In 2004, two-thirds of the famous skateboarding site at Southbank in London was fenced off and closed without warning. This came as a great shock to the many hordes of skateboarders who had been coming to the area for decades. Ten years later, in 2014, the final third of the area was also threatened with closure and redevelopment but somehow managed to escape it. Things have now changed, and as of late 2017 the other two-thirds of the Southbank skate site could reopen, and the entire area may return close to its former glory. The local council are requesting £790,000 to pay for the restoration of the original site, and also a new education centre to be built next to it. Despite this hefty sum, it is basically a victory for the skateboarding community.
Where It All Began
In the 1960s a group of mostly avant-garde architects designed the festival wing of the Southbank Arts Centre in London, and with it, they had inadvertently created the UK’s most popular urban skate site. Not that the architects knew this would happen since skating was not introduced to Britain until around ten years after the building was completed. As part of their design, the architects left several public spaces that had no predetermined purpose. It is rumoured that Southbank was discovered by an American skateboarder called Jim Slater, who was immediately impressed by the terrain and layout of the open space, comprising of flat ground, stairs, railings, and banks – all a perfect combination for people to bring their skateboards along and adopt it as their own space. Along with its convenient central London location, the design of the Southbank Festival Wing really was a happy coincidence for the urban skateboarding movement. The site was also an open public space that had beenunoccupied, thus making it even more appealing and ripe for skateboarders to move in. It remained that way until 2004, at the time of which the Southbank Centre managers decided to redevelop the area, much to the dismay of the skateboarders who’d called it their home for so long.
Even though the future of Southbank has been in question for so long, the good news for skateboarders is that the legendary site could open again if the £790,000 funds are raised. It is a fair amount of money, but the skateboarding movement remains hopeful this target can be reached through the correct fundraising channels. Even though the site will never be quite the same again, as some of it was already redeveloped, we certainly support the move to reopen Southbank as a skateboard space.
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