Archive for August, 2013

LLSB at the Marc Vallée zine launch

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Photo from Marc Vallee of Doomed Gallery

Photo from Marc Vallee of Doomed Gallery

On 29th August the LLSB campaign team spent an evening at the launch of Marc Vallee’s zine ‘Number Four’ at the Doomed Gallery in Dalston. The zine features people and images that interest the photographer, making particular reference to the skateboard community and the Long Live Southbank campaign.

Marc being interview by Hold Tight Henry - Leah Borromeo

Marc being interview by Hold Tight Henry – Leah Borromeo

We joined Marc for the packed out opening night with our usual campaign stand of t-shirts, info and membership forms, glad for the opportunity to meet new supporters and engage with people about how they can get involved.

Prints for the LLSB campaign by Marc Vallée

Prints for the LLSB campaign by Marc Vallée

Marc’s work focuses on issues such as the privatisation and creative use of public space and youth subcultures. In a recent interview with WUWO he explains his interest in the Undercroft; “What intrigues me is that both the skateboarder and graffiti writer can take a dead or unused space and reinterpret it. Bring it alive. Which brings us back to the Southbank and why it should not be destroyed.” Through his photography and support of the campaign Marc has managed to capture this curiosity and interpret it for new audiences.

Large scale prints of images featuring the LLSB campaign were available, as well as limited edition copies of the zine. Following the success of the event, the Doomed Gallery will be opening this Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening to continue showing the prints, campaign stand and zines.

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Number Four Marc Vallée

24 pages, A5, printed and stapled
Published by Marc Vallée
First Edition 2013
Edition of 50
Numbered and signed by Marc Vallée

Doomed Gallery, 69 Ridley Road, Dalston

Opening hours this weekend:
Friday – 6pm-9pm
Sat and Sunday – 3pm – 9pm

Vans Visit Southbank

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Vans_ProSkateWorldTour_PosterA3_LowRes
LLSB are pleased to learn that some of the best skaters in the world have chosen Southbank for their London skate demo on 3rd September, demonstrating the international draw of this iconic skate spot. We will be there with our usual information stand, membership forms and t-shirts so please come down and pay us a visit.

Read more from the VANs marketing team; “Its been ten years since the Global “Pleased to meet you” skate tour in 2003 hit Europe therefore we are pleased and excited to announce the guys will be heading back to our shores this September.

Daniel Lutheran, courtesy of VANS

Daniel Lutheran, courtesy of VANS

Riders confirmed for the UK are Geoff Rowley, Dustin Dollin, Gilbert Crockett, Chima Ferguson, Jonny Layton, Daniel Lutheran, Chris Pfanner, Rowan Zorilla, Alex Majerus, Nassim Guammaz, Sam Partaix and Danny wainwright.

Dustin Dollin, courtesy of VANS

Dustin Dollin, courtesy of VANS

The boys will be touring all over Europe making 3 stops in the UK to visit some of our favorite core stores and skate spots.”

Info for London:

TEAM SIGNING
Monday, Sep. 2 – 5:00 PM
Vans Store Camden
191-209 Camden High Street
NW1 7BT

TEAM DEMO
Tuesday, Sep. 3 – 5:00 PM
Southbank

Guest blog from Richie Spence

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We came across this blog by Richie Spence featuring his recollections of an accidental evening of skating, filming and activism on the Southbank. On any given day someone can walk past the Undercroft and happen upon a skate demo, street dancing, BMXing, a school trip looking at graffiti, you name it. The organic, creative, unplanned nature of the truly original, inclusive space is why we are campaigning to save it.

Read more about his evening at the Undercroft…

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When my mate Matt and I decided to spend a little time down at the “Undercroft” on London’s SouthBank, to do a bit of skating, filming and photography, we had no idea that HUF and Thrasher had planned that night to be part of the Euro Tour.

We found ourselves immersed within a very crowded Undercroft right in the thick of the HUF boys showing off their stuff. Matt joining in, myself getting stuck in taking photos, videos and getting hit by skateboards.

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Amongst all the cheering and whooping for the boys landing some tasty tricks and combos, I found myself looking around this young, cultural and exceptionally social crowd and realised that this might all vanish in the very near future…

With the redevelopment of some of London’s areas, they seem to have missed the point on whether they should actually be redeveloping for the sake of it, or rejuvenating because it needs it. We all seem to perceive redevelopment as a word that means to make something better, a new stage in something’s existence, when simply it means: “to develop (something) again or differently”. The Undercroft does not need to be developed again or differently for the sake of retail developers making money. Perhaps some rejuvenation is in order to maintain the social and cultural significance of places like the Undercroft and many others in London give, for which in turn provide the platform that has made us all fall in love with our capital city. If places like this do not exist, then surely we would just be living in a tourist hot spot with lots of suits? So, why would I choose to live in a city with no soul?

