paraphernalia.

Roller Rinks across the world all have something in common

Roller Rinks across the world all have something in common

It quickly became clear that this was much more about skating than it was about electronic music from Detroit. What’s more, keenness to take part in a real Detroit experience meant that we’d overlooked a general lack of rollerskating expertise. Putting on the skates and staggering over to a locker to secure my trainers I realised how drunk I was and how fast most people were moving round the rink. However, the music was playing loud and Kenny was drawling over the tannoy, so, when in Rome…

Detroit's skaters warm up for the competition

Detroit's skaters warm up for the competition

After a single, shamefully slow and unsteady lap I was off the rink and out of my skates. Skating was clear for skaters, and it was time for the less sober and coordinated party goers to get out of the way. There was also free food up on offer while supplies lasted. Freshly de-wheeled we headed off to the snackbar, which also had a healthy line of inflatable hammers, soft toys and other things a skater might need.

The snackbar at Northland also sells hammers

The snackbar at Northland also sells hammers

By the time we were ready to leave the competition was in full swing, with teams of two to three skaters performing carefully choreographed routines. There were clearly people here for whom synchronized roller-skating was a major past-time. There’s a video of the winning team at the end of this post. The quality of the footage isn’t great but around 2:25 the team pull out some tricks.

The entrance to Northland Roller Rink

The entrance to Northland Roller Rink

Waiting outside for the others I got a light from a couple of guys and chatted to them about the evening. I told them I was here with friends, and we’d mostly come over from London. This was met with a mixture of surprise, confusion and gratitude. ‘Thank you for coming to Detroit.’

Dealer's car. Camera shake due to poor lighting conditions and uncertainty

Dealer's car. Camera shake due to poor lighting conditions and uncertainty

As we talked a bit more, about music and the sad pride of the city, the noise of an approaching car grew louder. It sounded like the end of the world. As it rumbled past to get into the car park at the back of Northland I took a picture of its medieval-looking rims. The window rolled down and the driver called me over to see if I wanted to buy any pills. He didn’t give the impression they were very good.

[Giacomo]

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One Response to “22311 West 8 Mile Road, Detroit, 2007. Rollerskating with Kenny Dixon Jnr”


  1. […] bookmarks tagged synchronized skating 22311 West 8 Mile Road, Detroit, 2007. Rollerskati… saved by 5 others     Trivium108 bookmarked on 04/10/09 | […]


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