Bike, blade and roller fans from across Manchester went off-road for the day as Stretford Mall’s multi-story carpark was transformed into a giant skatepark.
Organisers declared the M32 Circuit event a major success as more than 500 adventure loving toddlers, teenagers, their parents and grandparents joined in a day of car-free fun.
One floor of the car park was turned into a cycle circus, there was a pop-up skate park by skateboarding experts Subvert MCR, and there was roller disco run by Trafford youth organisation Tuf*C Urban Leisure, as well as a biking circuit around the venue.
Adults were given the chance to have a go at eco-friendly transport options on a trial bike floor, ranging from motorized scooters to cargo bikes, from exhibitors Bambino Biking and Swifty Scooters.
People who already had their own bikes, trikes, blades and boards were invited to bring them along to use the space, or hire wheels and blades to have a go, and there were experts from Cycling UK Trafford Move More and Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM) also on hand.
Free skateboarding coaching was laid on by Subvert MCR’s Bruno Lins-Aires from Brazil, and Cath Shanks who is Head of Female development at Manchester skatepark Projekts MCR and has a growing audience of more than 2,700 followers on Instagram.
With skateboarding to be recognised as an Olympic sport for the first time at the coming 2020 Olympics, Cath and Bruno are working hard to open it up to more participants and a bigger audience.
Cath’s mission in particular is to encourage more young women in Manchester to get into skateboarding to empower them, improve confidence and resilience, find their voice and learn life skills.
The majority of her work is in schools but she also does pop up events such as this one at Stretford Mall.
Cath said: “The response has been tremendous. We hoped it would be popular but we never expected anything like this – demand was really high.
“What’s doubly great about this afternoon is that there’s so many girls here. A lot of skate parks are male dominated but today’s been as much about girls getting involved as boys. It’s so heartening to see.
“Skateboarding is a huge confidence builder, improves agility and is a brilliant way to keep fit for everyone, no matter what gender or age.”
Bruno said: “There’s lots of potential, whether you want to go far in the sport competitively or just to skate board as a way to chill out and have fun.”
There was also non-wheel related activities including football, and a health MOT station from Pure Gym, with gym challenges and prizes. Fleximinder nursery ran a play area for under 6-year-olds, with outdoor games.
M32 Circuit event organiser Heather Garlick also runs a pop-up market at Stretford Mall as well as Stretford’s Sip Club bar, and previously organised the pop-up Spirit of the Essoldo cinema weekender also in the Stretford Mall car park.
She said: “It’s been a good experience. It’s nice to see what is usually a very practical space adopted for more fun pursuits.
“It’s been a lot of fun and great to hear the feedback from everyone. We are over the moon.”
Stretford Mall’s centre manager Gareth Wilkins, was bowled over by the extent of positive feedback. “It was a success on every level, and by that I mean literally every floor was buzzing,” he said.
“We had everything possible that could go round on two wheels on the top floor Cycle Circus, skateboarding in the middle, and a roller disco on the next floor.
“Families went from one to the other, more excited with every new adventure. It was right up there with the most successful events we’ve ever had staged here.”
Neil Turner, Richard Armitage and Chris Leaky were kept busy by a constant stream of people in We Love Bikes Manchester arena, showcasing eco-transport options from scooters to cargo bikes..
Neil, of Chainlink bikes, Old Trafford, said: “It’s been brilliant. People were queueing up from the moment we started getting the bikes out.”
Among those attending the event was Stretford mum Lucie Crook who attended with her children and their friends, Harry Crook, six, Millie Crook, nine, Sophie Mullany, six, Leah Mullany, nine, and Ceris Coward, nine.
Lucie said: “It’s been a brilliant event, with all the adults enjoying it as much as the kids.”
Lulu, of Chorlton, said: “It’s had a fantastic vibe, so friendly and a great way for girls, especially, to learn and practice fun action sports in a non-intimidating, safe space.”
Also among those attending to watch the fun was a 92 year-old Royal Marines Commandos veteran, Eric Davies from Chorlton, who was the oldest visitor to the eco-fun spectacular.
Greeting retired decorator and former serviceman, Eric, with a cool fist-pump, Bruno provided him with a chair at the end of a skate-lane for a close-up view of the action.
Grandfather-of-three Eric laughed: “I feel like a celebrity now. If I didn’t have this walking stick I’d hop on board to throw some shapes.”
He said: “It’s important to back local enterprises and especially those like this, giving younger generations a step up.
“Look at them all here today having such a fantastic time in a safe but exciting environment. This is exactly the type of event communities need more of.”