“I feel as if I have witnessed something miraculous,” says 75 year-old Ross Sinclair as he gazes on the ice shimmering against the fairytale backdrop of the Royal Pavilion. As a former ice-hockey player for the Brighton Tigers, Sinclair had been invited to christen the new ice-rink that has sprung up in the heart of Brighton for the festive period and he is itching to get his skates on.
Ever since George IV, the “Prince of Pleasure”, built his ornate palace here, Brighton has been associated with having fun and it is therefore fitting to have an ice rink in its grounds. Unobtrusively located in front of the Pavilion this 700 square metre outdoor rink which opened at the weekend has space for 200 skaters per session and is the only rink in the country with its own pre-school creche, beginners’ area and ‘penguin’ skate aids especially for toddlers. As well as a bar and two cafes the rink also boasts an barn-sized, rink-side pop-up restaurant elegantly decorated with chandeliers and orange trees. Run by the award-winning restaurant, Due South, the rink offers a wholly different quality fare to that normally associated with ice rinks and bowling alleys.
On a crisp winter’s night beneath the stars this rink beside the illuminated former Royal Palace has a truly magical air, and it is this sense of wonder that local event organiser Shella Parkin had wanted to create when she embarked on the project two years ago. “I had a vision of creating something that would meld into childhood memories and transport even even the most hardened of cynics” she says.
“Brighton hasn’t had a proper ice rink since 1965 when the West Street rink was torn down” says Ross who, as a child, would hide in the old rink at closing time, skate all night, and slip home at six in the morning when the caretaker unlocked the doors. “It’s wonderful to see people in Brighton skating again even if it is only for a couple of months.” Although it may only be around until mid-January, the Royal Pavilion Ice Rink looks set to become a perennial feature offering a magical respite from the cold and dark of the English winter.
PHOTO: Ross Sinclair and the Ice Rink (taken by Stefan Simanowitz