The purpose of this page was to challenge some of the claims made by the Southbank Centre in their attempts to justify the infilling of London’s beloved Undercroft and clarify some of the misinformation circulating in the media.
Lame Claim no. 1
The Southbank Centre say that they need to redevelop the Undercroft to provide dedicated learning spaces each year to over 150,000 young people and 100,000 other people of all ages.
None of the current Undercroft space will be used for the facilities the SBC are describing. The Undercroft will be filled with retail and other commercial units. We agree that Lambeth would benefit from a much-needed (fully-inclusive) educational centre, but the construction of one educational centre should never come at the price of another.
Lame Claim no. 2
“We are asking them to move a short distance along the riverside within our 21 acre site to a space that they have previously used for skating, but which has been closed since 2004.”
The original features that brought skateboarders to the Hungerford bridge site were destroyed by the SBC roughly ten years ago and the space was turned into a car park. Any attempt to restore or build new skateable features would be contrived, and against the ethos of the Undercroft users. Even the old name for the space ‘’Bird Shit Banks’’ in itself captures why this location is not ideal for skateboarding.
Lame Claim no. 3
“As a charity, we need to raise as much money as possible from cafés and restaurants to enable us to provide more great art for everyone. Queen’s Walk is one of the busiest areas in London and is therefore the most commercially valuable space within the area.”
The skateboarders, artists and BMXers provide the Southbank visitors a free visual experience 365 days of the year. The space is free to use. It is in its essence a fully-inclusive, organic public space. Infilling one artistic place with commercial units to fund another seems counter-intuitive and we urge the Southbank Centre to reconsider in favour of a plan which leaves scope for all forms of artistic expression.
Lame claim no. 4
Nihal Arthanayake, Southbank Centre board member, in an article in the Metro July 18th:
“What the skaters have failed to take into account is that there are going to be tens of thousands of young people who are going to lose out by this: who don’t have friends in the media, who don’t have that cool, fashionable urban art thing behind them that skating does.”
LLSB are young people. We have been meticulous in our quest to understand every little detail of the Festival Wing plan and its impact on everyone, though much of the information we would find useful has not been released to us by the SBC. We fully support and encourage the opportunities for all young people, the fact that the SBC plans which had no adaptability or contingency that is their stumbling block.
And no, we don’t have “friends in the media”, if any of the media would like to be our friends, please get in touch.
Lame claim no. 5
Nihal Arthanayake, Southbank Centre board member, in an article in the Metro July 18th: “The skate community has managed to galvanise the PR campaign incredibly well – and I understand that because it’s a much easier sell. Our story is more complicated”
Our view :
The LLSB is a community of passionate individuals who care about public art and expression in the Undercroft. Unlike the Southbank Centre who have employed ‘ leading creative communications agency’ MerchantCantos, LLSB have no PR company and have simply spoken out for a much-loved space on behalf of tens of thousands of supporters.
Lame claim no. 6
Sophie Ransby, Gamelan Advisor at Southbank Centre, 4th July: “I fully understand the skaters’ resentment, but also believe that it is the skaters, graffiti artists and users of the site themselves that make the park so iconic – not the physical space itself.”
The whole point of the Undercroft is that it is a naturally-evolved environment, a found space used in response to accidents of architecture. The community at the Undercroft has evolved around this type of use over four decades and the natural progression of the environment cannot be replicated. The physical space of the Undercroft is at the very crux of why it is iconic and why it must remain in its current location. Any attempt to move the spot / create a new space is by its very nature contrive and against the whole ethos of the activities that take place there.
Lame claim no. 7
Jude Kelly, Evening Standard, 4th July 2013: “I don’t want any young people to have to defend themselves against other young people.”
Neither do we, but it is the Southbank Centre’s extensive PR efforts, particularly a video from Nihal Arthanayake posted on the Southbank Centre website, which has included terminology such as ‘battle’ and a concerted effort to pitch the desire to retain the Undercroft as an attempt to deprive other young people of free arts and education. We believe any situation in which one young person has to defend their space against another is a problem of the Southbank Centre’s own manufacturing. How many young people/artists were involved in planning the Festival Wing?