Danni Gallacher is perhaps best known through her work with Girl Skate UK and The Skate Retreat. Not only a rad all round shredder with a bunch of rad transition tricks, she’s made some great strides with the aforementioned projects: putting on events and competitions, working with awesome artists to create merchandise, and bringing new, refreshing ideas to skateboarding. In the realm of UK skateboarding, Danni is incredibly busy, so I was stoked that she was up for taking the time to answer questions about the skateboarding industry’s attitude to marginalised genders, her hypothetical skate company dream team, and gardening!
First off, can you introduce yourself?
Hello Ade! Yeah, my name’s Danni, I’m a Kent native but have been living in lovely Sheffield for coming up to 9 years. I guess the bit you’re probably interested in is that I run Girl Skate UK, but I also have a huge passion for gardening, foraging and mycology. I trained as an illustrator and printmaker and love to draw, paint, make things… anything!
How did you first get into skateboarding?
Skateboarding first caught my attention when I was 14, hanging out with my mates at Matalan car park in Medway. We used to live at the top of a big hill that led down to Matalan, so it was kind of in my best interest to learn how to ride down hills so that I could keep up with them! I really just used it as transport. There weren’t any other girls in my area back then that skated, and I dunno, skateparks were really few and far between. I guess I felt a bit stupid street skating in ‘public’ – so I ended up just sitting around and watching.
It wasn’t until I was 20 when I actually got my own set up and started skating properly, I was doing quite a lot of drugs at uni as a lot of kids do, and skateboarding definitely helped me to chill out on that. I didn’t want to feel shit the next day so stopped going out so much and just skated every day instead. Social media was also starting to become more of a thing, I remember Facebook became available around the same time I started skating properly, someone had sent me a YouTube video of Lucy Adams and it kind of spurred me on to learn tricks.
Who inspired you early on in your skateboarding life?
Watching Alexis Sablone’s part in Wonderful, Horrible Life when I was 15 is what brought me into the world of skateboarding for sure. When I started really skating I was inspired by the Rogue Skateboards team and their videos. But definitely the biggest inspiration was my friends, who were all boys. They were really supportive and would invite me out filming with them. It was just nice to be a part of a little crew, and I think having a support bubble like that makes such a difference to a person’s progression, in general life not just skateboarding.
What’s your favourite terrain?
If we’re talking skateboarding – I couldn’t choose! I guess people would assume Mini Ramp, but I actually love to skate street and parks more – I’m just not as good at those. My favourite obstacle to skate is a hip for sure.
If it’s just general terrain: I am very much a forest person. I feel a need to surround myself with plants and trees at least every other day to stay happy and grounded. I love to be outside, whatever the weather.
Do you have any sponsors?
I have a few gardening sponsors but no skateboarding ones anymore… That makes me sound 53, not 33, doesn’t it? Canna actually paid for my skate ramp, which was probably the best lockdown gift I could’ve asked for, and I’d definitely choose that over some boards or shoes!
How did Girl Skate UK start?
It started back in 2014 as kind of an online calendar to let others know of any other skate jam or events that were happening. It was something that I was always asked about and I just thought it would be easier if there was a website that had all of that information in one place really. More for my own convenience. I never thought of it being anything more than that.
I started a Facebook page and then an Instagram account and it just grew really organically from there. People were stoked to see footage of girls skateboarding, and not just the ones that were good enough to make it into Sidewalk. I realised early on that the journey of skateboarding and watching somebody’s progression is just as interesting and inspiring as a photo or clip of somebody doing a cool trick at a cool spot.
How has the UK skateboarding scene changed in the time Girl Skate UK has been running? Specifically how has being a woman in skateboarding changed?
It’s changed massively, from my perspective. The amount of women skating now compared to even just 6 years ago is insane. We are seeing a massive boom in women of all ages wanting to learn how to skateboard, and I don’t think it’s seen as such an unusual pastime anymore.
When I first started it was a bit of a spectacle to see a girl skateboarding, and it did make me feel uncomfortable at times. Nowadays I think it’s so commonplace that my gender is not something I personally need to think about very often. I respect that it’s not the same for everyone.
Do you think organisations like Girl Skate UK are important in giving women or other marginalised genders a voice in skateboarding?
100% – We no longer need to rely on other skateboarding platforms to highlight women. It’s still even now a very cliquey place, and we are still massively underrepresented in all current European magazines. But it will change, and it is changing.
Luckily, with social media we have been able to build up our own platform, but more importantly, it has enabled us to help create almost 50 other female skateboard communities across the UK who are now also able to showcase and connect skateboarders in their own cities. I think that’s been the biggest game changer as now these groups are starting their own jams and events, and I reckon this is the real driving force behind the growing UK women’s scene.
