Rainy City Roller Derby’s home for the past decade is being knocked down as part of a government-funded scheme to regenerate Oldham town centre.
[Update 30/11/20: Rainy City has been given extra time to move out by the landlord. They also welcome dialogue and support from Oldham Council.]
Whilst this is great news for the local area, it’s a devastating blow for the sports club in a year like no other. Rainy City now faces a very uncertain future.
The King Street venue, known globally as the Thunderdome, provides a space for women to play roller derby at all levels. It’s also a safe, welcoming hub for the LGBTQ+ community and the only dedicated roller derby centre in the UK.
If you’re part of the roller derby community, chances are you’ve heard of the Thunderdome. Maybe you’ve come to cheer skaters on during a game, volunteered at an event or even skated on the hallowed purple track yourself.
Due to the pandemic, all training has been cancelled since March and many members have had to pause subs payments. There have been no games or bootcamps, which make up the club’s main source of income. As an amateur sports club run entirely by volunteers, any money raised at events goes right back into the club’s operation. No rent relief has been offered in the past nine months despite the club being unable to use the venue.
This week Rainy City was in the process of negotiating a new lease with the landlord when they were advised he had accepted an offer from Oldham Council to buy the property. As part of that sale, the landlord must demolish the venue.
The club has been told they need to be out by Monday 30 November. Three days to pack up and find somewhere to store the bleachers, sports court floor and sound system. Three days to desperately try to work out how to keep this club which means so much to its members afloat.
Everyone has been left reeling by this latest development, unsure of all but the immediate and obligatory next steps. It’s unclear if Oldham Council will include Rainy City in their plans or whether they’ll just replace the venue with flats. Either way, the club has to fight to keep going and so this a call for help.
If you know of any local venues, warehouses or cheap/free storage space please let Rainy City know on Facebook or in the comments. Please share this story everywhere - particularly with any press, legal or council contacts and basically anyone you think might be able to help.
Oldham hosts Europe’s only dedicated roller derby centre, BBC
Live in Oldham at Rainy City Roller Derby ahead of the Roller Derby World Summit, BBC Radio Manchester
New BBC iPlayer programme explores the world of Roller Derby, BBC
All photos by Shirlaine Forrest