Archive for November, 2014

LLSB was invited by the Royal Town Planning Institute to speak at  their ‘Who has a right to the city?’ event as part of World Town Planning Day 2014, hosted by New London Architecture at The Building Centre in London on 4th November 2014.

 

To read the event review click here: http://rtpilondoncalling.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/event-review-world-town-planning-day-2014-who-has-a-right-to-the-city/

 

Long Live Southbank full speech by Louis Woodhead

Louis at RTPI

Who has a right to the city?

 

Before I get fully stuck into this, I’d like to give you an explanation as to what my relationship with architecture in London is. Like many of peers, I gained an awareness of architecture through skateboarding. From the age of 14 I spent all my weekends and school holidays, skating around central London, trying to find new and interesting bits of buildings and courtyards to skate.

At first it was nothing more creative than jumping down a two or three stair set, and then looking for four stairs to build it up more. But then it develops into a far more thoughtful way of looking at your city. You look for interesting bits of architecture that can be skated in a unique way. You spend every bus journey looking out the window, scouring the area for interesting looking places to skate.

When our mate got a camera and we started filming, we became far more conscious of the aesthetics of the spots we were skating. We were skating more and more during the night, as we felt London looked better in the dark, empty of office workers.

We like to skate in spaces with a real atmosphere or vibe to it. The other day our mate Jasper took us to an incredibly thin alleyway in Soho. The only things to skate there were the walls, a couple of curbs and a bin bag of rubbish to do tricks over. You can find walls, curbs and rubbish bags on any given street in London, but this was the one he wanted to skate because it was so cramped and thin, because the balconies above us were so stylish, because the alleyway had such an old London feel about it.

However, after all the weekends spent bombing it through the streets of central London, by far the best place to skate was on the South Bank, underneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The space, known by the architects as the Undercroft and by the skaters simply as Southbank, had been designed by the architects who built the rest of the Southbank Centre as a free public space. It was not designed for anything specific. It was designed in the hope that someone would come along and find a creative or positive use for it.

 

LLSB 40 Year History

 

Just after a few years after opening, the first wave of skateboarding hit the UK from California. The first skaters came across a space with a smooth floor, with banks and slopes to ride on. By 1976, the space was fully buzzing. It was the epicentre of British skateboarding.

The space was always a free space, a space to be interpreted and reinterpreted by creative minds. Over the coming decades, the skaters stayed, as did the homeless, who were the original inhabitants. But then came the BMXers, rollerbladers, graffiti writers and street artists. Skateboarding, however, went from strength to strength. The space has remained the most famous spot in UK skateboarding. Over the last 5 decades many of the world’s most famous skaters have shot photos or filmed tricks at Southbank. Skaters travel from all over the world, every week, to skate at Southbank and see the space for themselves. It is a space that London is incredibly, incredibly lucky to have.

I’m sure it won’t have slipped many of you by that in March 2013, the Southbank Centre announced their festival wing redevelopment plans, which were to be funded by turning this space, already just one third of its original size, into coffee shops and restaurants. The local community of skaters and other users of the space were horrified at the prospect of losing their world renowned, community built space. Long Live Southbank was formed and quickly became an effective campaigning group.

 

LLSB Public Opinion

 

I joined the campaign later in the year, splitting my time between the table where we collected signatures and spoke to the public about the importance of the space, and the emails, where we were constantly bombarded by no end of people who wanted to collaborate with us in some way: students, photographers, lecturers, musicians, filmmakers, journalists and many more.

After collecting record breaking numbers of signatures, support given by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and signing up member numbers to rival the main political parties, the Southbank Centre conceded that they would have to reassess their plans. In September, we signed a Section 106 agreement with the Southbank Centre, guaranteeing the long term future of our skate spot.

The whole campaign has made all of us a lot more conscious about the way our city is evolving and what sorts of spaces are conducive to the really exciting creative self-expression which we love.

I am a firm believer that the city is for everyone. I believe that if you aren’t infringing on the freedoms of other people to express themselves and live their lives, then the city should be open for everyone.

However, as the blurb to this event laid out, the trend is that increasingly large swathes of the city, whilst still publically accessible, are privately owned and private managed. The added downside is heavy handed private security guards, enacting the rules and regulations of the owners of these estates. You would be lucky to get more than a minute or two skating on many of these estates. Banning orders and heavy fines are not unheard of, especially in Canary Wharf. A busker would hardly have the time to set up. These spaces may be publically accessible, but they are not free for public self-expression.

