Why do you love London? Is it the boutique markets that pop up all over the capital? The moonlight jazz spots that line back streets? Or the fact that there’s always something going on, wherever you are and whoever you’re with? Whatever your reason, we can all agree that somewhere within your answer the idea of culture will feature. London holds so much of its own culture, which has been merged together with a vast array of influences. In creating this unique identity, London has become one of the most famous cities across the Globe.
Back in the 1970s, a prominent influence was the culture surrounding skateboarding and the disused space under the Southbank Centre became a haven. In finding a new home for this fantastic sport and art, life was injected into the area and ever since people have been flocking from all over the world to appreciate tricks being performed against an ever-changing backdrop of graffiti. It is this allure that has won the skate park the title of one of the most renowned in Europe; something which fans and skaters alike are extremely proud of.
However, problems and disputes have arisen due to the fact that the Southbank Centre wants to relocate the skaters in 2014. Why? To provide space, which will fund a major refurbishment of the Festival Wing. Unsurprisingly, skaters and fans of the area have been in uproar. For many the skate park is a second home and a place of solitude. Being able to admire such talent on the beautiful South Bank is an experience like no other. So why should London lose part of its culture? This, surely, would be like any one of us losing an arm or leg.
An online petition against the move had been doing its rounds online, with the signature total reaching almost 60,000 so far. Why then, do people feel so strongly about removing the skate park? For me it’s because of the impact it has across generations. Children are able to go to the park, whether it’s to skate or to socialise, and feel part of a community. With so many worries for youngsters these days, from gangs to career prospects to relationships, this is a vital place to support the subculture of our children which helps to preserve their innocence. Those who take part in skateboarding, whatever age, are able to showcase their talents and learn from others. Skateboarding is an incredibly difficult discipline and does take a lot of energy and patience to perfect, which is something to be admired. This dedication to something is exactly what attracts people to the space, with the hope of witnessing others’ astonishing feats.
Whilst many people have utilised their own talents and art to protect London’s skateboarding community, the band The Empire have also done the same. Having teamed up with the video production company UpAllNiteLondon, the five-piece took to the area to shoot their live session. Selecting the Southbank Skate Park was extremely important to them, as they’d heard about the plans to remove the area to make way for a corporate project and were appalled.
“I was walking to a bar on Southbank earlier in the year with a good mate; one of those evenings where you just start somewhere and see where it takes you.” Dave Gibson, lead-singer of the band, tells us. “Heading along the river, past food trucks, people were rushing to the theatre and taking snaps of the bridge. I remember thinking what a hub it was and wondered why I’d never spent any real time there,” he continues. It was Dave’s friend that introduced him to Southbank Skate Park, as they walked towards the bustling crowd that was gathered by it. “We stood and watched all of these talented people doing tricks and stunts. I’ve never really been into skating but it was hard not to be amazed” Dave admits. It is for this reason, I believe, that the park has received so much support. Not only does it appeal to an avid skater but it appeals to anybody who has a keen eye for art and talent. Passers-by are able to stand in the background and just admire, which is exactly the experience Dave had; “With graffiti artists in the background, it felt almost voyeuristic to be able to watch them freely create something so often maligned.”
As with many people who stumble across Southbank Skate Park, the evening really stuck with Dave. “It was one of those nights that makes you remember why you’re a Londoner,” he goes on to say. This impact led to Dave seeking out the venue for a place to record his band’s UpAllNite London session, as he was utterly shocked to find out it was due to be closed. Dave says of the session; “ThisTimeNextYear’ is a song of hope and never giving up, so we thought it tied in perfectly to the spirit of the petition. Long live Southbank!”
To join the fight to save the Southbank Skate Park, along with The Empire and thousands of other people, please visit: https://www.change.org/petitions/lambeth-council-southbank-centre-boris-johnson-arts-council-england-stop-the-relocation-of-the-southbank-skate-park