Barbara’s story leads her back to the ice rink

Barbara Coates
Barbara Coates
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Barbara Coates could never have known that a love of ice skating in her teens would help save her life. Catherine Scott reports.

As a teenager Barbara Coates, found her forte on the ice.

It wasn’t the lessons she started at the age of 12, but the atmosphere of a Saturday night, skating beneath spotlights and listening to the resident DJ in the 1970s that kept Barbara in the rink.

Like many hobbies, however, as Barbara grew older she didn’t have the time to pursue her pastime.

But, when she was 52, Barbara, from Walkley, in Sheffield, was diagnosed with a serious mental illness that almost ended her life.

After a damaging fall, she was left scarred and traumatised, and developed psychosis, an illness that led her to stop eating and drinking.

When she finally made it into hospital, doctors told Barbara she would have only lasted another 24 hours without medical help.

Now Barbara’s extremely strong will and determination is helping her to fight the condition.

And one of the things that is helping her recovery is her beloved ice skating.

Last month she went back in the rink at iceSheffield after being inspired by a project called Storying Sheffield.

“I was asked to share my story for a University of Sheffield project called Storying Sheffield, and after delving into my past love for ice skating I made the brave decision to revisit the ice,” says 55-year-old Barbara .

“Storying Sheffield enabled me to get back onto the ice, and this has truly made such a positive impact upon my life.

“Since the project I have been ice skating at least twice every week.

“I really enjoy it. The people who go aren’t taking up ice skating for the first time but revisiting the ice.

“The ice helps them, like me, it recaptures the fun of the 70s.”

Being transported back to happier times has really helped Barbara deal with her illness and has also helped her make new friends. It also had added health benefits.

Barbara attends over-50s classes at iceSheffield every Monday morning.

The sessions allow over 50s to skate without crowds of people around.

They also provide a social environment where people can share their memories and stories, as well as improving peoples health.

Barbara added: “Doctors have told me that the ice is having a great physical impact as well as helping me mentally become stronger.

“The gliding movement on the ice is strengthening my bad back and helping me to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“At first I was scared to go back. I don’t like being on my own, but out on the ice you’re surrounded by people. It’s a great hobby to have.”

Mandy Parker, general manager for iceSheffield said: “Our over-50s class is really popular and it’s great to hear that, thanks to our range and variety of skating sessions, someone who loved the ice when they were 15 can still enjoy it at 55.

“Ice skating is healthy, relaxing and sociable and Barbara is great proof that it can have a positive impact on life.”

Storying Sheffield is a unique venture in British higher education in which undergraduate students and people from the city from disadvantaged backgrounds are working and studying together to produce, record, and collect stories and many other diverse representations of the lives of Sheffield people, and the life of Sheffield.

The initiative works chiefly with people who have long-term mental health problems and/or physical disabilities.

Prof Brendan Stone said: “Storying Sheffield is a University course in which undergraduates study alongside Sheffield residents with mental or physical disabilties and produce stories about their lives and the city. Barbara worked with a student called Amy to make a wonderful film about her love of skating. Many people who take the course go on to make positive changes in their lives, and I’m really delighted that Barbara has taken up skating again after so many years.”