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David John Bell - Industry Unrevealed
Rollerblading defines about their names. A person that thinks about rolling always has names in mind like Aragon, Farmer or Haffey.
Just a few people think about the "behind the scene" guys. Who are those people? What drives them to invest everything they have to push rollerblading?
In our new category `Industry Unrevealed´ we want to introduce you to these hard working, committed and fairly underpaid people.
David John Bell from Empire Distribution UK is the second to answer our questions.
Find the german version right here: Bell german
There is just a dozen people out there in rollingland that really dedicate their lives to rolling. With every breath they take, Rolling grows and gets a little further. One of those guys is Mr. David John Bell from Liverpool, England who is involved in most of the things happening in Great Britain. You name it, Dave is there. ASA, NASS and the famous SlammJamm? Impossible without the tiny man with the able cap.
R2S: First of all, some readers might not know who you are. Who exactly are you and what do you do for a living?
DJB:My names David John Bell, I'm an old fart at 35yrs of age (to some) living in the area they call New Brighton the best place in Merseyside. I co run Empire Distribution UK Ltd with Ian Robinson, the only 100% Rollerblade only distribution company in the UK. I'm proud to say I'm a rollerblader and will be until I die or my knees pack up, hahaha...
R2S: When did you start skating? Also when did you decide to take it more seriously and start the distribution company?
DJB: I'm a late developer. I started to roll around on blades in 94(do the mathís I was 22), before that it was ice and quad skates for me from about the age of 6. 2002 was a big year I'd developed the IMYTA Liverpool event with JJ and it was the year an opportunity arose for Ian and I to develop Empire UK. That's were it got a lot more serious in my life and became a day-to-day job.
Dave Bell Portrait
R2S: What is the SlammJamm?
DJB: Ahh the Slamm Jamm... The SlammJamm started in early 1999 at Rampworx Skatepark. I'd been to the famous Lausanne International Contest in 1998, which to me was one of the most amazing events to date. I came back to the UK from that event with an idea to create something that was more about community than a competition. The ethics are simple with the Slamm Jamm, one day out of the year rollerbladers from all over the UK gather to party, session, communicate, develop, encourage and most of all roll as one strong community. The Slamm Jamm is not a competition itís a gathering, hence my saying, `The Gathering Is Near´.
R2S: Speaking about the Slamm Jamm what's the King & Queen of the Jamm title?
DJB: Basically its a concept thatís gives those rollers who arenít in the A-list sponsored zone the chance to shine abit. Itís an open jam session with small groups of 5 and itís judged by every rollerblader at the event. So basically everyone who competes has a chance to walk away with the title and trophy. I look at it as highlighting future prospects, and I'm all about that.
R2S: How was last years event?
DJB: Every year the Jamm gets more and more rollers making the journey to Rampworxs. Itís always encouraging to see more new faces at the event as well as familiar ones. Last year we had the privilege of Arlo Eisenberg at the jamm, which for me was a pinnacle point. One of the founding fathers at your event is something to be very happy about.
R2S: Will there be any changes to the slam jamm format this year?
DJB: Yes, this year Iím looking at developing more of the session idea for the elite and pro rather than offering cash prizes etc. I just feel that when cash is around peeps tend to react differently to the event. The event will be a Friday evening and all day Jamm on the Saturday. Iím also working on the idea to develop a rolling village, which will hopefully include a lot of peeps in the industry and scene in the UK. Itís all in the works at this moment but good things develop over time. I try to change things up each year so the event never gets stale.
R2S: What else are you involved in?
DJB: Well, at this moment in time Iím involved in developing a working group, which includes retailers, distributors and rollerbladers. Its main focus is to develop rolling in the UK so it gets stronger for everyone. The working group is still in its birth stage but everythingís looking positive for its future. I also volunteer at Rampworx and on occasions I help develop other rolling events such as NASS, ASA etc.
R2S: Speaking of your backyard, the Rampworx skatepark in Liverpool is something worth mentioning in my opinion. The constant changing of obstacles in that skatepark is amazing. How do you manage to rebuild these things in there every once in a while?