Matt-and-crowd
Hence the importance of an organisation called “Long Live Southbank” who were there in full force, with petition boards, T-shirts ‘n all. These guys are working tireless side by side with artists, skateboarders and many more to fight for the survival of the UnderCroft.

If you too would like to help save this cultural and social hotspot then go to the website (http://www.llsb.com) sign the petition and join in the fight.

Check our Richie’s film about South London. All photos credit to Richie Spence. Check out this rad video edit of the HUF event by Dan Joyce over at Crossfire.

HUF demo at Southbank

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On Tuesday the HUF International team came to Southbank for a HUF x Thrasher demo featuring some of the best riders in international skateboarding. Following their signing at Slam City; Dylan Rieder, Peter Ramondetta, Austyn Gillette, Josh Matthews, Kevin Terpening and more visited a packed out Undercroft for an evening session.

Over 1000 people joined us on a sunny summer evening to watch the team do what they do best, with hundreds coming to the LLSB table to sign up as members and support the cause. Huf himself got behind the campaign, signing up to be a member and taking away a t-shirt.

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Photo Instragammed by Crossfire Magazine

Route One posted an edit of the event this morning, giving a nod to the Long Live Southbank campaign in the process.

Thanks to everyone who came down and showed their support for the Undercroft community and what it represents.


 

Skateistan at Southbank

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“In the hours leading up to Skateistan founder Oliver Percovich’s talk at the Southbank Centre’s Alchemy festival, Oliver and the Skateistan UK team invited supporters to come and join them for a skate session at Southbank’s legendary skate park.

To the beats of the incredible General Roots local Londoners, skaters, friends, tourists and curious by-passers had the opportunity to ask Oliver and the UK team about Skateistan and to experience themselves the joys of skateboarding. On the day, good people, skateboarding, music, graffiti art and good vibes all came together in a beautiful mix.”

Subversive Beauty at the Southbank Undercroft

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Oli Mould, director of taCity and lecturer in Human Geography at Royal Holloway, wrote this excellent blog about the Festival Wing plans addressing the key arguments of cultural creativity and commercial development, debunking some of the myths surrounding the controversial scheme and making a case for preservation of the Undercroft.

Mock up of what the Undercroft would look like filled in with commercial units (worked from original photo by Sam Ashley)

An artistic impression of what the Undercroft might look like filled in with commercial units

The new ‘Festival Wing‘ development includes “the under-used spaces from the undercrofts” being turned into retail outlets, and the creation of a “new riverside area for urban arts”. This translates as the reconfiguring of the iconic skateboarders ‘mecca’ (known simply as the ‘undercroft’) into a row of shops, as it is a key site of entry into the new Festival Wing. Moreover, the plan is to create a new site in which the skateboarders and graffiti artists can go, situated a few hundred metres further west, under the Hungerford Bridge (more details here).

For me, this exemplifies many of the problems associated with current urban redevelopment policies. Not only is it a case of a consumerism that is predicated upon a rarified notion of urban culture trumping a subcultural community, but the notion that the skaters (and associated activities) can be ‘rehoused’ in a designated area shows a complete lack of understanding of how such activities work, and what they can bring to a city’s cultural offerings. There are many (inter-connected) reasons why I am in such staunch opposition to this particular part of the development, but for the sake of clarity, I have delineated them into 3 key points…

The Cultural Creativity Rhetoric

The language of ‘creativity’ is now well entrenched in urban and economic policy. The importance of the digital and creative industries to national governments cannot be under-estimated, and politicians, business developers and planning consultants all speak of cultural-led developments as boosting a city’s vibrancy and attractiveness to creative workers. However, the vacuity of this narrative has been severely critiqued and debunked as simply an excuse to continue developing real estate-led urban areas. Yet, despite the obvious problems associated with such developments, such as the displacement of those workers who cannot afford the new high rents, the often large scale demolition of low-income housing, the redirection of public funds from social services to business needs (and many others), these cultural-led developments continue apace; largely driven by private interests in the face of local governments who are desperate for investment. However, these development plans almost always fail to address key social and cultural issues around engagement, value, education and social services. Moreover, the local communities in which these cultural developments are embedded are rarely consulted to any great depth, and only lip-service is paid to their needs through bolt-on policies of education provision, local employment quotas or the most meretricious of phrases ‘social housing’.

