From a chef who practises the tradition of lion dancing, a ceramicist specialising in earthenware Pokémon and Legomen, and a group of dancers who roller-skate as part of the Afro-Caribbean Skate Society, we followed individuals and communities who continue to explore niche activities during their downtime.
Vandorolling, Afro-Caribbean Skate Society
Garbstore: How did you get into roller skating?
Vandorolling: I start getting into roller skating when I bought some quad skates, that was around 5 years ago. I used to watch those amazing videos on YouTube of the ‘60s show "Soul Train" and I always wanted to look like them, but on my skates.
GS: You are a dancer, how does this translate into your hobby of skating?
V: Everyone has their own skating style: some skaters really love dancing, others are more into small, controlled moves, some others like to speed skate, other skaters use quads just like they use ice skates and it’s all very beautiful. That's the beauty of skating, each person has their own unique style. I love afrobeat and Brazilian dance as well as expressive movement, I add it all when roller skating, it just happens naturally.
GS: Where do you go to skate?
V: In the summer, we go all over the city: mainly Hyde Park, but you will see us at the O2, Victoria Park, Bethnal Green, Stratford. In the winter, we go to a lot of roller discos and other indoor events, as well as car parks! At some events you can find over 200 people skating. On a good day in the park, you’ll find about 20-30 of us at a time.
GS: What kind of music do you skate to?
V: I skate to every type of music: Afro-house, Afro-beat, old-school songs from the 90s and 80s.
GS: What kind of people have you met through your hobby?
V: One of the things that I am very grateful for is the skating community. Everyone is so artistic and talented; they make me feel at home. They are amazing singers, models, designers, yoga teachers, dancers, DJs…and I’ve learnt so many things from them all.
Yij Fong, Chef
Garbstore: How did you get into Lion Dancing?
Yij Fong: I began learning Martial Arts as a form of self-defence and to boost my self-confidence. My instructor also taught Lion Dance and suggested I give it a go. After a few lessons and public performances, I realised I have a talent and liking for it. I first got my feet wet when I was around 10 years old, however it wasn't till I was 18 when I started to get into it proper.
GS: What is it about Lion Dancing that attracts you?
YF: Many reasons! I like it because it's a unique way to express character and emotion, because you're imitating an animal, but the actions and expressions have to remain relatable. I relish the team effort everyone puts in, it's super rewarding when everything comes together, plus the adrenaline that comes with stunt-work and performing in-front of potentially hundreds of people. It's also a great way to make people happy and a fantastic way to keep healthy, fit and flexible. Finally, it's part of my culture and identity, and a great way to showcase it!
GS: Could you tell us the significance of the Lion Dance in Asian culture?
YF: The Lion is generally used to bring blessings and good fortune, plus drive away evil spirits. There are a variety of Lion Dance types and styles not only practiced in Chinese culture, but around Asia in Vietnam, Japan and Korea.
GS: What events do you perform your routines at?
YF: Weddings are very popular, plus we do parades, restaurants, shop openings, TV shows, birthdays... we even did a prison once! We’ve also been abroad to several other countries to perform, and we're particularly busy during Chinese New Year as people like to have their houses and businesses blessed.
GS: How often do you get to practice / where?
YF: In my early adulthood I would train 2-3 times per week, however due to work life and commitments nowadays I aim to train once per week now. Ideally there's 5 people minimum: 2 lion dancers, 1 drum player, 1 on cymbals plus a Gong player, and we all rotate round to get even practice and choreograph with each other.
GS: You traditionally work with a partner when dancing - what is this relationship like, what do you have to work on / know about each other?
YF: We learn about each other's timing, footwork and athletic abilities, such as being able to perform specific stunts. Everyone is slightly different, so it's key you understand the way your partner moves and behaves so you can choreograph with them. In general, the head player wants to be light and agile for jumping and agility, and the tail player stronger and sturdier to carry the head player, balance them on their body and assist in stunt work. We've practiced and performed on poles before (5-8ft tall poles where the lion jumps across) so it's very crucial you and your partner have a strong bond and understanding of each other, as a single mistake could be dangerous.
GS: What kind of people have you met through your hobby?
YF: I've met some amazing people with similar interests, yet different backgrounds. Some may be professional dancers looking to expand their skillsets, whilst others could be people curious about Chinese (or their own) culture who would like to get more directly involved. Overall though, we're all team players who enjoy the action and excitement of Lion Dancing!
Nam Tran, Co-Founder Cernamic Studio
Garbstore: How did you get into ceramics?
Nam Tran: The art tutor gave us a demo once and I was hooked. It was a department that was hardly used in my college and it was nice being the only one in there.
GS: You started this ceramic studio during the first lockdown, how was it starting something from scratch during this period?
NT: We were kicked out from our previous space during the lockdown, as ceramicists we couldn’t work from home, so we decided to build our own in Stoke Newington, we’ve been here for 18 months. The hardest thing was we had put all our life-savings into it and didn’t know when lockdown would ever end.
GS: What kind of people have you met through ceramics?
NT: I’ve had the pleasure to meet all kind of people, from all walks of life; it attracts people who want to find something in the clay whether it is some “zen and peace’ or excitement and experiments.
GS: You are known for your ceramic Pokémon and Legomen pieces. Why these characters and how do you create them?
NT: They are childhood memories recreated in ceramics to make it forever lasting. They are made through slip cast moulds and then altered in form to change them and give them different characteristics.
GS: You made the whole space yourselves, could you talk us through it?.
NT: The building used to be an old zip factory! My partner Susi and I learnt how to do the plumbing and most of the electrics ourselves. We built the wooden mezzanine level and painted the whole space. My advice would be “nothing is permanent”. Our studio can adapt, and we are happy to change and move things around, the space is very modular.