Retreading footsteps at The Rink

FORMER dancing queens stepped back in time when a group of artistic teenagers staged a historic performance on the site of a former ballroom.

The bricks and mortar of the former Queens Rink, which was in Clarence Road, Hartlepool, may be no longer present, but that did not stop this group of teenagers from bopping away.

The dance event was part of a project by Newcastle-based artist Neil Armstrong, who is producing a video piece about the history of the Rink.  He has already filmed a Rink Revival held at the Borough Hall as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations earlier this month.

This time, around 20 performing arts students from Hartlepool Sixth Form College descended on the overgrown wasteland next to Hartlepool United’s Victoria Park to perform a specially-choreographed piece.

Also invited to the event were older people who danced at the Rink in its heyday, and they were asked to stand around the edge of the dance area, as spectators would have done when the Rink was open.

Among the spectators was Brenda Harker, 75, who used to visit the Rink in her “courting” days with husband Alf, 75, from 1953 to 1963.

Mrs Harker, a grandmother of two, from the Fens area, was watching her granddaughter, Kayleigh Johnson, 17, perform as part of the production.

She said: “They were brilliant days. I remember the bands on a Friday night, with Victor Sylvester.

“And there were Teddy Boys, especially a group called the Turquoise Gang.”

Praising Neil’s project, she said: “I think it’s great – none of the children of this age have known anything like the Rink.”

Granddaughter Kayleigh, whose parents are Lesley and Kenny Johnson, said: “My nana has supplied me with lots of memories about the Rink, which has really helped with characterisation.”

Also watching the event were Judith Fishwick, Carol Hutchinson and Irene Callaghan.

Carol, 65, from the Fens area, attended the venue between 1961 and 1966.

The mother of three, stepmother of one and grandmother of four, who is a retired nursing home worker, said: “I loved the people, the dancing and the music.

“It was two shillings and sixpence to get in and threepence for the cloakroom. We are the ones that loved the Rink the most, out of all the generations that went.”

Irene, 65, a mother of two and grandmother of two also from the Fens, met her husband of 44-years, Terence, at the Rink.

The retired machinist and ex-nursing home worker said: “The girls and boys would arrange to meet under the clock and whoever turned up under the clock was who you were going with.”

Judith, 65, a mother of two and grandmother of six, from Throston, added: “The Rink should never have been pulled down, it was a beautiful place.”

Artist Neil said: “The idea of my piece is that it links in very well with the here and now.

“It’s about the evolution of time and how things change.”

The footage will form a video installation to be shown at Hartlepool Art Gallery next year, as well as nationally.

The former ballroom was built in 1910 but closed in 1968 and was demolished four years later.