 

LLSB Community

 

The self-expression and art I find most interesting and exciting cannot be taken out of its physical context. My favourite busker is a bloke who does really atmospheric live mixes under Elephant and Castle roundabout. He says that his music is so closely connected to and inspired by those damp tunnels that he couldn’t make or perform it anywhere else.

Last year I went to a squatted former garden centre in Camden, where everything about the space, from the artwork on the walls to the layout of the rooms was adapted around the beautiful plants and flowers that were growing all over.

In Tottenham, over the last decade a group of BMXers have taken over two old canal channels. They invested a huge amount of money and time working the sand and cement into a very well made, if amateur skatepark.

For me, such things are beautiful because they come about organically. They are reinterpretations of spaces in a city that would otherwise be dull and unused. They showcase the adaptability and creativity inside us and always have another layer of interest, whether that is the history of the disused garden centre or all the other folk, mostly homeless who hang out in the same tunnel as the busker.

However, such forms of self-expression are an increasingly endangered species, especially in central London. As every last penny is squeezed out of every last square inch as prime retail space, or highly accessible office space, London’s city centre becomes a desert of this sort of creativity. Land, it seems, is too valuable for self-expression. The pull of the pound is too strong. However, public opinion is firmly on the side of creativity rather than capital.

After 17 months of arguing that the Southbank Centre should not capitalise on their ‘prime retail space’ in the name of creativity, we amassed 150,000 members. The public firmly believe that London should be a creative city. The public really do appreciate little bits of creativity that you just happen to stumble across.

The time is now right for politicians and policy makers to look at ways of opening up more creative spaces in the capital. These spaces don’t need to come with plush new buildings. They don’t need to even come with too much planning.

 

The reason for the lasting success of the skate spot on the Southbank is because the architects left the public to do what they wanted with that space. It was a space left for interpretation. It was a found space that people could take ownership of. It took time, but if you allow cultures to develop organically, eventually they become rooted and great things happen. Next time an interesting space becomes vacant in central London, rather than seeing it as a great opportunity to build a really tall glass building and make a bit of money, the authorities should instead consider leaving the space for people to make what they want of it.

 

LLSB Organic Evolution

After 40 years of evolution, Southbank is still constantly adapting. The walls change every day with new art, moving the space forwards, whether it reacts to political events or brings in new styles. With so many skaters from all over the world flying in to visit what is a mecca for skateboarding, the local skaters constantly have new influences and styles of skating the space to channel into their own skateboarding. It is a truly fantastic thing that original architects allowed to happen, but not something that they could have accurately predicted. Similarly, we would have no idea how any new space, left to develop naturally, would go. However, I feel it is an experiment worth playing with.

One such space actually became vacant just a few years ago. A stone’s throw from Zone 1, just south of the Elephant and Castle roundabout stood the Heygate Estate. A series of huge concrete tower blocks, joined by walkways that became so infamous for crime, the estate was considered by some as a grim and daunting place to live, ripe for regeneration.

However the plans for redevelopment were stalled, partly by poor management, but also by residents – a community established over many years – who resented being evicted from homes they have known and loved for decades, with only questionable plans to rehouse them.

For a long while, just a few of the flats were left occupied by tenants increasingly starved of basic amenities such as heating and rubbish collection. One autumn the leaves weren’t swept up by the council, giving the space a far eerier, more deserted feel. People began cottoning on, and visiting the estate, often first just to have a nose around, and then, perhaps, to find a way of expressing themselves there. I first went there with a few mates in 2010 to skate (picture of Max). There was an incredibly powerful atmosphere there. We were all incredibly aware of the size and emptiness of the space around us, making the experience of skating there all the more special. Over the coming months we returned there quite a bit. There was always new street art popping up, as the space became increasingly overgrown.

From time to time we came across other folk using the space. There were a lot of free runners, who found the huge number of walls and fences perfect for what they wanted to do. However among the most committed were the gardeners, who took over the community greens in between the vast housing blocks. Sometimes describing themselves as guerrilla gardeners, they founded allotments, grew gardens and even started keeping bees and building a fishpond. Such creative use of space certainly made me pay far more attention to them than I usually would to gardening. It became a very special, very calm and very beautiful space.

Anyone familiar with Elephant and Castle will have noticed that the huge tower blocks of the Heygate are no longer there. The community space was fenced off in 2013, with the demolition going ahead last summer. It was sad to see a space with such atmosphere, and such a fast growing creative community boarded off and surrounded by guard dogs so suddenly, with no thought given to where else people would be able to express themselves.

