Archive for February, 2014

You can’t move history: four decades of Southbank demos

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  Van2013.2Dustin Dollin at the Vans Demo last summer (Photo: Dawn Crumpler)

On the 5th February 2014 Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman of the Southbank Centre, said in a public statement:
“Our battle has never been with the skateboarders, whom we have welcomed and guaranteed a future on our site”.

Yet in September 2013 Southbank Centre CEO, Alan Bishop, tried to stop one of the fundamental aspects of Southbank culture by attempting to cancel a Skate Demonstration – where people of all abilities get to watch, and then show and practice tricks, alongside professionals who come to Southbank from all over the world.

The public and non-public messages from the Southbank Centre Board and Senior Management are contradictory and conflicting.

Demos have been part of Southbank since the 1970s.

smellofdeathThe Smell of Death Jam, from R.A.D. magazine, May 1988
(Skater: Morbid; Photo: Frankie Shea)

Safe to say, we did not let them stop us or destroy our culture and the inspiration and enthusiasm it brings to thousands.

Don’t listen to the Southbank Centre propaganda stating the skateboard community is ‘divided’. We’ve shown that we have never been more UNITED.

Check the images from the UK part of the Vans Pro Tour they tried to stop which started at Southbank in a show of support of Preservation, here.

And here’s a list of just some of the Demo’s at Southbank over the years. Let’s hear your memories or any others not on our list:

1976-1979 – Various Slalom Events inc. ‘UK Championships’
1984 – Curb Dogs BMX Demo
1987 – Smell of Death Jam
1988 – Powell Tour
1988 – Smell of Death Jam
1989 – Freestyle In Street Terrain (FIST) – Jam Sessions
1990 – Rodney Mullen Demo
1991 – BSD BMX
1994 – Plan B Second Hand Smoke Premiere best trick
1995 – Chocolate Las Nueve Vidas de Paco – Premiere Session
1998 – Shorty’s Fufill the Dream Premier and Best trick contest
1999 – Osiris Tour
2004 – Cliché Roast Beef Tour
2004 – Girl Oi Tour Demo
2006 – Zero Skateboards UK Tour
2006 – Emerica Wild In the Streets
2007 – Girl/Chocolate Skateboards- We’re Eur’OK Tour
2007 – Nike SB Nothing But the Truth Demo
2010 – Emerica Wild In the Streets
2010 – Blueprint Skateboards: Make Friends With The Colour Blue Jam
2011 – Cliché Skateboards Bullseye Tour
2012 – Nike Go Skateboarding Day
2012 – Girls Jam
2013 – Huf Demo
2013 – Nike Go Skateboarding
2013 – Vans Pro Tour Demo
2014 – Long Live Southbank Skate Community Demo

fistF.I.S.T. (Freestyle In Street Terrain), from R.A.D. magazine,  December 1989
(Skater: Chris Howell; Photo: Tim Leighton Boyce

You Can’t Move History.

Statement of support from Sxip Shirey

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Sxip Shirey image by Elliott Franks

Image courtesy of Elliott Franks  © all rights reserved

The Southbank Centre and their supporters frequently claim that it is a small group of skaters holding up plans that will benefit the wider Southbank Centre community. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every day we spend on the petition table, hundreds of members of the Southbank Centre community, glossy programmes in hand, come to sign up. Sxip Shirey, Music Director for Limbo at the Southbank Centre has been an ardent supporter of Long Live Southbank for months, frequently showing us support on Twitter. Now, he has written this statement of support:

‘There are places in every city that the residents bemoan don’t exist anymore. Places that made the city unique and special. The story is always the same, they were razed to create more apartments or commercial space or a new building that is not as functional as the old. The people who destroyed them look like historical idiots. The question is always “Why did we let them take that away from our city?”  The Southbank skate spot is one of those places. 

When I went to London for the first time and then to South Bank, it was the skate spot that impressed me. The fact that the Royal National Theatre and the skate park were right next to each other said something great about this city. Great art evolves from the street first and this was a beautiful nod to just that.”

Sxip Shirey is a composer and producer from New York City, and Music Director for LIMBO at the Southbank Centre and in Syndey, Bogota, Paris and Brooklyn.