I feel more women’s comps and jams happen nationwide (or at least are more visible) due to Girl Skate UK’s involvement. What’s been your favourite event you’ve been involved with?
The event that’s forever in my heart is one of the first events actually – Push the Prom 2014 in Brighton – organised with a tonne of help from my good friend Lucy. There were over 100 people of all ages skating along the promenade, from one skatepark to the other. We had a sunset BBQ on the beach afterwards, all of our friends were there, my little brother was skating along next to me, and it was just such a beautifully happy and sunny day that I’ll always remember.
Do you feel that those from marginalised genders have to work harder than men to get recognition in skateboarding?
Erm, no. I don’t think that. I know personally I’ve had a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have ever had the chance to have, had I been assigned male at birth, and I know that’s true for a lot of others too. Respect is another thing. It’s a lot harder as a female to earn respect than it is for men. A woman could be equal to her male counterpart, being the top of their fields respectively – yet that woman is not often held in equal regard amongst the rest of the male scene. I think that respect also gets harder to earn the more stereotypically ‘feminine’ you dress, unfortunately.
In relation to the previous question: What could the skateboarding industry do to make things more equal?
The skateboard industry, be that big brands, independent brands, magazines, whatever – could help us by offering equal coverage, equal funding, equal job opportunities and equal prize money. Support is the biggest thing I think, open support. Even something that may seem as trivial as sharing content, really does make a huge difference. Each and every brand has an influence over a pretty decent percentage of their audience, and giving spotlight to female created content, as well as just what some might deem as ‘cool’, is actually really important.
I’d say 98% of Girl Skate UK content is shared by other people from marginalised genders, and if the main audiences for those people are primarily others from marginalised genders, then we are not breaking out into the wider skate scene. If we’re not a part of the wider skate scene, then it’s going to take a hell of a long time before this is a truly equal space. I would encourage all skaters to create space for female created content, follow female skaters, share our posts, share our clips. Let’s just make it a totally normal thing to see an equal gender split across our insta feeds that it is reflective of the gender split you would see walking down any street on any given day.
What advice would you give to any folks of marginalised genders looking to get into skateboarding?
I get this question all the time and I obviously always say, head over to @girlskateuk on Instagram, check out our ‘Local Groups’ story highlights, find your local group(s), get following and ask about the next meet up in your area! I would suggest taking a friend along with you for a bit of support, even if they might not be that interested in skating themselves – usually they are by the end of the session!
Shoot us a DM and we will find out your local skate store for you and recommend some brands to help get your first set up sorted. We often have discount codes for shops so it’s worth checking in with us if you’re new to it all. You can find lots of trick tips on our IGTV and when the world is finally back to normal, you can come along to one of our skate workshops!
What’s your favourite board company?
Salon! Salon is an independent female skate brand run by my good mate Stef Nurding. Stef works so bloody hard on Salon, she does absolutely everything herself whilst working, looking after her kiddo and still skateboards more than me! She has the most diverse skate team in the whole of the UK, she’s really creative and I just rate her and Salon so much.
Would you ever consider expanding Girl Skate UK and starting a board company of your own?
It’s not something I have any interest in if I’m honest. We’ve toyed around with the idea of making one off decks in the past and I’m often asked if we sell our Heart logo on decks. Maybe if the opportunity came along in the future, but it’s not something I want to actively look into, no.
Hypothetically… Who would be your dream team for a board company?
Right now, I would probably choose Roxana Howlett, Miriam Nelson, Bethany Rickard & Jasmine Gordon. Plus I’d have a kiddo team ; Autumn Smale, Harley Lindor, Tiger Florence and little Indi.
As well as Girl Skate UK, you also run The Skate Retreat. For anyone unfamiliar with it, what is The Skate Retreat?
The Skate Retreat was formed as a kind of sister project to Girl Skate UK. I wanted to create a space for adults to relax and skate, as I know sometimes older women can often feel a bit out of place in our scene. Originally we wanted to create a residential retreat that was different to any skate camps currently on offer in the UK, we hired out a huge grade 2 listed farmhouse in the middle of the Peak District for our guests to stay in, with homegrown vegan food, stargazing hikes, woodworking and some amazing skateparks to look forward to. It was set to be a proper luxurious skate getaway, we were fully booked in like 12 hours and I was absolutely blown away by the response.
Obviously 2020 was what it was, and we were unable to run our first trip. It actually wasn’t a bad thing I don’t think, if anything we gauged just how popular the business was, and are now better educated on what we can offer next year, if it is able to go ahead! It also meant that I was able to open up my private mini ramp for some “learn to skate” workshops. I initially thought I would get maybe 10 people book on and it would be a chilled couple of weeks coaching – I had no idea I would turn into my full time job. I had 30+ workshop bookings and ended up teaching over 70 new skateboarders over the summer. This year has been incredible and I can’t wait to start again in Spring.