It was saddening too, to see the treatment of the Occupy Democracy protestors a fortnight ago. A few hundred protestors gathered on parliament square, with the intent of staying there for 10 days, to draw awareness to the huge democratic deficit ongoing in the UK. They created a fantastic community, more political than many of those I’ve previously mentioned, but just as creative in their interpretation of public space. All tents, tarpaulins and sleeping bags were seized. 2 days in, the police cordoned off the main green of Parliament Square, with its great history of democratic protests, in order, apparently, to reseed the grass. I passed by one wet evening, as the drizzle turned to a down pour, to see the protesters, as sleep deprived as you can imagine, still smiling, still singing, still getting their message across.

Who has a right to the city? It seems, if your views are too far askew from the mainstream, and you become a little too prominent, you quickly lose rights. As the regeneration of the Heygate Estate became increasingly controversial, the council began painting over street art. As Camden becomes increasingly dominated by chain stores, the Council have decided that they want to ban busking.

For me, as a skater, the most obvious device preventing free artistic expression are skate stoppers, the nobly bits that get put on ledges, benches and at the bottom of stairs, designed to catch your wheels and stop you from skating. I got shown a magazine, of which I’ve got a few spare copies on me, that describes them as tools of oppression. Compared to the tear gas of Hong Kong, perhaps this seems like hyperbole. However what it does do, is set out that this area of the city, which we shall completely cover in skate stoppers, like much of the city of London has been, is a space where you cannot reinterpret the built space in this way that suits you. We have decided that this is somehow anti-social and we are going to enforce our opinion on you.

I would actually look upon the planners who put those ugly metal bits on ledges as the ones that are anti-social. They’re the ones discouraging kids from getting outside, exploring their cities and opening their minds to see the architecture of the streets in new ways.

Through Long Live Southbank, I met a PhD student, Theo McInnes, with a similar interest in people reappropriating the urban landscape creatively and sometimes radically. He interviewed myself and a few other members of Long Live Southbank as part of his dissertation on Unconventional Urbanism. He was interested in finding people who broke down the unwritten rules and normality of public space, and take it back for the people.

The big fear that we both held, was the homogenisation of the city. We both hated the idea of the city becoming characterless, samey and boring. Where the city is becoming characterless, I would say such as in an area like Canary Wharf, it is often because the authorities insist on a huge number of rules to govern these spaces. No busking, no skateboarding, no rollerblading. The ledges have anti-skateboarding devices on them and there are thousands of CCTV cameras, deterring anyone who would dare to do a little public artwork.

I have spent far too many days, skating around the city, coming across spots I used to skate but now have those ugly metal caps on them, getting the police called on us by security and then seeing the same happen to buskers and BMXers and everyone else. These days it always ends up with us returning to Southbank. The more time we spend trying to skate the rest of the city, the more Southbank feels like a little haven of freedom where people can go about expressing themselves without constantly getting shut down.

I’ve begun to see it as a model for public space. It is free. It is constantly changing. It has a really strong sense of identity, although it is just one part of the local ecosystem. We chill with the booksellers under Waterloo Bridge and the buskers on Hungerford Bridge. The space has 40 years history with many of the world’s most famous skaters getting tricks there over the decades, yet the space is forward looking and constantly progressing. It is in use near enough 24 hours a day. But most important for me is the uplifting feeling self-expression there gives you. When you skate there, you feel free, which for me is an ideal we should look for in our public spaces, and in our city as a whole.

And right now, it feels like far too much of our city is not free for public expression. The people’s right to the city is very limited, which I don’t think is right or fair.

I’m just about done. I did briefly mention earlier that the Southbank skate spot is just 1/3 of its original size. This is because, when the Royal Festival Hall was redeveloped in 2004-5, much of the space was taken away without consultation, to be used as temporary storage space but under the promise that it would be returned as soon as possible. This promise, made by the Southbank Centre in a newsletter for the skateboarders, proved false. Whilst the space is unjustifiably underused by the Southbank Centre, they show no intension of returning it to its original and promised form. Therefore, the next stage of the journey is to investigate the possibilities of restoring this space. If any of you would be interested in helping us work towards this, please drop us an email at info@llsb.com or come up to me or my mate Paul over there after we’re all done. We have a few copies of our Cultural and Heritage Report for those keen to get involved and help.

Thank you!

Louis Woodhead, LLSB

LLSB at RTPI       dscf0254

 

As Norwich City Council propose a blanket ban on skateboarding in the City Centre, Long Live Southbank write an open letter in support of the Norwich Skate Scene who are opposing the ban.Dean Khalil frontside flip in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

Dean Khalil frontside flip in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

 

Is your Councillor really representing YOU?

