Image by Ben Stewart
Few would have anticipated one year ago that Long Live Southbank, a coming together of enthusiastic but politically inexperienced skateboarders, BMXers, writers, creatives, and assorted sympathisers would have managed so effectively to stall the behemoth that was the Festival Wing plan, with its intended destrution of the Southbank skate spot. But stalled it has been. Stalled, certainly, not defeated though. Still, after one year of tireless letter writing, meeting attending, video making, canvasing and all the rest of it, a celebration was in order.
So a celebration the ‘40 Years Later… 1 Year On’ jam was, but also a show of unity and continued love for the space that for so many of us is a home from home. The future of the skate spot is far from certain with the Southbank Centre still committed to closing down the spot by 31 December 2014. However, as the Skate School which opened the day showed, there is a new generation just bursting to get their shred on in the years to come. Run with the Boardettes, a female skate, surf and snowboard crew, a motley bunch of youngsters got on boards, many for the first time and repped big grins on their faces for the hours that followed. Boards had to be borrowed from the LLSB crew as more and more people gave it a try.
Image by Sophia Bennett
Their enthusiasm was infectious and it certainly rubbed off on the wizened elders of the Southbank Scene, the LSD crew (London Skates Dominates) who were regulars at Southbank in the 70’s. Rob Ashby, Secretary of the UK Slalom Skateboarding Association, did a fine job gathering the troops. For the younger heads among us, it was great to hear tales of the old Southbank and to see how to rip the place old school style. Cones were laid out, timers were set and dudes older than my dad weaved through cones faster than I could dream of. Rad!
Image by Rob Ashby
Next up was the BMX Jam. It was a hard job keeping everyone from skating for 20 minutes, such was their energy. However we managed to keep them at bay long enough for the local bikers to get gnarly. As expected, Southbank regular Darryl Munroe went off on a new level.
Making the Jam come together was a real community effort. Whilst 30 of us were rocking fluorescent orange crew t-shirts, plenty more put in hours of hard work. Dozens of locals came down from 8 in the morning to clean the area, round off the new obstacles made especially for the jam, paint the walls and paste up about 100 photos documenting the history of the space and the campaign to save it. As we caught our collective breath, the makeshift gallery started many a discussion on the importance of Southbank.
Image by Kyle Adams
Then the clock struck 2 and best trick competitions started. A tidy crew of locals had been up most of the night before finishing off a wooden quarter pipe. This was the first obstacle hit with a best trick comp. The session was manic. Everyone was so keen to grab new tricks that even a couple of holes emerging through the wood didn’t stop play. Rod Smith laid down a mean nosepick yank in and plenty of others earned themselves fresh decks or t-shirts.
Whilst the quarter was given an emergency patch up job by our resident carpenters, the jam moved on to the bank to block. The energy and keenness of all the skaters was so intense. A few poor souls in the bright orange tees desperately tried to push the skaters back to give everyone room to session it but the skaters weren’t having it. There was too much fun to be had and too many tricks to land. Highlights include Luka’s nollie backside flip into the bank, a flip in from the cheese block and a nose stall switch 3 shove in from the bank to ledge. Nutty!
Image by Ben Stewart
The jam moved onto the stairs, the scene of a thousand previous best trick comps. People knew the drill and as the crowds lined the run up and roll away, people were already flinging themselves down the hallowed 7 set. Donkey landed a back 180 and quickly backed it up with a hardflip. Cameron Gooden got stuck into landing the longest Ollie down the stairs and roasted everyone at this game, landing at least 5 foot after the last step. Both of the above got fresh boards for their efforts, as did plenty of others.
Finally there was a local heroes demo featuring skaters from Landscape, Supreme, Slam City Skates, Palace, Isle and more. On the campaign table we often tell passers-by, ‘the great thing about Southbank is that for many young skaters, it is like going down to the park to have a kick about, sharing a pitch with Wayne Rooney, learning from his style and technique then having a chilled chat with him afterwards on an equal standing to him’. It was good for many skaters who aren’t locals at Southbank to realise that these rippers are all chilled people who enjoy skating just as we do, as well as seeing people who know the spot like the back of their hand, skate it in a way that only locals can. For me, the highlight was Lucien Clarkes speedy backtail fakie up the cheese block followed by a frontside half cab flip down the stairs. A big cheer erupted and with that the demo was over. Normal service resumed. The atmosphere was still live. Everyone was still amped.
Image by Ben Stewart
Such was the strength of the energy last Sunday, such was the strength of the unity and love for the space, many would find it hard to imagine that the threat of eviction would come to anything. But Southbank is still very much at risk. The Southbank Centre are yet to retract their self-written intention to close the space by 31 December 2014. The campaign goes on…
Thanks to all those who came down on May 4th to show love and support and all those who wished it from afar. Thank you to the huge number of shops and companies from across the UK and the globe who promoted the event or gave us boards and clothing to give away to kids in need of a hook up. In no particular order these are: Palomino Skate Shop, Slam City Skates, Supreme, Lovenskate, Stand Up Skate Shop, Landscape, Kryptonics, Palace, Piff Sticks, Tom’s Skate Shop, UpRise, Route One, The Boardettes, Brixton Cycles, Extreme, Herbal, Hold Tight Films, London Skates Dominate, Nise, Pixels TV, Sidewalk, Skate- aid, Skateistan, SOS Resistance, UKSSA, Voodoo Unicycles, cliché, Grey Mag, HUF, Isle, Kingpin, Lost Art, Nise, Picture Wheels, REAL, Science, Stella Supply Co, Thames and the SB DJ’s. Thanks also to the Southbank Centre for providing the soundsystem for the day in what we hope is a change in a relationship for the better for all. Finally thanks to all those who put in hard graft to make the jam happen. Fingers crossed a ‘Southbank is Saved!’ jam isn’t too far around the corner. Here’s hoping.