DJB: It takes a lot of hard work to keep Rampworx going and Fresh. Thatís down to Ian, Tony, Rob and the management structure of the Skatepark. Rampworx is a registered charity itís a non-profit making organization, so everything that comes over the door in entrance fees goes back into the park. Hence we are able to develop, build and change the skatepark on a regular basis. Donít get me wrong, Itís a constant battle to keep things going and only with the help of the management, customers and volunteers etc will Rampworx survive.
For anyone who thinks skateparks make money, think again, they donít. If a skatepark believes in developing and progressing Rolling then youíll see changes on a regular basis or at least some developments over a yearly period. Rampworxís belief is that it offers a quality environment and will continue to do so for many years. Its 10 years old next year so big things are planned to celebrate. There are a lot of indoor skateparks that have come and gone in the UK, but Rampworx has grown from a 6000sq ft park in 1997 to 55,000sqft park to date. Look out for the Rampworx my space page which I run youíll be able to check it all out on there. Were also launching www.rampworxshop.com in the next few weeks to bring in more funding to help with the running of Rampworx. Its what we call a social enterprise, which means all the profit goes back into the skatepark and not into an individuals back pocket.
R2S: I remember you saying you have always been proud to be a Rollerblader and that everyone should know you are. So how do people react when you tell them you rollerblade?
DJB: Hahahahaha, yer some peeps just donít get it first time round. I tend to explain that I roll around on rollerblades and then show them some footage from a DVD or pictures in a magazine. I think they get it once they see rolling in action. I do like to talk to people about rolling who arenít involved as I think itís a way of promoting our lifestyle and passion to general public. Maybe rollerbladers should talk a lot more in general public environments.
R2S: As far as I know youíre quite an old lad - what was the best experience so far in your long, long life?
DJB: In rollerblading being at the Lausanne International Rolling Festival 98&99, it totally changed my outlook on rolling. In Life the birth of my son Zachary, seeing life appear which is part of you is amazing.
R2S: And what was the worst?
DJB: In rolling watching Rob Pruett get airlifted from NASS 2004 with a broken skull, also loosing a good friend (Richard) 27days after that incident. In life, (touch wood) nothing really has happened to date which I havenít been able to overcome.
R2S: Imagine youíd have 24hrs of pure freedom, you can do whatever you want without being prosecuted or anybody would remember what you did the next day accept yourself. What would you do?
DJB: Nothing! I think what goes around comes around. If you do bad, bad will follow you in the end. Being positive and following your dreams will help you in the future well-being. Respect those who Respect you, thatís my outlook on life.
R2S: If you had a “Sim Roller” – what body parts and skills would you add to your head? You can choose from every roller there is or wasÖ
DJB: Iíd just have Richard, he was everything a rollerblader could be.
R2S: Using the internet, where do I have to go to get a good insight into the UK scene?
DJB: Ahhh peeps should check out UKskate, Urbanlines, Freenation Magazine, Irishrolling and Livirolling. Thereís so many more places to checkout the UK scene on the net and all these sites will have links to more interesting pages..
R2S: Youíre quite an experienced roller, whatís missing in rolling today? Why donít we kick them other "extremesports" assess – as our sport is more spectacular than theirs?
DJB: Hahahaha, I donít think we should ponder on the whole skateboard and BMX thing. Our lifestyle and image speak volumes, plus we, as rollerbladers seem to have the best community worldwide. I donít think anythingís missing as such, I just think maybe there needs to be a bit more focus on communication and development within the rolling world.
R2S: How has rollerblading developed in England the past few years?
DJB: The UK scene has grown in maturity but numbers have dwindled. Iíve seen a lot of rollers drift into other things. As most rollers grow up they find jobs, university, women, sex, drugs and rock n roll haha, which tend to divert their attention from rolling 24/7. Itís a growing up thing. Iím encouraged by the influx of new blood in the UK over the last few monthsí, which is being pushed by certain parks and peeps within the UK scene and industry. Hopefully more of this, plus the development and exposure of our current rollers will help to strengthen the UK scene even more for years to come.
R2S: People Who know you better might accost you by youíre nickname- whatís its called and where does it come from?