 

LLSB PRESS RELEASE 23RD NOVEMBER: Press Release – Norwich skate ban 23rd Nov 2014

 

 

Councillors who have responded and oppose the ban:

Ben Price / Deborah Gihawi / Lesley Graham / Lucy Galvin / Lucy Howard / Paul Neale / Sandra Bögelein

 

Councillors who have responded and support the ban

Brenda Arthur (Leader of the Council)

Councillors who have accidently responded and support the ban

Mike Sands

Councillors who have responded but been unclear on their position

James ‘Bert’ Bremmer

Councillors who support the ban and have not responded

Keith Driver (portfolio holder)

 

Councillors who have not responded

Alan Waters / Amy Stammers / Andrew Boswell / Ash Haynes / Caroline Ackroyd / Charmain Woollard / Chris Herries / David Bradford / Denise Carlo / Gail Harris / James Wright / Jo Henderson / Judith Brociek-Coulton / Judith Lubbock (Lord Mayor) / Kevin Barker / Marion Maxwell / Matthew Packer / Mike Sands / Mike Stonard / Neil Blunt / Patrick Manning / Paul Kendrick / Ralph Gayton / Roger Ryan / Sally Button / Simeon Jackson / Stephen Little / Sue Sands / Tim Jones

 

 

Norwich City Council Skate Ban – Initial Proposal 25th June 2014

Read here: REP11CabinetSkateboardByelawFINAL

 

Norwich City Council Skate Ban – Revised Proposal 24th November 2014

Read here: Byelaw to manage skateboarding in the city

 

The correspondence…

7th November 2014 – Open Letter NCC1 sent from LLSB to:

Leader of the Council: Brenda Arthur – b.arthur@cllr.norwich.gov.uk / Lord Mayor of Norwich: Judith Lubbock – j.lubbock@cllr.norwich.gov.uk / All Norwich City Council Councillors / MP for Norwich North: Chloe Smith – contact@chloesmith.org.uk / MP for Norwich South: Simon Wright – office@simonwright.org.uk

read here: LLSB Norwich Council 1 all

 

13th November 2014 – Letter NCC2 from LLSB to:

All Norwich City Council Councillors

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council 2

 

18th November 2014 – Reply from Leader of the Council, Cllr Brenda Arthur:

Read here: Dear Louise

18th November 2014 – Letter NCC3 from Drug Store/Norwich Skate Community to:

Cllr Brenda Arthur / all Norwich City Council Councillors, Norwich MPs

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council – NCC3

 

18th November 2014 – Joint letter NCC4 from Drug Store/LLSB to:

Cllr Keith Driver (portfolio holder), Leader of the Council, Brenda Arthur / all Norwich City Council Councillors / Norwich MPs:

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council – NCC4

 

21st November 2014 – Joint letter NCC5 from Drug Store/LLSB to:

Cllr Keith Driver (portfolio holder), Leader of the Council, Brenda Arthur / all Norwich City Council Councillors

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council – NCC5

24th November 2014 – Joint letter NCC6 from Drug Store/LLSB to:

Cllr Keith Driver (portfolio holder)

Read here: LLSB Norwich Council – NCC6

 

Yep….. no replies from the Councillor responsible for the ban – Cllr Keith Driver. That’s how much he cares about people’s views.

 

Sign the petition here

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-norwich-skateboard-ban

 

Our 1st Letter:

Councillor Brenda Arthur – leader of Norwich City Council, all Councillors, Lord Mayor of Norwich, MP Norwich North, MP Norwich South

Norwich City Council

City Hall, St. Peter’s Street

Norwich NR2 1NH

 

7th November 2014

 

Dear Ms Arthur,

 

Norwich has a vibrant and healthy skateboarding scene spanning many years. It is greatly disappointing to hear that Norwich City Council is considering a ban of this important artistic and cultural expression under section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972, in a bid to prohibit skateboarding in the City Centre.

 

Our understanding is that though the ban stems from concerns over aspects of the war memorial, the by-law would cover an extensive part of the city centre including the memorial gardens, Hay Hill, Gaol Hill, The Forum, Castle Meadow, London Street, Exchange Street, St Andrews Street and the gardens at Norwich Castle.

 

Long Live Southbank feels there is a much more inclusive way of dealing with the matter rather than criminalising Norwich’s young people and visitors to the city. We are writing to express our strong support for the skateboarders of the city in their campaign against a proposed further extensive and heavy-handed crackdown on street skateboarding.

 

It is our experience that custodians of public spaces, and spaces used regularly by people, can severely misjudge public mood, views and opinion. We also experienced the avoidable financial and social cost that results from the failure to provide adequate public consultation. The solution is to work together with communities.

 

Our understanding is that there has been very little public consultation on the intended ban and very little engagement with the local skateboarding community. This results in a decision that affects the public but which has no input or direction from the public and, as representatives of the electorate, there is a responsibility for the council to ensure decisions are based on quantifiable data covering a broad a spectrum of sources and origins. A petition opposing the ban already features over 2,800 signatures.

We are advised by local skateboarders that the claims made by council members, and given to the press, have been untrue and have resulted in the vilification of young people who enjoy skateboarding. It was also noted that the online consultation was far from being properly democratic and limited public debate and censored people who support a relaxing of the ban from democratically voicing their opinion. Such methodology is in tune with the outdated nature of the ban itself.

 

We as a community and representatives of the community, should be working together on how we share our cities and make them accessible to all, and not on creating further barriers that makes them exclusive and inaccessible.Norwich has an opportunity to show it is continuing on its path to being a modern, progressive, people-friendly and welcoming city, and lead on its ability to understand inclusivity and culture, and create an example to others on how cities work with diverse communities and their needs.

 

Skateboarding supports more than just the physical act, it supports other creative practices such as filmmakers, photographers, visual designers and provides opportunities for other transferable skills and values. It promotes physical and social well-being and a much-needed alternative to gadgetry as it encourages young people to get outdoors, get physical, and explore their cities and local areas. Add to that that skateboarding is one of the fastest-growing physical activities in the world, particularly with girls and young women, and there is enough reason to suggest local authorities encourage these physical expressions as opposed to discourage and, as in this instance, criminalise them.

 

The Long Live Southbank campaign showed just how out of touch decision makers can be and how public mood can be misjudged. An unprecedented 150,000 people signed in support of keeping the Southbank skate spot. Our campaign table helped us engage directly with tens of thousands of people of all ages, all backgrounds and life experiences and from all over the world. Our public consultation provided an opportunity to translate the love, passion and creativity all skateboarders feel for their art into words that those in governance and establishment positions can understand.

 

Skateboarding was born in the streets and therefore is best suited to this context. When you are skating a purpose built skatepark, you are shunted out of the way of society and left only amongst fellow park users. This is uninspiring and limiting. Many councils who commission skateparks do not consider that skaters of advanced ability will share a space with families taking young children with scooters, this results in the times they can practice being severely restricted. The physical structures in skateparks only have limited ways of being skated, many of the obstacles will be very similar to those in other towns. There is little unique about most skateparks and, by fencing young people off, you lose many of the positive benefits that young people could gain from participating in an outdoors artform. Not everything has to be reduced to design and control and in addition, many skateparks, such as Eaton Park, are built outside of city centres making them inaccessible to many that cannot afford the time or cost to travel to them. This further alienates people and send a strong message of marginalisation.

 

Conversely, when you are skating in the street, you are able to interact with your surroundings in a far freer and more natural way. You learn about your city, move through it. Through skateboarding you open your eyes to all of the architecture and the possible ways of skating it. It is a fantastic, mind-broadening way to look at a city.

 

Sadly there is still an element of those in decision-making positions who will unjustifiably vilify skateboarding and discriminate against skateboarders. At Southbank we have fostered a highly positive relationship between the public and skaters. People gain from watching people skate and the way skaters reinterpret architecture. Street skateboarding can and should be used as a way of uniting people in an area, rather than dividing them and encouraging and breeding an attitude of resentment.

 

We do recognise that there are areas where skateboarding is inappropriate, such as Memorial Gardens and the War Memorial itself, we believe that the bulk of the skate scene is already in agreement about this, and local skaters are making efforts to educate those who don’t understand the implications of skating in these spots. It would be wholly unfair to generalise and project the acts of individuals on to an entire community, and to punish the majority of skaters who wish to explore and get to know their city in an exciting and forward looking way, due to the actions of a minority.

 

We strongly advise you to enter into a conversation with the local skateboarding community about how to move forward positively. Running consultations which dismiss a huge bulk of opinion as invalid will not help move towards a positive solution, or do anything to help the disillusionment with the political system that many young (and older) people feel. If the discussion is to be positive, both sides must go into it open-mindedly. If you took the time to enter discussions with the local skateboarders, you would find highly open minded and progressive thinking. We urge you to review your plans and enter into a positive dialogue with them.

