See you on the ice: a new wave of temporary rinks establishes skating as the season's coolest activity

It is nearly 20 years since Christopher Dean, a former policeman, and his ex-insurance clerk partner Jayne Torvill notched up nine perfect scores at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics.

Their heart-stopping interpretation of Ravel's Bolero was to propel ice skating to unprecedented levels of popularity in Britain. But the nation's love for the sport was to slowly melt away - until now.

This Christmas, the minority pastime is being transformed into a mass event with dozens of temporary ice rinks installed in some of the most unlikely locations.

From Bluewater shopping centre in Kent to Hampton Court Palace, the King's Road to the roof of the London Aquarium, thousands of people are skating on a daily basis.

"It is very popular at the moment," said Keith Horton, general secretary of the National Ice Skating Association. "The best thing about temporary ice skating rinks is that they've succeeded in making skating more accessible to a lot of people."

Its popularity has not been confined to Olympic hopefuls. Greg Dyke, the director general of the BBC, took a team of executives to the rink at Somerset House in central London earlier this week for a Christmas skating party.

Richard Branson, the head of Virgin, also arranged for a temporary rink to be installed for his daughter's birthday at a private party in London.

The popularity of the sport has been reflected in the burgeoning crowds flocking to festive ice rinks in London in the past month.

More than 2,000 skaters a day are visiting Somerset House, where the rink, in the historic courtyard, is decorated with flaming torches and a 40ft Christmas tree. Linda Bernhardt, the public events manager at Somerset House, said: "It is becoming more popular every year. There will be in excess of 100,000 visitors by the end of the season and we're already booked up until 4 January. The wonderful thing is that it's very mixed. There are children and businessmen. There was even a marriage proposal last night."

A temporary ice-skating rink on the roof terrace above the London Aquarium has also proved popular. In the shadow of the London Eye, with stunning views across Westminster, the rink attracts dozens of children every day and is crowded with adults at night.

Kathryn Stafford, 39, from Wandsworth, south-west London, who was with five children aged between six and 16, said: "Skating has always been popular but there are so many more places where you can actually go at the moment."

Crashing into the barrier, her nine-year-old son Tom added: "It's really good fun. But it's not as easy as it looks."

Ian Robinson, a 36-year-old telecommunications worker from Cookham Dean, Berkshire, said he had decided to reward his colleagues for their recent hard work with a trip to the rink. Moments before inelegantly launching himself into the swirl of skaters, he said: "There do seem to be more rinks around in London. This is a great venue with fantastic views and seemed like an innovative way of thanking my team for their hard work."

Meanwhile, an ice-skating rink has been opened on the King's Road, in Chelsea, by the enterprising owners of Patisserie Valerie.

Tatiana Munro-Cameron, aged five, who lives nearby, said: "This is my second time and it's really good. It feels a bit like you're roller-skating."

Daniele Rossi, whose family runs the patisserie, added: "This is the first time we've done something like this and we've been really busy. It's perfect for parents who are shopping with their children and we've run out of small boot sizes a few times already."

The growth of skating's popularity has not been confined to the capital. Peter Emmett, managing director of Promo Concepts Ice Magic, has installed 65 ice rinks in the UK and more than a dozen abroad in the past year. "It has exploded in recent months," said Mr Emmett, whose company specialises in synthetic ice rinks.

Aria, a company which installs ice rinks, also reported a boom in business. Its most impressive venture is the largest temporary ice rink in the country which has been installed at the Millennium Dome and can hold up to 300 people.

"We have been rushed off our feet dealing with the demand for ice-skating rinks. We started with just one a year in 1999 and now we have 12," said Stacey Gent, a spokeswoman for Aria.

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit