Sidewalk issue 44 – March 2000.
Frontside air photo: Leo Sharp.
Interview by Ben Powell and Ryan Gray.
Set the scene for us Dougy – what was going on in your life when this photo was taken? How old were you?
Let me think…if it’s the end of 1999 or the beginning of 2000 then it’s the beginning of time really. I was born in ’83, so I’d have been either 16 or 17 depending. It’s the MK1 that photograph right there, (laughs).
In Bradford skate folklore the T&A banks that you’re skating in this photo are pretty legendary, aren’t they? Like the Uni banks in Leeds, or Broadmarsh in Nottingham…
No doubt man; I’ve got a lot of feelings for that spot. This was where I first saw skaters as well, in Bradford. I rolled past on the bus coming into town and I saw all these people skating it; there were fucking loads of people, doing long boardslides to alley-oop rock out.
We used to get the pizza slices in from this shop across the road and then just watch people; watching all the elders sesh it – Milney, Rozee, the Gregory brothers, Ollie Barnes…I saw Ollie Barnes do the blindside flip on that, you know the travelling kickflip fakie, just chilling; he had the bird’s eye view on that (laughs), ostrich style. I’m pretty sure G had tailblocks on it as well.
The only person I saw do a fucking stand-up grind on it was Rozee. I don’t know how he did it; he was just drifting across, 5-0ing. It had big fucking gaps between the bricks. Rozee showed me the way to session the bank too, showed me how to get the slash on it.
The run up for it was weird; you had to carve round then sort of come back on yourself to get to it. I remember back disastering it but I went straight off the steps in front to get at it instead of carving in; I wasn’t really happy with that one.
The spot was in a quiet part of town too wasn’t it? Not a sketchy part of town really, just a quiet one…
Yeah, you never got kicked off T&A; they just demolished it as part of some regeneration thing – it wasn’t because anyone hated it being a skate spot.
I remember when it got knocked down as well, actually. I was driving past with my mum in the car, town was all traffic-jammed up, and I’m pretty sure that Rozee, the Gregory brothers, Ollie Barnes and all those boys were sessioning it…but this might be a weird dream I’m remembering here, (laughs).
I’m pretty sure Roz and everyone all got bricks off of it as well. When we pulled up they’d cordoned the last bit off and those boys were sessioning it until the very last minute.
A little bit of the spot is still there, but it’s just flat ground now with a slight bit of the bank left.
Is it still the Telegraph and Argus building today or has that been taken over?
Yeah, it’s still the T&A. They’ve still got the full-length bronze mirrored windows so you can check your steez before you get your skills up and that.
The bank had been skated since the 1970’s though. There are photos online of people doing kick turns on it on banana boards.
That’s it man. The spot got knocked down when they knocked C&A down, and then it was just a massive empty hole for the next ten years.
Am I right in thinking that you were grave digging for a living at this point too? How did that come about?
Yeah man, I was doing what was meant to be a bricklaying apprenticeship. My mate Rich was a brickie and he said, “go learn some skills, you can come labour with me man, we can work together and make plenty of coin”.
So I thought on the basis of that I’d go in, sesh the course, get the skills and that, get enough knowledge to help my mate and earn some money at least.
I went in but then for my work experience they said to me, “we’ve got a placement for you”, so he gave me the address and where it turned out to be was right next to Rio’s nightclub, straight across the street in the mosque.
My dad came with me because he wanted to meet who I’d be working with, so we walked into the mosque, shoes on, straight through the carpet bit…there was no one about so I didn’t really think about it at the time, we went down into the basement where they were digging out the cellar, they were putting an underground toilet block in, pretty standard.
So I get chatting to the guy and he’s like, “yeah, yeah, we do loads of work on mosques, you’ve not got a problem with that have you? Oh, and we dig graves as well” and I was like, “oh, yeah”, and then I thought I misheard him so I was like “Say that again?” So he goes, “yeah we dig graves as well”. I said, “nah, nah…that sounds alright man”.
He tells me to meet him the next day so I meet him in this graveyard and he shows me how to drive around in a digger and that. I tried to drive out of the place and crashed the top of it into a tree, broke the roof of it off (laughs); that was on the first day, within the first five minutes, (laughs).