 

If Norwich is to be at the forefront of progressive and inclusive cities and be part of how communities evolve in the way they engage and interact, and not be regressive and exclusive, then it must not waste this opportunity. All too often we hear about the marginalisation of young people and the messaging that young people are somehow disinterested and disengaged and lethargic and inactive. Long Live Southbank showed that this image couldn’t be further from the truth. The Norwich skate scene are showing that they are equally as passionate about their city, their surroundings, their culture, and their expression. We encourage Norwich City Council to recognise and support this and be part of the solution, and not the problem.

 

Yours sincerely,

Long Live Southbank

 

Proposed exclusion area:

 

skateboardingmaps

Initial proposed area and updated proposed area – Norwich Skaters and LLSB oppose ANY by-law and criminalisation of skateboarding regardless of area

 

Pro skater and LLSB Member Chewy Cannon added these words of support

My name’s Chewy (Lewis) Cannon, born and raised in Norfolk, Great Yarmouth. I’ve been skateboarding for 18 years and the last 8 have been professionally. As part of the LLSB campaign and as part of the public I can only see sense in leaving a growing organic sport alone so it can add to the substance of a growing city!!

Community cities and towns are built on embracing new and expressive art forms and it would be a shame to deny such a growing sport and art such as skateboarding. If we start to say no to public space being used by the public then we have a real problem in the works and this need to be addressed ASAP, and skateboarding is not a crime, so maybe the city council need to rethink and let people remain creative within their city.

Having the space for myself when I was young gave me the opportunity to fulfil a dream that would have seemed impossible without free public space to use and be free within. So I feel like we should fight for the right to let others have the same path if they wish and not be denied freedom of choice.

Spex wallride in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

Leis ‘Spex’ Ross wallride in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

 

Our 2nd letter to all Norwich City Councillors on 13th November 2014:

Dear Norwich City Councillors,

 

Further to our open letter to the Leader of the Council, we wanted to extend our letter on the proposed ban on skateboarding to all Norwich City Councillors.

 

The letter is attached and you can view it and updates and responses here at our website;

http://www.llsb.com/llsb-open-letter-to-norwich-city-councils-proposed-skate-ban/

 

We also encourage you to read our Cultural and Heritage Assessment Report which highlights just how important and influential British Street Skateboarding is on an international scale;

http://www.llsb.com/report/

 

We noted Cllr Keith Driver’s comment that ‘London did not allow skateboarders to skate down Whitehall or on the Cenotaph’ in response to our letter and we would like to provide a reply to give context and perspective.

 

London is a vast city with huge possibilities for street skateboarding which is why it is a mecca for skateboarders from across the world. Purely based on size and number of structures, Norwich and London are not comparable as landscapes and opportunities.

 

So as not to be misunderstood, though we recognise the reality that no structure is infinite and is subject to many forms of wear and tear and erosion, we do not condone the deliberate misuse of structures and objects such as the war memorial. A collaborative solution is possible and we shouldn’t reduce the issue to an unrealistic comparative.

 

In addition, we are presently in multiple channels of dialogue regarding the future of skateboarding, cities, public spaces, young people, art and culture, and how they work together, which will further highlight the regressive and archaic method being suggested by Norwich City Council in terms of how these things work together in an ever evolving world. We welcome Norwich to become part of those conversations alongside London, Bristol, Barcelona and countries such as Denmark who show a real ability to be open and inclusive and lead by example.

 

Though the public space we successfully campaigned for is in London, our 150,000 members are from all across the UK and beyond. We operate as a local, national and global community which is why this matter is important to us. We are your residents as well as your neighbours and visitors.

 

Skateboarding is a global scene and network and you should not be under the impression that this is London telling Norwich what to do – it is a progressive, diverse and inclusive way of thinking that has become a vessel and platform for the public to be able to express views and opinions to decision makers.

 

We have shown what positive outcomes can be achieved when people engage in dialogue and conversations. Something you would think would be first on the agenda, but is sadly lacking in decision making – which is why we instigated a return to prioritising discussion and hope people will take from the positive results from our example.

 

It is worth noting that not only are over 3,000 people actively engaged by signing the petition to oppose a ban, the mere fact that this issue has already had significant publicity is already a deterrent to anyone who may have considered the war memorial. Authorities and governance should be looking at understanding and encouraging physical activities such as skateboarding and BMX riding – led by the people who do them. Generalising and stereotyping will not provide a sustainable long-term solution, it will serve to create further division and problems.

 

The solution is not to put criminalisation ahead of conversation and we truly hope Norwich will set an example by taking the lead in working together with its communities and cultures to find a symbiotic outcome that everyone can benefit from.