The South Bank Centre in London is no doubt one of the country’s most famous and important cultural ‘centres’, and it’s expansion into the ‘Festival Wing’ is to be part of “South Bank and Bankside Cultural Quarter – the largest, liveliest cultural area in the world“. The phrase Cultural Quarter has spread viral-like across the UK of late, with scores of towns and cities trying to develop one in various ways, but they continue to contain many of the issues listed above. Each case is different of course, however with the South Bank, the displacement of the skaters and other ‘urban artists’ (a phrase which needs to die) is just one issue of how the Festival Wing development is gentrifying the area. No doubt rents will rise in the surrounding area, pushing out established business and communities. I am not saying such developments should not go ahead (although some of them blatantly shouldn’t), but the process by which they are justified, planned, constructed and managed is very much focused on the needs and desires of a consumerist elite – all other priorities are simply ignored or ‘rehoused’. Which leads onto my next problem…

The ‘Relocation’ of the Skatepark

The popularity of the undercroft area of the South Bank is precisely because it was ‘naturally’ taken over by skateboarders from the 1980s onwards. Once a handful of skaters started to use it’s perfect curves and bowls, it’s grindable concrete irregular surfaces (and being safe from the elements), it gradually, over time, became a place in which skaters could congregate to practice their skills; and it spread through word of mouth. The fact that the South Bank initially tried to stop them is outweighed by their commendable decision to let them continue (when this happened though is unclear). One suspects though that once ‘they’ realised that spectators flocked to the area to see the skaters and BMX riders in action and then emptied their pockets in the surrounding bars and amenities, they were more than happy to let them continue. The area became iconic – it was represented in a Tony Hawks video game, tourists flocked to it, companies use it as a backdrop to advertise their products (see below), and Bradley Garrett and I used it as a location for a field trip locale during a session we organised at the the RGS-IBG 2010. From nothing, it became a skateboarders’ mecca.

The Undercroft being used commercially

The processes involved in the creation of this place are complex and have an innate geography to them (if you’re interested, you can read about the theoretical argument in one of my recent papers). Suffice to say, by saying that ‘”You lot, go and play over there were we have fenced of a space for you”, is counter-intuitive, unproductive, patronising and completely against the grain on how urban subversions proliferate. The success of the undercroft area (and the subsequent tourist boost) is precisely because it started out as subversive and a reaction to ‘the city’ and all the economic and political powers it represents. In attempting to relocate the skaters, the designers of The Festival Wing have effectively killed off the subculture and created a commodified spectacle. The skaters will simply rediscover and reuse of different place of their own choosing, detracting from the cultural essence of the South Bank.

The Empathetic Language

In all the online and press literature I’ve seen, the skaters have been tackled head on by the developers. The argument goes that the Festical Wing will be ‘celebrating our skateboarding history‘, but for all the reasons outlined above, this is just political manoeuvring. Apparently, the undercroft site is a key entry point to the new development, however, one suspects that if they valued the skating heritage as much as they said they do, then they would find another entry point. I’m no planner, but it seems that there must be alternatives that could maintain the undercroft as it is, while maintaining entry? The language used in the Festival Wing development material that I have scoured online uses a empathetic tone, but in many ways, all this represents is the new vernacular of cultural planning. In ‘response’ to the harsh criticisms of recent creativity and cultural development policies (see first point), I have noticed that developments are now beginning to integrate community and subcultural language, yet with a similar superficial tone. Again, it is a political veneer that is designed to appease these criticism whilst maintaining the centralisation of the economic interests. You could argue I’m being cynical, but the fact that the undercroft area is to be lined with retail outlets I think says it all. Let’s not dress this up as a ‘celebration’ of skating heritage – it is clear marginalistion of subcultural activity that is seen as economically inconsequential, when the reality is, that it is part and parcel of the success of the South Bank.

In sum, the undercroft area’s redevelopment will, I believe, be a mistake, and will be of direct detriment to the cultural vibrancy of the area. I can use a multitude of academic arguments about the need for a spread of cultural provision, the subcultural re-appropriation of the city and the vacuity of contemporary urban development, and all would be valid reasons to think twice. However, perhaps the simplest argument to be made is that by redeveloping the undercroft, the Festival Wing plans are being anti-South Bank, anti-London, and anti-social. They are basically saying that the South Bank (and by association of it being one of London’s key tourist sites) should be the sole playground of paying, high-end cultural consumers. There is no room for those people who make London a fabulous city to live, work and play.