Southbank Memories ~ guest blog by Jacques Talbot

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1549276_448512828611039_1213869288_n[1]Photograph by Marci Michelle

My first experience coming face to face with skateboarders was at Southbank. I grew up in the rural Southwest of England but my Aunt lived in London and was aware that I was keen on skateboarding. My first experience on a skateboard came about as a result of a Christmas gift from my parents years earlier of a luminous yellow Ozbozz skateboard – a strange hammerhead shape with plastic everything and a skeleton in a top hat rolling dice on the underneath: the caption read ‘High Roller’. I’d been down the hill outside of my home on that skateboard every which way possible – kneeling, laying down, cross legged, sitting, and had scraped the skin from my knuckles on more than one occasion and had enjoyed every minute of it (minus the tears).

The skateboarding I saw as a slightly older child at Southbank was like nothing I’d ever seen before and enabled my mind to make the cosmic leap from the concept of skateboarding from a lower centre of gravity (an approach I had adopted intuitively as a small child) to standing up and moving in ways I hadn’t imagined possible in my driveway at home in Dorset. Something happened in that moment and due to that exposure, something that I couldn’t take back and would grow to occupy more brain space than I had dedicated to anything else, something I would think about always and that became one of the most consistent, enjoyable, dependable and gratifying activities that I have ever known (or known anyone to ever know, for that matter).

There was one particular skateboarder that stood out on the day, and who I still remember vividly, despite being perhaps eleven or twelve at the time (I am in my late twenties today). He was black, in his twenties himself, wearing jeans, a black windbreaker jacket and white shoes (not 100% on the shoes), and he was moving around the space at Southbank like it was his own living room – he just seemed to know every inch of the space and how to move around it, get over it, get up it, and get off it. I remember the speed, the apparent nonchalance with which he appeared to be performing these impossible feats, and what I would now call ‘style’ but at the time I could only perceive as absolute admiration and an urge to skateboard like that myself some day… half as well would have been just fine too.

It wasn’t just a skateboarder I saw and absorbed that day, it was everything about Southbank as a place. The colour of the art on the wall, the unique and inimitable architecture featuring the columns and paving slabs and the way in which it came together to fortuitously create this irreproducible configuration of landscape that lent itself so willingly and in such an innovative way to the act of skateboarding, or was it skateboarding lending itself so willingly and in such an innovative way to the architecture of Southbank? I couldn’t tell, but I could tell the two went together. The sound was new to me too: the clinks, rumbles, and clacks that I would grow to know so well through my own pursuit of skateboarding, and to which I would become so attuned that I knew when a skateboarder was two streets away even if I couldn’t see them, or that would tell me if I had landed or ‘locked into’ my trick correctly when skateboarding myself.

Years later, I would skateboard at Southbank as a teen – infrequently as I still lived in the Southwest at the time, but on enough occasions to feel bonded to it as part of my identity as a lifelong skateboarder from the United Kingdom. Years later I would travel around Europe by myself and run into skateboarders from the U.S. in Barcelona – skateboarders such as Justin Strubing whose downhill line in the skateboard video ‘That’s Life’ I had watched so many times before going skateboarding in England that it had become burned into my memory almost as strongly as my first visit to Southbank. Justin was (is) an amazing person, and took the time to hang out and chat as we watched Kenny Reed skate some banks, a simple act that meant the world to me at the time and which I still remember today (thanks Justin!). I would run into other skateboarders in Europe too – regular skateboarders just like me, normal guys from their own small towns exploring another country, and the questions were always the same: Have you skated Southbank? Are the banks as steep as they look? What is the ground like? Is it really as good as it looks? My answers were always the same too: Yes, Definitely, Rough, Better.

To jeopardise the longevity of Southbank would be to contemplate obliterating the identity of UK skateboarding. It was there for me growing up and it needs to be present for the next generation also. I want them to have the same incredible exposure I had that was so formative in shaping the identity and passion I enjoy today as a skateboarder and for skateboarding. When asked the question “Have you skated Southbank?” I don’t want the next generation of skateboarders to have to explain to their new friends in Europe, elsewhere abroad, or even in their home town in rural Dorset that “They built on it/they changed it/they shrunk it/they built an alternative”. Skateboarding/Southbank (the two are synonymous in UK skateboarding) is in my heart and deserves the chance to be in theirs too. Long Live Southbank.