LLSB

 

Ollie Smith - Frontside 180

Ollie Smith frontside 180 in Norwich. Image by Lee Kirby

 

Our 3rd  letter to all Norwich City Councillors on 18th November 2014:

Councillor Brenda Arthur, all Councillors, MP Norwich South, MP Norwich North

City Hall, St. Peter’s Street

Norwich NR2 1NH

 

Ref: NCC3

18th November 2014

 

 

Dear Cllr Arthur,

 

I have just read your letter and it has reinforced my opinion on this matter.

 

1. NOBODY wants the memorial to be skated or damaged. We are in full agreement with this, as we have clearly stated from the beginning. However, the ban area cover a larger area and this is where we take issue.

 

2. Skateparks are not an alternative to street skateboarding for many people. Skateparks provide an alternative venue but are not a replacement as was agreed during the consultation process for Eaton park. All those who spent 7 or 8 years going to those meetings were aware that street skating would still occur.

 

3. Myself and Lewis Ross both offered to help with the re-design of the memorial garden in order to skate-proof it. We were literally laughed at! I’m aware there are lots of rules around what can be done with a listed monument but to make no attempt to take us up on this offer says a lot about the way the council view young people.

 

4. You mention there being skateboard facilities in many areas but, with the exception of the concrete park at Eaton, these are all terrible and mostly dilapidated. None of these other parks were built by real skatepark designers or with any input from local skateboarders and as such are unused and in most cases unusable. A perfect example is the Heathgate Park, an ideal area completely wasted due to poor facilities. Also, as I have said many times, parks are not the answer

 

5. The Eaton skatepark is good but often overrun by children with all manner of toys (scooters, trikes, radio controlled cars, mountain bikes etc etc) which is not what it was built for. Some of these children are very young and accompanied by protective parents who become aggressive towards skateboarders who they see as “in the way”.

 

6. I also feel I should point out that the consultation process for skateparks is in itself a flawed one. For instance we were not given any other viable option for a location so Eaton was the only “choice”, secondly we were only given 4 options to choose from (because only 3 legitimate contractors submitted plans) and of those 4 options, 3 were completely wrong and did not fulfil the brief at all. The end result is what you see at Eaton today – a good park, but not one that was designed or built by the community it is there for. A far cheaper and more satisfying solution to providing facilities would be to simply give an area over to the community and let the design and build their own park. I can provide many example of the success of these areas in other places if you would like to see them? If this approach was taken at the multiple sites of bad skateparks around Norwich then we’d really have something great, and at a small fraction of the cost of the existing facilities

 

Yours sincerely,

  

Sam Avery

Drug Store

Our 4th letter to all Norwich City Councillors on 18th November 2014:

Councillor Keith Driver – Neighbourhoods and Community Safety portfolio holder, Leader of the Council, all Councilors, MP Norwich South, MP Norwich North

City Hall, St. Peter’s Street

Norwich NR2 1NH

 

Ref: NCC4

18th November 2014

 

 

Dear Cllr Driver, Cllr Arthur and all Norwich City Councillors,

 

In relation to the proposed ban on skateboarding and other social activities under section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972, and in light of the letter from Cllr Brenda Arthur received today, there are a number of factors that cause us great concern about this matter, and we have set them out in this letter. This is in addition to the response sent in the letter reference NCC3 sent earlier today.

 

1. Denial of Honest Democratic Representation and Process

It is our understanding that the Norwich City Council Labour group is intending to stick together in order to push this proposal through by ‘majority vote’ despite individual opinions, and despite public opinion being clearly opposed to the ban.

The seeming ‘political party before public opinion’ behaviour that appears to be being exorcised is deeply worrying.

Is this your idea of democracy – a handful of individuals forcing their view on the majority who DO NOT support their view? Do you recognise the irony in your alleged intention to protect the war memorial dedicated to those who fought for our freedom by creating a by-law that removes freedom?

 

2. Inadequate, Flawed and Misleading Consultation Process

The portfolio holder, and supporters of the ban, have not provided a clear and accessible consultation process and failed in engaging relevant stakeholders and the public in a matter that will ultimately affect them in a legal capacity. This failing has led to the local skateboarding community providing information and consultation themselves resulting in a significant opposition from the public to the proposed ban.

No contact has been made with the Norwich skate scene by the councillors supporting the ban, despite claims to the contrary made by them.

General public consultation has been severely lacking resulting in the public been misinformed and without a clear understanding of the issues involved.

Independent polls show the public do not support a ban.

The portfolio holder has not sought to understand skateboarding culture – the fastest growing activity among young people.

