Gayskate, the gay and lesbian skating night at Petersham’s Majestic Rollerink, is a great leveller. It’s one of those nights where it really doesn’t matter what jeans you’ve chosen to go out in, it’s all about getting around the ring without seriously injuring yourself.
Since 1981 gay and lesbian skaters have managed to get round the ring with gusto and in the company of their peers through the ever cool Gayskate.
From the peeling sign in the old-school Majestic foyer -“ which says (among other things) No Gum! And No Displays of Affection! -“ to the ice blocks served by a volunteer from the building’s owners, the Pankoakos Association of NSW, Gayskate is classic old-school entertainment.
So how’s something that seems so stuck in the early 80s managed to last longer than so many other polished, slick Sydney gay scene nights?
According to Thursday Gayskate DJ Cathy Garcia, it just has: It’s not really organised, it just sort of happens. Every week people turn up and they skate.
And all sorts of people skate, she says. From the uncoordinated bad skaters who are surprised they don’t walk out with every bone in their body broken to people who can skate faster than a car.
It’s really sociable and fun, and it makes you fit. And it’s just so friendly.
Recent visitors to Gayskate might have wondered what was going on at the Majestic. Garcia says the for sale signs out the front of the building have been removed and renovations -“ which saw half the rollerskating area fenced off -“ have finished.
Gay skating in Sydney was born in the years when skating was absolutely the excellent thing to do. Back in 1981, a club called Maxy’s Disco (it was the early 80s) started an official gay skating night on Tuesdays which apparently packed them in for a year. When it started to slow down, the Majestic Rollerink in Petersham -“ a traditional rollerskating theatre complete with lights, mirrors, skating games and Cliff Richards records -“ took over and continued the Tuesday night gay skating tradition.
The end of the rollerdisco years and the emergence of HIV/AIDS brought about a drop in attendances and the Majestic was sold to the Pankoakos Association of NSW who planned to close the rink and use the old theatre as a clubhouse. But luckily for the gay skaters, the council got in the way, saying there was not enough parking to operate as a club but the roller rink could stay.
The Pankoakos Association manage the Gayskate nights with volunteers.
Gayskate at the Majestic Rollerink, 49 New Canterbury Rd, Petersham, is held on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. Three hours of skating costs $8 and shoe hire, for those who don’t have their own skates, is an extra dollar. One dollar from each entry is donated to a gay and lesbian community charity.