Words by Jacques Talbot

Update – Southbank Centre withdraws Festival Wing applications!

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The last few weeks have been some of the most action-packed since the Long Live Southbank campaign began more than ten months ago. We have seen hugely positive steps taken towards the permanent preservation of the Undercroft, and we’d like to take the time both to report back on the latest developments, and to thank you for all your help and support so far.

2014 began with LLSB delivering a record number of planning objections to Lambeth Council. LLSB supporters gathered on the morning of 2 January, helping to clear an Undercroft still littered with New Year’s debris, before skating the three-mile journey to Lambeth Town Hall. In total we have now submitted over 30,000 individual objections, making Southbank Centre’s ‘Festival Wing’ proposals the most unpopular planning applications in UK history.

The huge public support for the preservation of the Undercroft did not go unnoticed, with LLSB receiving coverage not only on national television but from news media as far afield as China and the Middle East. Closer to home, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and skateboarding legend Tom Penny both dropped by the table at the Undercroft to add their names to the more than 100,000-strong membership list.

In a major boost for the campaign, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who will have the final say in the planning process, came out in favour of preservation, publicly stating that ‘redevelopment should not be at the detriment of the skate park, which should be retained in its current position.’ The mayor described the Undercroft as ‘the epicentre of UK skateboarding,’ and ‘part of the cultural fabric of London.’

On 5 February, Southbank Centre announced that they had withdrawn their planning applications for a period of three months in order to ‘undertake a final search for an alternative funding model’ which would allow redevelopment to take place while preserving the Undercroft. LLSB have contacted the Southbank Centre to ask if they will now be withdrawing their threat to close the Undercroft by the end of 2014 and dropping their challenge to the Undercroft’s designation as an Asset of Community Value.

Meanwhile, LLSB lawyers have been pressing ahead with our application to have the Undercroft recognised as a Village Green under the Commons Act 2006. High Court judge, the Hon. Mr Justice Ouseley, has agreed that LLSB has an arguable case in appealing Lambeth’s initial decision to declare the application ‘invalid’, and will preside over a full hearing on 6 and 7 March. Securing legal recognition of the Undercroft under this legislation would ensure its permanent protection from future redevelopment plans. Recently, he  applied to the High Court to intervene in support of LLSB, adding further weight to the case for preservation.

The campaign to save Southbank Undercroft has never looked stronger, and there is no way we could have got this far without the overwhelming support we have received from the public. Once again, LLSB would like to thank each and every one of you for your help and hard work over the past ten months. While the latest developments have been positive, the campaign will not be over until we have a legal guarantee that the Undercroft will be protected for future generations. LLSB will continue to work towards the preservation of this much-loved and historic community space, and to ensure that the voices of our members and supporters are heard where it matters most.

Southbank and the Clash of ‘Culture’ ~ guest blog by Samuel Bailey

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SAM5500Photograph by Sam Ashley

Regeneration and redevelopment projects within cities are being redirected down a long and winding road towards ‘Destination Culture’. As globalisation envelopes the everyday life of the city-goer, there is a shift in how we see the city as a landscape. Increasingly, city planners and developers are trying to find new ways to ‘sell’ the city. Current thinking suggests that if your city doesn’t have the right image, investment and tourism will fall flat. The economies of a global city have transformed. The industrial base of the modern city is collapsing, and ‘creative culture’ has been called from up from the bench to stand in its place. No one cares about what product your city produces anymore, it’s now all about the experiences on offer. It’s all about the way the city looks, the way it feels, the way it’s branded. ‘Culture’ is what will sell the city. ‘Culture’ will save the day. But whose ‘culture’ is it selling?

In my eyes, the issue at the heart of the Southbank debate centres on ‘culture’. Both sides are fighting for a right to ‘culture’. But if both sides are fighting for the same thing, why is there a fight at all?

In the name of ‘culture’ the Southbank Centre is looking to expand, to redevelop. ‘More arts for more people’ is their slogan and, after all, they are the ‘The People’s Palace’. Their plans for expansion are ambitious and I don’t think you can deny this expansion is grounded in good intent. They want more space for performances, for families, for education, for opportunity, and all in the name of the local community. But in doing so they will destroy a local community. They will destroy a skateboarding community that has existed here for over 40 years. They will destroy a community that has continued to grow, generation upon generation. They will destroy a community that, after 40 years, is still at the forefront of the global skate scene.

