Trustee Liz Burton-King spoke to “Disney on Ice” Star Luis Douglas about coming home to Scotland during lockdown and his hopes for a new Glasgow Ice Centre
Luis was born and brought up in the seaside town of Prestwick – 30 miles south west of Glasgow, and learned to love to skate as a child at the Centrum Arena in the town. His childhood coach was world-renowned Diane Dewar who was also working with the young ‘Dancing On Ice’ star (and Glasgow Ice Centre Ambassador!) Mark Hanretty, and champion speed skater Elise Christie among many other exceptional skaters.
When the Centrum Arena closed down in 2002, Diane encouraged young Luis and his parents to make regular 60 mile round trips to the Olympia in East Kilbride so that his training could continue. This often meant very early starts – getting up at half past four in the morning to be on the ice between 6 and 8am and back in time for school
The dedication paid off and Luis excelled in competition but by the time he got to 18 he had a dilemma – continue his passion for ice skating or take up a well-earned place at Aberdeen Uni to study Law? Coach Diane encouraged him to write to a few professional companies to see what might happen and sure enough, his video audition caught the eye of Feld Entertainment who just happened to be coming to Scotland with “Disney On Ice” the next month. They invited him to visit and audition and before you could whisper Tinkerbell, he was deferring his Uni place and off on tour around the world – living the dream.
The cast of Disney on Ice are elite professional skaters, playing to packed audiences in cities all over the world. Luis found himself in the USA almost immediately and was amazed to be offered the opportunity to skate – for free and for fun- as often as he liked after rehearsals – an unimaginable luxury back home. Within a year, he was a principal performer, playing Peter Pan and loving being part of a big ensemble company. After 8 years of touring taking a toll on his joints, he took on a job at Feld Entertainment’s European Office in the Marketing department and carried on skating for the sheer enjoyment of it, coaching youngsters and moving his career forward. And then Covid came…
Luis says it’s nice to be home – he’s not lived in Scotland for 9 years and it’s wonderful to spend quality time with his family, but… it’s hard to have your whole career ripped out from underneath you. There’s great uncertainty about how large touring shows can get back on the road and there are thousands of professionals on and off the ice wondering if and when their livelihoods will come back at all.
So he finds himself wondering – what if I use this time to take up the offer of a place at University and study marketing? He’s currently considering his options and needs to know – if I stay in Scotland and study in Glasgow, where can I skate? It’s a good question. As we know, there are NO facilities at all in the city, he’d potentially be looking at making the journey back out to East Kilbride again. Or, he could choose to study in Holland, away from his family, but close to a number of different places to skate where he can pass on his skills to the next generation.
It seems such a shame for us in Glasgow to have produced such skating talent with so much dedication over the years only to lose them later on when they might be ready to settle and give back to the next generation – but how can they do so when there’s no facilities?
Luis knows that the easier it is for all of us to access sport the better we’ll become, and hopes with Glasgow Ice Centre, we’ll be able to create a venue for all ice sports to truly grow and thrive. Having had the amazing opportunity to travel the world with a dream job, all because he was able to first step foot on the ice in his home town all those years ago, Luis just wants everyone and anyone to have the same opportunity – something he is confident the Glasgow Ice Centre can provide!
We’re really glad to have his support.