Exhibition London is the new home of the iconic West Hollywood roller rink, bringing the free spirit of the 1970s to a new generation. We explore the Californian roots of Flipper’s and the community of London skaters bringing it to life.
Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace was a family-run skate rink founded by Ian ‘Flipper’ Ross in 1979. For just three glittering years it was synonymous with an explosive social scene that defined a generation of skaters, punks and disco queens. Described by Vanity Fair as ‘the West Coast’s Studio 54 on wheels’, it was the party spot of the choice for stars including Diana Ross, Cher, Jane Fonda and Prince. The atmosphere was inclusive, glamorous and over-the-top, with huge fake palm trees and walls covered in art nouveau murals. Music ranged from disco classics to new wave and reggae, bringing people together from diverse cultures and identities: the queer kids of LA partying with Hollywood film stars.
Following its sold-out summer residency at New York’s Rockefeller Centre, Flipper’s has been revived by Ross’s daughter, Liberty, in partnership with Broadwick Live and Usher. In November 2022, Flipper’s opened as a roller rink, live music venue, restaurant and skate shop in the centre of Westfield’s White City Development. Ross wanted to bring back the spirit of Flipper’s as a place to build community and joy. Skating, she explained to The Face, is a salve to modern life and screen culture. It forces you to look up from your phone, to ‘be in the moment, be in your body, feel the wind in your hair and just connect with the people around you’. It is also something that Ross, who grew up close to Flipper’s new Westfied site, associates closely with London.
The city’s passionate skating community has been central to the development of Flipper’s, from consulting on design to setting up an on-site pro skate shop. Going forwards, a younger crew will work the rink, helping new skaters take to the floor and nurturing talent. Music is at the heart of the London skate scene, and the newly invented Flipper’s reflects this with a core programme of live music and events. Its opening night, hosted by Usher and Liberty Ross, was attended by music legends including Dr Dre, Mary J. Blige and Joy Crookes. Between skate sessions, guests enjoyed elevated American diner classics from Hot Dogs and Caviar, named after the original Flipper’s restaurant, and relaxed at the built-in bar.
In addition to public skate sessions and music events, the venue can be activated for a range of events, with exclusive access provided by Spaces & Stories. Opportunities include hiring the mezzanine space at skate events, private dinners built over the skate floor, award ceremonies, concerts and exclusive hire of the venue, roller rink and all. Flipper’s is an American roller-skating institution, reimagined as a space for music, joy and community in the heart of London. Its opening night was an expression of the open, expressive spirit that drove its 1970s namesake. The enduring appeal of Flipper’s was summed up perfectly in a recent article in Vanity Fair: ‘An instantly trendy pleasure palace devoted to uninhibited fun, it’s exactly what we all need at the moment’.