Art Night in association with Hayward Gallery
7 July 2018
Photo Credit: Mike O’Meally, Southbank (Benny, Lucian, Chewy), 2013.
Long Live Southbank
Jaime Marie Davis
From Palace to Palace is a walking photography tour that traces South London’s skateboarding spots through the decades, documenting sanctuaries for UK’s weathered scene. The photographic installations of historical images at the six locations draw a lineage from the 1980s Crystal Palace Ramp to London’s undisputed home for skateboarding, the Undercroft. Some no longer in existance and heavily policed, these sites foreground the public arenas that skateboarding has met and challenged.
Attendees who document the trail through social media can win a signed, collectible poster at The Undercroft from 6.30—9.30pm, where the photographs will be displayed. The event is in support of Long Live Southbank, a social impact campaign to restore and save the UK’s longest running outdoor skatepark.
London’s notorious vert ramp; one-time home to UK skateboarding’s underground culture during its darkest times.
For those few short years when progressive vertical ramp skating was all that mattered, Crystal Palace was the only credible spot in London and one of a tiny handful of vert ramps in the country. It was destroyed without consent by a council bulldozer on Christmas Eve 1986.
Crystal Palace was a slalom racing spot in the earliest days of skating, a home from home for the Southbank locals of the day; slalom, as well as bank and street skaters. These London skateboarding die-hards loaned a small piece of land, built and maintained the much needed ramp for themselves and in doing so, established a point of pilgrimage for fellow cultists.
The life of the ramp witnessed many great moments – and many intense sessions; Lucian Hendricks slamming four wheels on the 8 foot high roof before backside air re-entry; floodlit night sessions with Billy Ruff, Neil Blender, Danny Webster, and Tony ‘Dobie’ Campbell’s double camera-flash get-up; visits from the Bones Brigade and many national and international contests – notably Euroskate ’82. RIP.
1967 – Present
The Undercroft is widely recognised as the birthplace of British skateboarding, the backdrop to a culture that has evolved from minority to mainstream in less than 40 years.
In 2003 the Southbank Centre reduced the skate area by two thirds without consulting the skateboarding community. The space is used for extra storage. With an ever-decreasing skate area, this prime real estate positioned under the Hayward Gallery was destined for redevelopment with plans to build yet another generic set of high street coffee bars and restaurants. Long Live Southbank (LLSB), successfully campaigned against this redevelopment and in September 2014, a Section 106 agreement was signed with the Southbank Centre guaranteeing the space’s long-term future.
The relationship with Southbank Centre improved greatly and a new initiative has launched with a proposal to restore the legendary sections of the Undercroft that haven’t been used since 2003. LLSB spokesperson Henry Edwards-Wood shared his feelings …
“The most important thing about this campaign is that it has no monetary incentive. We are not losing our livelihood, we our losing our lives. The way we move forward is to start talking to each other properly again, and skateboarders have been doing that at Southbank for 40 years in a language no one needed to understand until now.”
1960 – c. 2000s
The Shell Centre encompasses part of the site cleared for the 1951 Festival of Britain and is one of two central offices of the multinational oil and gas company giant, Shell.
With its close proximity to the South Bank of the River Thames near County Hall, it now forms the backdrop to the London Eye, but this was once a staple unofficial skate spot for the London skate scene, used extensively throughout the 1980s – 2000s.
Vert skating was the dominant force coming out of the 1970s and powered the industry through the early 1980’s, but in the mid to late 80s skateboarding saw a transition from ramp to street skating and the shift demanded a complete overhaul of the industry.
Big ollies, Rodney Mullen inspired kick flips and board-sliding handrails down flights of stairs were the tricks of the day. With its open square, abundance of flat spaces, ledges and a challenging stair set, the Shell Centre provided all the necessary facilities.
Nothing lasts forever and heavily textured paving and further anti-skateboarding architecture was installed to deter rough sleepers and the skateboarding community.
1978 – Present
Built in 1978 within a Victorian Grade II listed park on the site of derelict netball courts, Kennington Bowl is one of the oldest skate parks in London and has been a permanent fixture for the UK skateboarding community since.
With local councils notorious for building poor quality, badly designed parks, Kennington Bowl was built using precast concrete by the enigmatic Lorne Edwards. Lorne formed the company Radical Banking, responsible for the fabrication of sites such as Stockwell Skate Park, Royal Oak’s Meanwhile II and many other classic 1970’s parks.
Lorne’s vision for these versatile concrete sections was for local authorities to purchase as many units as needed and simply bolt them together. This ‘plug and play’ approach ensured the integrity of the finished skate facility with foolproof transitions, avoiding the expense of dedicated designers and architects, and problems associated with pouring concrete and building skate parks.
After years of neglect, Kennington was renovated in 2012 by Converse under their ‘Fix to Ride’ upgrade scheme. The re-surfaced bowl makes for a smoother ride whilst several new modern elements were also added such as roll-ins, a bowled out corner, extension with love seat and two further bank-to-ledge features.
Stockwell Skate Park
1978 – Present
Affectionately known to South London locals as Brixton Beach or Stockwell Sands, this graffiti-laden skate haunt sits on top of an old graveyard vacated by the local Baptist Church and legends told, say that it was cast from the aftermath of a WWII bomb.
The park remained unchanged until 1995 when some of the locals campaigned for repairs, which led to the distinctive red concrete. In 2006 the local council employed a car park contractor to resurface the park to disastrous effect. This was rectified in 2008 after much work by local skater and architect Jeremy Donaldson and friends, with local councillor Paul McGlone spearheading a major redesign.
Stockwell locals have a unique approach to skating this park; it’s not always about landing the biggest tricks but instead riding fast and finding new lines, pulling tricks with style whilst still maintaining flow.
The site recently achieved Asset of Community Value status, the first step on the path to securing the long-term future for this Brixton and Stockwell icon, providing on going social value to a community ever in flux.
House of Vans
2014 – Present
Opened in 2014 with Steve (Vans) Van Doren at the helm, the House of Vans is a sound expression of the culture and creativity that have defined Vans since 1966. Formerly an arts venue in the Old Vic Tunnels, the 25,000 square feet labyrinth of indoor space is accessed via London’s most famous graffiti tunnel, Leake Street.
Designer Peter Hellicar and architect Tim Greatrex, together with Kat Mackenzie and Henry Clay (Black Sparrow Presents), transformed the space into a high functioning community hub. It includes the Vans Labs art gallery, cinema, live music venue, and of course, a street course and concrete bowl complete with pool coping designed by professional skateboarder Marc Churchill (Line Skateparks). The packed programme of launches, workshops and events is almost always entirely free, and has attracted some of the worlds biggest bands and solo artists including the Chvrches, Foo Fighters, Metallica and Dizzee Rascal.
The current exhibition Full Blast features iconic photography from the past 20 years by Michael Burnett, senior photographer of Thrasher magazine and distinctive of the commitment the space has to bringing the art and culture surrounding skating under one roof.