So he showed me the ropes of digging these graves, and shit’s pretty gnarly, there’s obviously a lot of grieving people about, grieving relatives. I’m definitely not laughing about it but I had some hard hat on with my head down looking like Eminem in ‘8 Mile’ or some shit. We mainly worked on Muslim burials and some people got gnarly with me when they saw I had a skinhead; occasionally people got angry I guess, just grieving and lashing out.
Seeing the bodies because they weren’t in coffins was what got me, and digging the graves as well. You automatically think about six feet deep when you think of a grave, turns out the graves were only four and a half feet deep, and they put the body in without embalming the body so they don’t suck all the fluids out…the body is going in with a gut full of whatever they last ate, wrapped up in silk cloth. But in a tomb situation still, flags and blocks, so I did my own bricklaying there. I got better every single time I built one up, but when the building inspector came out from the college to look at my work it was after everyone had been buried and the funeral procession had already left. He was like, “where is this thing you’ve built?” and I was like, “it’s down there man, four and a half foot under with a mound of dirt on top of it”.
Digging the graves didn’t really phase me either; I just figured it’s a part of life, isn’t it? Someone’s got to do it. It’s not as bad as digging a drain out, which I later did in my apprenticeship, as well as all sorts of roofing and crazy paving shit.
So when you’re doing this frontside air at T&A banks, the next day you were going to dig some graves?
Probably the next day yeah: this photo looks like it’s getting quite cold, I remember it being winter time, and I’m pretty sure that winter I did a bit of work on the graveyard exhuming a body that was getting sent to somewhere in Pakistan. So Christmas rolled around, and you know what Christmas is like when you’ve spent up on booze and you’re sat around bored shitless, nothing’s open and you can’t even go skating or anything…we dug a body up at 6am on Christmas Day.
The wager was on as well at that point because the weekly wage was £75 so they said, “£60, come and dig a body up on Christmas day – take it or leave it”.
I laughed it off at first but then I thought, “aye, actually, go on then” (laughs).
There were all these people around like the police, registrars, funeral directors, all these different people. We put scaffolding into the ground and hung a tarpaulin so it was all away from public view.
We literally put the scaffold in, dug the plot up…and digging it up was quite a curious task because it had a three-block concrete tomb around it, so once the digger hit the top flags you knew where you were at least, so then you just lift the flags off and the body is inside.
This was a big, big graveyard as well; it was on a big hill. We’d be burying bodies at the top of the hill one week and the bottom the next, spreading out the graves like that. It was all waterlogged out and all the body juices were coming up like that. So when we opened up the tomb at 6am – we’d started at 4am – all the police were there, it wasn’t spooking me out but it was a bit weird, a bit eerie… digging a body up is a bit different than putting one in the ground, you know what I mean?
We got through to the flags, lifted them off and the body was there. It was squashed up to the top of the tomb because of all the water in the grave, it still had the cloth wrapped around it, it had rotted away a little bit, and there was a bit of the skull coming through the side…it was just strange to see it floating there. My boss had the job to get the coffin straps that you’d use to lower the body into the grave underneath the body in order to pull it out, so he had to pass his arms underneath it, and he looked like he was hugging it. At one point his face was really close to the face of the skull. The skull as well, to say that it had been down there for five years or so, the skin was still on the skull but it just looked like the skull had been covered in Dairylea, like some of it was flaking off and peeling. This is what I had on for my Christmas morning. My boss sent me down to get some water to clean out the spot with, and some of the people were a bit jumpy as well, with it being an open grave. So I got him this bucket of water and passed it straight under the tarpaulin but everyone’s stood with their back to it and is it comes passed underneath I think it splashed a few people and gave everyone a right shock, and everyone started screaming; all these funeral directors and the police all yelping and screaming…I was laughing my head off at that.
Anyway, getting back to this frontside air – what do you remember about the day that this photo was taken?
It was big tings wasn’t it? It was for the Yorkshire article so we had a crew out, and Leo (Sharp) was taking the photos. We were proper hyped up. We were like, “yes man, we’ve all got to get photographs”. It’s a given…it had to be the T&A’s for me.
