Photograph of the Undercroft by Sam Ashley (http://www.samashley.com/)

Photograph of the Undercroft by Sam Ashley (http://www.samashley.com/)

Long Live Southbank is the official non-profit organisation set up to preserve and maintain London’s unique and world renowned Southbank Undercroft and to represent its diverse creative community of skateboarders, BMXers, artists and everyone else.

LLSB was started by the local skateboarders to give them a voice and raise awareness about the imminent threat of the destruction of a creative community who have turned a dead space into a thriving visual hub for 40 years. The group now has upwards of 150,000 members from all walks of life, art forms and social backgrounds.

In early March 2013, The Southbank Centre unveiled designs for a £120 million redevelopment of its ‘Festival Wing’ that revealed their plan to transform the iconic Southbank Undercroft skate spot into retail units. The Southbank Centre proposes to relocate the revered and popular spot further down the river, beneath the Hungerford Bridge and build a new skate facility there.

However, the Undercroft is a treasured space, known as the birthplace of British skateboarding and has been home to skateboarders, BMX riders and graffiti artists for the last 40 years. This makes the Southbank undercroft the oldest recognised and still existing skateboarding space in the world. The Southbank Centre’s proposed redevelopment site contains none of these features, has no history and lacks the unique, dynamic architecture that has made the Undercroft a globally renowned street culture space.

Our campaign, Long Live Southbank, is dedicated to protecting the Undercroft in its current form. We believe its cultural and historical status to be irreplaceable and that its unique architecture and the vitality of the thriving community should be present for future generations.

Long Live Southbank, are represented by legal firm King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin. We have been successful in securing the Undercroft’s listing as an Asset of Community Value by Lambeth Council, recognising the importance of the space to the local community. In addition, we have launched an application to protect the Undercroft as a ‘Village Green’ under the Commons Act 2006. This would ensure the legal protection of the space as a recognised area of cultural heritage and communal importance. While Lambeth initially declared the application ‘invalid’, we are in the process of challenging the decision.

In January 2014, Long Live Southbank collected and delivered to Lambeth Town Hall over 30,000 individual objections to the ‘Festival Wing’ proposals, making the Southbank Centre’s planning applications the most unpopular in UK history. Shortly afterwards, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, spoke out in favour of the campaign, recognising the Undercroft as ‘part of the cultural fabric of London’ and stating that ‘redevelopment should not be at the detriment of the skate park, which should be retained in its current position.’ In February 2014, the Southbank Centre withdrew its planning applications in order to seek alternative sources of funding for their redevelopment project.

In September 2014 Long Live Southbank signed a deal with the Southbank Centre guaranteeing the long term future of the space. Since then Long Live Southbank have continued working to celebrate the space, help other groups struggle to protect their own creative spaces and communities and look at ways in which the Undercroft’s creative community can best fulfill the potential of the space.