DJB: “Dangerous” Dave hahahahaha. Itís a well rounded story thatís starts with “me youth”. I was to say a handful when I was younger and danger didnít seem to faze me. Iíd often try jumping from flat roof to flat roof of the 4 storey block of flats we lived in. Or climb the cranes in the docks just to jump off the top of them into the water below. But it was my father in law that first nicknamed me “Dangerous Dave” after a rumble with a trials bike, the garden wall, fence and then next door neighbors garden hahahaha. Its freaky as it also co-insided with the birth of Ali G and his mate Dave. “Me mate Dave heís Dangerous” which former Salomon UK team rider Paul McCormack used to great effect when referring to me hahahaha. Itís stuck ever since and peeps know me by that name. My wife calls me Daddy Dangerous now hahahahahaha.
Dave and his beloved HipTop
R2S: I recognized youíre pretty much into music and stuff I assume. What kind of music and why?
DJB: From a very young age lets say birth I was surrounded by music. My Mother and Father helped manage nightclubs and were massive Northern Soul fans. My mother put me into dance school when I was about 5 and I never really looked back. I grew up dancing and staying up late in nightclubs and pubs hahahaha. Music was evolving around me; I was born in the 70s and once Hip Hop hit the UK in 82/83 Id found my direction. Iíd spend evenings and weekendís bboying & battling crews all over the UK and Europe for the next few years. Even today Iím deadly on a dance floor hahahaha. Not many peeps know that I also Select tunes when time allows on my own soundsystem , which I run with friends called “the revolutionary SUGAR SHACK soundsystem”. Dancehall, R&B, Hip-Hop are all thrown down if were playing the 45s. Iím also partial to a bit of Neil Diamond if the moods right hahahahaha. Music is a massive part of my life.
R2S: Is there anything else besides skating and music you get hyped on?
DJB: Visual Art, design and great movies.
R2S: I remember you saying rollerblading always had something to do with travelling the world and meeting friends for you. Where do you go constantly?
DJB: Not much travelling lately as responsibilities come first. But when time and cash allow I do like getting to European events such as Xbattle, IMYTA, Winterclash etc, and every possible UK event I can drag myself too. Its great to meet friends old and new.
R2S: People often say England has the worldís largest rollerblading community. Is that true? Canít really believe that, cause itís such a small country compared to the USA for example?
DJB: Its true that the UK has a tight community of Rollers, I think itís because we communicate a lot between each other. Hence when thereís a good session/event going down youíre guaranteed to have a lot of rollers there. I believe there is a fair amount of rollers in the UK, but I donít think itís as large as people think. Europe as a whole I feel has a massive rolling community which is growing stronger and stronger, to the point I think itís a lot bigger than the US community. That was evident at this years Winterclash.
Dave and his little fella Zachary
R2S: Whatís up with Zachary, your son? Will he be the next Chris Haffey? He has got some nice Xsjados for kids I´ve seen on the pics...
DJB: Haha I donít think his Granddad will allow him to be the next “Haffey” before heís the next “Rooney” first. He already has a pair of roller skates, which he loves, but his football is his prize procession at this moment. I donít think you can really understand responsibility in life until your responsible for someoneís well-being and development. I think what Iím trying to say is being a Father is one massive job which is not to be taken lightly, but itís the best job in the world in my eyes.
Daves getting creative, Liverpool
R2S: Hey, thereís a big load of people out there that owe you a big thank you, but now itís your chance to say thanks or just give us some last words.
DJB: People donít owe me anything; I donít do things to receive props. I just do things because I love rolling 100%. But!!! Iíd like to really thank my Wife and Son for putting up with the time I spend rolling and developing stuff. Believe me itís a lot. Iíd like to give props though to every roller in the UK, there part of an amazing community and everyone of them is important to the community we call “rolling”.
On a final note, hopefully most rollers reading this interview are wearing a Richard Taylor Memorial Band. If not check out his fund online Richard Taylor Fund if you wish to be part of the on going fundraising. Richard for me touched a lot of people all over the world through Rolling, he was an individual who is sadly missed, but will never be forgotten.
Thanks for your time Roll2Soul for giving me the opportunity to be involved in a great rolling online mag in a little way.
Dangerous aka Mr Bell
We would like to thank David Bell for taking the time to answer these questions.
Richard Taylor fund