I’m pretty sure Claz and Rich were rolling on that day too. Rich had the ollie to stop dead photo in the same article, (laughs). I remember Cookie was ollieing the double hump thing at Wibsey. That was a killer ollie as well because you’d get wheelbite at that spot no matter what.
Break down this outfit for us.
The Wisdom, man: I’ve got a fresh Wisdom board on here; we’re probably talking about 7-inches wide, (laughs). Nah, maybe not 7-inches but that’ll be a thin one though. I know what I’ve got on shoe-wise here and that’s the old leopard prints, the leopard print Vans, the jazzmatazz. The cream pants, that’s definitely Roy or Cardiel inspired, same as the checker, and the mesh as well.
We were big on that Anti Hero video, and the 151 video. ‘Too Loud for the Crowd’, you know that shit.
Can you remember the first time you saw this photo in print?
Yeah, I’d have been in Wisdom for real, hanging around in the shop with the heaters on in the basement. System Records, it would have been underneath there at the time. The shop was near to where the T&A was, right by the Alhambra.
I was mad hyped. Look at it all lit up with the sun coming down the street there, with the hand as well, doing the hand gesture for the first time. It’s like a Bradfordian gun going off, (laughs).
Tell us about C&A (the spot opposite these banks), because that was a really important spot around the same time too, right?
C&A was sick; that was the ground where everyone trained, like the academy. They taught you the true Zen at C&A; the true sensei’s…Roz was the sensei master. Roz was killing it back then; he had all the tricks all the time. You’d ask him how to do something, he’d show you and then you’d just stand there like, “…yeah, I don’t know what you’re doing” (laughs).
C&A was odd because it was a kerb spot, but the kerbs were like weird melted black plastic, they weren’t really kerbs.
They were like asphalt or some shit, that American stuff. It was perfect; you had to go up a ramp, out of the way, then you were behind Burger King, HMV and stuff like that. We used to skate that kerb all day and all night, and on a weekend we used to have comps up there. You must remember those things? Smiley John and everyone, doing tricks naked, winning bottles of cider. It was crazy, (laughs).
What’s the C&A story in the same Yorkshire article as this photo? The one where you talk about you, Rich and Claz getting chased by an angry mob…
That was some weird shit, that. It was a skater called Dave…he was a bit of a rogue. I think he went to school with Rich and Claz; he had a twisted sense of humour on him sometimes but he was a funny lad.
I think he’d got mixed up with some lass, snogged her round the back of the C&A then the next thing she’d told her brother she was pregnant to him. It wasn’t just her brother and a few others that came looking for him though, it was her brother and this massive crew of people, all these nutters from town combined together, all running up the motherfucking ramp.
We’d got a car sat up there as well, Exley’s car was parked up, I’m sure Rozee and Milney were there, and Dave came running up to us saying these fuckers were all chasing him, so now they’re all chasing everybody. We were all just burning about, blasting bluntslides on these kerbs, then you could hear this roar like a football crowd coming up, the next thing you know the whole carpark was engulfed in people with sticks and that, going mad, out for fucking blood.
Earlier on, me, Claz and Rich – this was a three-way decision really – we thought to get some oil from out the back of Pizza Hut and oil the kerb up, (laughs). It’d been a perfect kerb for years; we oiled it and absolutely ruined it. Rozee was vexed at us, sat in the car not skating. We were walking around with these grease saturated trainers on from the kerb we’d been trying to session, then the next thing we were having to climb up onto the Pizza Hut bin, scale up onto the roof and kick the bin back. We had get up onto the back left of the roof for the vantage point; we only had our boards with us as well.
These people all flooded the carpark, but as they came up the ramp, the police came burning up the ramp as well so they must’ve clocked this massive crowd running through town; there were fucking hundreds of people man. They were all trying to climb up onto the roof to get us as well, and it turns out it was all just some daft thing that Dave’s love life had caused. Mixing some business with pleasure there, (laughs).
Exley and Roz were just trapped in the car probably shitting their pants, as you would be; the car’s not going to save you very long is it? Have you not seen ‘Mad Max’? Didn’t turn out too well for the boy, did it? That was ruthless.