 

3. Misleading and Distorting Information

The councillors supporting the ban have used the war memorial and war veterans as emotional collateral for their campaign to gather public support without providing fact-based supportive evidence for claims against skateboarders.

This is evident in the panel discussion held by Mustard TV, aired on Thurs 6th November, at which no councillor made themselves available to attend.

Leader of the Council, Brenda Arthur stated in the June report that she had ‘seen people on the corner of City Hall actually been nearly knocked over by skateboarders’.

The claims made by supporters of the ban have been misleading and are unsupported there is no evidence of the claims in the public domain.

Claims that damage to the war memorial have been made by skateboarders are unsubstantiated and no qualified independent survey and analysis has been provided by Norwich City Council.

 

4. Dismissal of Public Opinion and Opposition

The Norwich City Council website states ‘Norwich City Council welcomes petitions and recognises they are one way that people can let us know their concerns.’

Yet you appear to be actively ignoring your own remit and worse still, ignoring the concerns of people you say you wish to ‘recognise’.

The petition opposing the ban on skating in Norwich has gathered well in excess of 5,000 signatures in little over 2 weeks. The maximum number of signatures for petitions on the Norwich City Council website is 73 gathered over 2 months.

 

5.  Misrepresentation and Negative Propaganda and Attitude

It has been noted that certain councillors seem to find this matter humorous and are dealing with the skate community in a condescending manner and ridiculing and patronising us. This causes us great concern. Is decision making on behalf of the citizens and visitors of Norwich a laughing matter to them?

 

 

Requests:

Given the many claims set out in We request the portfolio holder for the ban, Councillor Keith Driver, and the Leader of the Council, Councillor Brenda Arthur, provide the following by no later than 1pm Friday the 21st November 2014:

 

  • All documents regarding complaints made to Norwich City Council since 2009 pertaining to skateboards, BMX, rollerblades, scooters whether in written or electronic communications.

 

  • All minutes of council meetings relating to the proposed ban on skateboards.
  • All surveys, studies, tests and analysis on the war memorial relating to refurbishment, repair, and relating skateboarders or similar activity.
  • All documents on public consultation relating to the proposed ban.

 

Given the reply received today from Cllr Arthur which sets out some the items detailed in this letter, and given the high profile of this matter and national attention it is galvanising, and given the decision meeting scheduled for 25th November, we will assume these items will be easily accessible and we won’t be made to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Proposed solution:

In the meantime we propose a simple solution which save time and public money; The cancelling and discontinuing of the proposed by-law to ban skateboarders and other similar social physical activities from Norwich City Centre, to be replaced by the implementation of a fine of £100 for anyone seen skating the war memorial. We seriously doubt that anyone has skated the war memorial but this fine will be a sufficient deterrent to anyone who would ever contemplate it.

 

We look forward to your response and the hope a mutual resolution can be achieved that does not require the draconian measures of bringing in by-laws and legal restrictions to the citizens of Norwich, and in particular, young people who Norwich City Council should be seeking to engage, welcome and inspire instead of ostracise, exclude and marginalise.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Sam Avery                   Paul Richards

Drug Store                   On behalf of Long Live Southbank

 

From: “Cllr Sands, Mike” m.sands@cllr.norwich.gov.uk
Date: 19 November 2014 at 14:09
Subject: RE: Open Letter from Long Live Southbank in regard to proposed skateboarding ban in Norwich

Hello Brenda,

Read the letter… what tosh!  As advised no response.  However many many, months ago when this all blew up and people were getting aerated about it and emails were sent to councillors from shall we say ‘interested’ parties, I did reply to one… may have even been this person though equally may not… What I did offer was to sit down over a coffee at Café Marzano (I offered to pay) and have them outline their concerns… no promises or anything on my part.  I did suggest that the real motivation was the ‘desire to be seen’ skateboarding in the city and to have potential spectators either amongst the skateboarding community and that there were possibly other options that didn’t involve public buildings or public spaces that could be damaged or involve potential collisions with the public (pointing out that I’d had a very near collision outside city hall and I had witnessed a young mum with a pusher narrowly escape a similar unguided aerial skateboard collision) and that if they were ‘so’ keen perhaps contacting City Hall and opening up a conversation and dialogue was the way to go….

…Never got a response. Not a squeak.

 

Mike

 

Read our post on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/LongLiveSouthbank/posts/594584147337239

Watch local veteran and skaters discuss the ban (surprise, surprise no one from the council supporting the ban was ‘available’)

http://www.mustardtv.co.uk/episode/this-week-7/