Words: Alison James Pic: Rex Shutterstock
Whether performing on Dancing on Ice or competing at the Winter Olympics, we’re used to seeing Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean glammed up and putting on the glitz when taking to the ice. However their latest TV venture, although based around an ice rink, could not be more different. Ice Rink on the Estate was a three-part documentary, which aired in April, and saw Jayne and Chris invite teenagers living on the St Ann’s estate in inner city Nottingham, the city in which they both grew up, to take part in the creation of an ice skating show to be held on a pop-up ice rink on the estate.
“It really was a labour of love,” Chris explains. “Forty years ago I was bought my first pair of ice skates and as a result my life changed forever. “Jayne and I came up with this project because we wanted to give something back to the community that has given us so much. Ice skating was the obvious choice because it’s what we do.”
“It was about Chris and I coming back to our roots,” adds Jayne. “We wanted to choose a specific estate where we felt that the children and teenagers might enjoy putting on a show for their own community and taking responsibility for it. “We wanted to give them an opportunity to do something they would never normally do and then say to them ‘don’t give up on something before you’ve even tried it’.”
“It’s about empowering the kids,” says Chris, taking up the story again. “Giving them responsibility and a sense of achievement. We felt it was something really positive for Nottingham.” Fine sentiments indeed, but both Jayne and Chris found the venture challenging at times. “We didn’t know what to expect – we were just as out of our comfort zone as the youngsters,” smiles Chris.
“We were pushed to the limit and you got to see the real us. There were moments of absolute frustration when we’d throw our hands up in the air and wonder why on earth we were doing it. There were also several steps along the way when we seriously doubted it would happen at all. But then in an instant things would change and, as the kids grew in confidence, you’d be given fresh hope. It wasn’t just about performing on the ice either. It was up to them to sort out funding and sponsorship for the show.
“One of the girls, who had been very quiet and in the background, suddenly shone when she had to stand before a boardroom of business people and pitch the performance, to get sponsorship. She spoke really well about representing St Ann’s and what they hoped to achieve. Ultimately she secured the sponsorship and you could see it was a potential ‘light bulb’ moment for her. The same kind of thing happened to me when I was bought those first ice skates.”
Jayne and Chris feel life has really changed for teens since they themselves were teenagers in the Seventies. “We often wonder how we survived without mobiles as youngsters, but we did,” says Jayne. “If you wanted to meet friends then you arranged it before leaving home on the landline and just made sure you turned up on time. It was a lot safer for me to get on a bus and travel to Nottingham ice rink as a young teen back then.
“It’s not so nice to wander around on your own now in any city – there’s a lot of aggression out there and I think that’s how teens survive these days. They don’t want to be deemed weak in any way so they act tough in order to survive.”
‘Jayne and I came up with the idea to go back to our roots... we wanted to give something back’
“I think teenage life is really difficult today,” Chris agrees. “They have to grow up much quicker, and they know so much more than we ever did. Having said that, they are still youngsters in the same way that we were at that age. They still need love and guidance. But these days they are so much more streetwise and savvy and know much more about the world because of the easy access to media and multimedia online.”
Both Jayne and Chris are now parents. Jayne and her husband Phil have Jessica (8) and Kieran (12), while Chris is dad to two teenage boys, Sam and Jack. Yet they say they felt rather like a proud mum and dad to the St Ann’s kids when they saw them succeed.
“It was so rewarding and very emotional,” says Jayne (57). “I have to say that, as difficult as it was at the time, when we reached the end and we saw the smiles on the faces of the kids, and then saw them perform on the show, there was a great feeling of teamwork and success. “To show these kids that working together and working hard means you really can achieve things in life was enlightening. Hopefully as they move forward they’ll take that lesson with them into other areas of their lives.”
Having experienced the challenge that is Ice Rink on the Estate, the Olympic champions would relish the chance to repeat the project in another location. “It would be very interesting to do it again in a different place with a different group of people,” enthuses Chris (56). “Whether it’s kids or adults, just having gone through the process, and knowing what the challenges and problems are, well, you definitely learn from it. Maybe we would do some things differently, but at least we’d know what to expect. It would be so great if other inner city communities could experience something like this.”
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