This community is not just made up of a bunch of kids who like to mess around on weekends and paint crude graffiti on the walls, as many would have you believe. This community is built upon skateboarding pioneers. It includes professionals who fly from all corners of the globe to become a part of this community and its space.  This space represents educational and artistic evolution as much as any space inside the Southbank Centre ever could. In this place youngsters and beginners are afforded the opportunity to rub shoulders with professionals who take the time to offer advice and make the effort to help them grow. One skateboarder likened it to an ‘open mic night’ where, after pouring his heart out through his rendition of  ‘Gimme Shelter’ on his clapped-out acoustic, he is followed onstage by Mick Jagger with his version. Only afterwards, he could share a cheese sandwich with Mick and ask him how he could improve. It is a space where youngsters and adults alike can escape the hardships of everyday life by embedding themselves in a community of welcoming, likeminded people. For some, it is their second home.

The Southbank Centre has offered to relocate the space downriver, to a new purpose built skate park. But what they fail to appreciate is that you can’t relocate this space. You can only displace it. And to displace it will seemingly destroy what it has worked so hard to become: a genuine, authentic cultural space. It seems that the whole point of this space, the reason it means so much to the skateboarders who use it, is the fact that it is a found space. It is an organic space. It was never intended to be a skate park; the skateboarders of the 70s appropriated it, and this is the essence of street skating. To forcibly displace these skateboarders to a new, purpose built site completely contradicts what they are about. Street skaters are about interpreting an unintended space in a completely original fashion. This was originally a marginal space left by the Southbank Centre architects who weren’t sure what to do with it, and it has become the site of true community culture. As skateboarder Vaughn Baker highlighted, “the Southbank Centre are talking about nurturing arts and creating opportunities for kids to do new things but they have this under their noses, they can do it for free. They don’t need to spend £120 million to do this”.

This blatant contradiction typifies the problems associated with regeneration in the name of culture. The Southbank Centre has already developed its Eats and its Wasabis, and they all sit in their glass fronted commercial boxes. The Southbank Centre wants to replace this space with more of the same. But it will be just that: more of the same. If you take out this space, what you will be left with is one homogenised stretch of retail units, identical to those which can be found in a hundred locations across London alone. This area will lose its soul in the name of consumerism and commodification.

As one skateboarder put it, “this area is an urban amphitheatre. You would not believe the amount of tourists and visitors to the Southbank Centre [that] come down here and watch us. We get people watching what we are doing for hours on end. Even outside the skateboarding world this area has got to a point that it’s famous, it’s become its own entity, and for all the right reasons.”

To me, if the Southbank Centre fills this space with commercial units they will be shooting themselves in the foot. They will be destroying a space that fulfils everything they claim to be striving for, a space that the local community can use to grow and develop as artistic and cultured individuals. Increasingly city planners and developers are trying to attract a new ‘creative class’ as global cities struggle to compete in attracting world-class cultural professionals to their cities. ‘Culture’ has become the name of the game. But removing a space already used by such global cultural professionals and locals alike in the name of a commercial unit seems completely banal and soulless to me. Where is the art or the culture in that?

My issue lies in the question of why the Southbank Centre has to put these commercial units in this space. Why can they not work around a site which has proved itself in terms of heritage and cultural authenticity? If the reason is that this space is a prime location for commercial units with maximum rental value, it would be beyond a shame. It would shift this battle to one between a culture underpinned by the capitalistic gains of commercialism and consumerism, one that is willing to sell out in order to displace a community, against a culture enshrined in historical authenticity.  Which side would you back?

Samuel Bailey is a geography student at King’s College London

LLSB – Delivering a Letter to Lambeth

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On the 2nd January Long Live Southbank with hundreds of skateboarders made the 3 mile journey from the iconic Southbank skate spot to Lambeth Town Hall to hand-deliver a record-breaking 27,286 objections to the Southbank Centres controversial Festival Wing plans, in a bid to halt what has become the most unpopular planning application in UK history.