Ahead of my interview with TV presenter Miquita Oliver, I’ve been sent a film documenting the inception and rise of her Skip School. As soon as the opening montage of Miquita’s own journey with skipping starts, I smile. There is footage of training sessions in the park four years ago where Miquita was first handed a rope by a personal trainer. That personal trainer is me, and neither of us knew, back then, that we would find ourselves here, with skipping being a thread that has helped keep us connected over years and pandemic waves and lockdowns and chasms in the community.
Miquita says going back and looking at where it all began was really emotional, feeling proud of her early determination and seeing the growth that happened as she found her rhythm. I remark that skipping always seemed to bring her such joy in training sessions and she tells me that since taking skipping to the wider community with this project, everyone connects to that same sense of nostalgia. She says the sport is cross-generational, with “nans, trendy dads and kids” all getting into it.
“We found a 70 year-old former Commonwealth boxer in the middle of Dalston who was amazing,” she recalls. “He hadn’t skipped for decades and it brought back that youthful joy and excitement for him. That two-minute skip told me so much about him.”
So what is Skip School? It’s an idea that began as the country went into lockdown, and skipping, which she credits with maintaining her sanity, became one of the few options for exercise that we still had. Skipping to music in the local park: it was a simple prospect and an easy sell. She started to encourage friends, family and “anyone who would look her in the eye” to get into it. And with a bit of gentle encouragement, they did. From there Miquita wanted to reach other people, particularly those who might be struggling with isolation through lockdown, so she went online with Skip School videos, encouraging as many people as possible to join the Skip School community.
Miquita talks about community a lot throughout our conversation, commenting on how heartbreaking it has felt to watch spaces in her own neighbourhood of Clapton, East London, get shut down over the course of the last couple of years.
“When you skip, you create this orbit around you, so giving people ropes is allowing them to take up space,” she says. “It meant a
lot more than just skipping.”
In 2021 she started to take her Skip School idea out into a world that was tentatively opening up again, encouraging everyone from the local “boss men” to people working in kebab kitchens and charity shops to step outside and skip. It brought a smile to the faces of the people around her at a time when that was desperately needed, so to keep the momentum going, Miquita and her team sent ropes out far and wide and encouraged people across the country to get involved.
She has big plans for the future of Skip School. From community events and brand partnerships through to researching and producing the perfect low-cost rope that everyone can use, she and her team want to show that Skip School exists in a cultural space.
“I don’t feel like lots of sport sits neatly within culture,” she reflects. “With this, music is so important, the people are so important, the way it looks is so important, the way it makes people feel… and to me that’s culture.”
And how about her friends and family who were there at the start, are they still skipping?
“Absolutely. In fact, my Dad has got into incredible shape. Skipping has changed his life.”
So, kids, watch this space and do Skip School.