I’ve seen some awesome Skate Retreat clips – is your garden ramp your first foray into ramp building or have you done other DIY projects in the past?
I’m not taking credit for this: House Rob built my ramp with my help on the first day, but then the second day we went into full on lockdown so he finished it off by himself. Superhero!
Since then though, I have dabbled in building kicker ramps, and I was lucky enough to be gifted a pretty rad battery power tool range so I have all the kit for future projects. I think you call it, all the gear and no idea?! The past few weekends I’ve been restoring the roof on my brick Victorian potting shed with my friend Chloe, so have been learning a lot along the way.
Would you ever consider adding more ramps and skatepark obstacles to The Skate Retreat?
No way. My tomatoes and cosmos got absolutely trashed this summer! The mini ramp is plenty! The ramp is hidden at the back of my garden, so when you first walk in during the summertime you can’t spot it through the fruit orchard. I like that secret garden vibe. I also only have a 350sqm space, and so I need to leave enough room for all my vegetables to grow, and for all the little creatures to run about.
Your garden is like something out of Gardener’s World! Are you a keen gardener?
Oh my god, that’s the best compliment ever. Thank you so much. Yes, absolutely. It is my biggest passion, probably even equal to skateboarding now. I love it so much, so that’s why this will probably be the longest answer of them all!
I have been container growing for 7 years but have had an allotment for 3 and a half years, and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve turned a mini forest of bramble and stinging nettles into my idea of the perfect piece of land and it’s been such a safe space for me over the years. When my mum passed away in 2018 I spent every single day for the rest of that year at my allotment giving myself new projects to get on with. Having that distraction and getting things done was my way of coping. In a weird way it’s comforting to know that something so beautiful grew out of all that sadness. I reckon it’s been my biggest achievement, and I’m really proud of it.
I get lots of foxes, hedgehogs, jay birds, blue tits and wagtails visiting my plot. I grow loads of wildflowers for the birds and butterflies, along with honeysuckle and night jasmine for the bats and moths. I practice permaculture, meaning I don’t dig the soil and work alongside the landscape and wildlife rather than try to shape and control it. My garden is organic so I don’t use any chemicals or pesticides, which means I have to share my food with the (many) mice, rats and slugs!
I think I love gardening for the same reasons I love skateboarding. It takes you away from instantaneous expectations. Just like the fruits of the seeds you sow grow only after time spent and nurture given, new tricks come about by way of the same process. They both teach a type of patience and skill that can only be learnt over time, experience, trial and error.
What are your favourite plants?
That’s so hard to choose because I must grow over 150 different species of edible plants and flowers across both my garden and allotment.
My favourite flowers to grow for my house are peonies, but my favourite to grow for the simple act of growing are wallflowers, because they are such carefree plants. Food wise, I’d say mushrooms because they’re so fascinating, squash as there are so many shapes and sizes and they store all year long, or potatoes because it’s like digging for gold! Or maybe strawbs – I have about 120 strawberry plants across 8 different varieties. I love them.
Any advice for anyone out there who wants to live the dream of a Veg Patch/Mini Ramp combo? (I tried it but my attempt was pitiful)
For the garden bit – go no dig. It’s easier – because you don’t have to dig! It’s better for the soil because it doesn’t disturb the underground mycelium network, and better for the planet because it helps to keep carbon locked inside the earth. If you’re interested, just google “no dig” and you’ll get loads of information with tips on how to start, or just message me and I’ll talk your ear off about it. Start small and cover any unused land with thick sheets of cardboard to suppress weeds and enrich the soil until you’re ready to use it. It’s way more manageable this way and you’ll have a better chance of sticking to it.
And ultimately, just try stuff! At the very basis of things, a seed’s sole purpose is to grow and become a plant, to flower and fruit and make more seeds to carry on its legacy. A seed just wants to live, so all you need to do is help it along a little bit by giving it its basic needs. It’s also worth remembering to plant 4 times as many things as you actually want to grow, because somewhere along the line something is going to eat one of those plants, one of them will probably die from neglect and another might not germinate at all. Account for your losses ahead of time, and sow accordingly!
With the ramp, I would suggest not planting tomatoes and cosmos nearby like I did this summer: whilst it looked absolutely beautiful, every time a skateboard flew out my heart sank a little! Maybe plant some Lavender and Rosemary around the edges of the ramp as they’re really hardy plants that make for good hedging, and at least it will smell nice when you do fall in to them!
Anyone you want to thank?
Thank you for asking me to do the interview Ade!