Next weekend, the powers that be at the UK Vans operation are taking their long-running Shop Riot event to Kingston Upon Hull, where teams representing stores from literally all over the UK will be battling it out for a spot at the European Shop Riot finals in Milan in early October, going head to head with heavy hitting shop crews from France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland and beyond.
Hull has always housed a healthy skate scene - something which is evident when you total up the amount of magazine coverage the city has had, the amount of videos it has produced and the amount of passing tours it’s played host to - though recently things took an unexpected turn when the council embarked on a mission to turn Hull into the UK’s first ‘skate friendly’ city. Through speaking with Rockcity Skatepark and the recently established Skate Hull operation, the council are now working with the local skaters to actively promote skateboarding in the city, as well as involving skateboarders in the planning of all future developments of public space in Hull.
Ahead of Shop Riot taking over Rockcity next weekend, UK team manager Josh Young decided to round up a handful of Vans riders and head to Hull for a fleeting two day mission, taking in an evening session at the park and hitting as many of the city’s iconic spots as we could squeeze into our brief visitation. Along for the trip were Daryl Dominguez, Chris Oliver, Jordan Sharkey (who unfortunately knackered his foot at the first spot…), Sam Roberts and Josh Young himself, with Hull OG Scott Palmer on hand to provide spot assistance and local knowledge.
Aside from all the skating, we also sat down with Scott Palmer and Rockcity employee Mike Foreman to find out how these progressive dealings with the council came about, and what they were most looking forward to about Shop Riot coming to town. Read on and bring yourself up to speed now…
(Above - Sam Roberts, wavey melon. Photo Horse)
Scott Palmer: We’re currently sat in Rockcity Skatepark; the owner Mark (English), he’s had a big involvement in making all the arrangements for Hull to become a ‘skate friendly’ city. How that’s come about is, the deputy leader of Hull City Council, his ward is where Rockcity is based, on the west side of Hull. Through talking to the councillor, Mark’s managed to get the council on board and they’re now actively promoting skateboarding within Hull.
For years, the council and other authorities have had issues with people skating, especially in the city centre; it’s been frowned upon and at times they’ve tried to make it illegal. Whereas now, Hull City Council are trying to be a bit more forward thinking and are positively promoting skateboarding.
At the minute, obviously with Hull being the UK City of Culture for 2017, there’s a lot of investment, a lot of people are coming to Hull for the first time; off the back of this investment there’s been a lot of regeneration in the city centre. What they’re trying to do is make as much of the space in the city centre as ‘multi-use’ as possible. So moving forward, what the council are looking at is, anything that’s going to be built on public property, it’s going to have skateboarders involved in the design, not necessarily to make skateboard obstacles, but make it so that all the street furniture that’s being put in and anything in the surrounding areas are made out of materials that can be skated. Then at times when there’s a low foot fall of the general public, that’s when these spaces will be open to skateboarders to go skate.
Mike Foreman: Obviously from the council’s perspective, using materials that are going to be more hardwearing is going to help a lot because skaters and BMXers aren’t going to be getting blamed for wrecking ledges, aren’t going to be getting blamed for chips out of stairs and stuff like that. They know that if they pay attention and pay that little bit of extra money, they can get much more out of what they’re building. Also, at times when there is less foot fall in those spaces, we’re also providing a sort of free security service for the council, as any skater will be aware, and that’s an argument that’s been used a lot.
Scott Palmer: The council is fully on board with it. And as I say, it’s just everyone trying to make the most of the spaces that we’ve got.
On the upside as well, the council are all for promoting getting the youth, kids, into activities and sports, and they see this just as another outlet for the kids and the youth to get involved with, so the more they encourage skating, the more people are going to actively get involved.
Mike Foreman: For instance, we have a scheme at the park where, if you’re in part-time work or you’re a part-time student, you can get a certain amount of vouchers for free entry to the skatepark. That’s just to get you fitter, to get you out of the house so you’re not just on the X-Box or on the Playstation or whatever it is, to get you active and healthy whilst you’re not in work or in uni.
Having Shop Riot coming to Hull is brilliant; it shows that the facility that is here is up there with The Works or Mount Hawke or any other skatepark of that size. The owner Mark opened his first park 25 years ago, and it came from him wanting to support the local skaters. It was the same thing again when this place reopened, he’s basically got a whole new building next door and built the skatepark just from going on the internet and seeing how popular skating is here in the town at the time, and seeing there was still a need for an indoor skatepark.
As a skater myself it’s amazing to just have you guys skating here tonight, just to have that, then to have the whole Shop Riot event coming up, I’m stoked as a skater and I’m stoked as someone who is a part of the facility. I’m glad when people come to skate here that they’re into what we’ve got to offer.
Scott Palmer: Hull’s got a really rich skate history which possibly people outside of Hull aren’t really aware of. There’s been some really good skateboarders over the years, a lot of people who inspired me, and inspired a lot of people who came up at the same time as me – I’m talking about the generation prior to myself and all my mates – and it’s nice that now with obviously Shop Riot coming here, all the promotion that’s going to bring, we’re going to be in the spotlight, it’s nice for the area to get that acknowledgement. It’s like a nod to all the effort that everybody puts in, and that everybody has put in over the years, just to create the scene that we actually have in Hull, and how good it is.