Stockwell - A Retrospective
Moving to London last summer, I didn't really know what to expect. Don't get me wrong - I'd visited the city plenty of times and for fairly extended periods so it wasn't a completely new experience, but I was fairly settled in the North and the capital had enough negatives going for it to put me off a fair bit. I did, however, know enough to be sure that I had to live within walking distance of Stockwell Skatepark.
Of all the places I'd visit to skate when I was staying here Brixton Beach was the one with the best vibes, something which didn't change when I became a regular visitor. A non stop session saw the local's hyping each other daily, tunes were blasted from the bench above the bowl and the place became my local skatepark, meeting point and social club all in one.
The park itself isn't the easiest to skate. While the looming transitions and tectonic cracks of previous eras have been smoothed and mellowed by successive restorations, it is still mostly the long-time locals that you will see hitting the various bumps, hips and whippy transitions in one run and manage to maintain speed. Conditioning your legs and working out the park's many but difficult lines is one of the best things about the place, along with the choice of quarters varying in height and steepness.
Jack Moore melon grab. Photo: Ashley Walker
With visits from Thrasher and Polar last year and with BMT poised for global domination, the park is still riding high in its middle years - if you've never been, get down and get some at a piece of living skate history. In the meantime get hyped on a lengthy selection of footage and photo's from Brixton Beach, along with an interview with Friends of Stockwell Skatepark's Matt Gold...
Sam Roberts frontside rock slide. Photo: Toby Shaw
Interview with Matt Gold of Friends of Stockwell Skatepark
Above photo: Dave Rebs
Stockwell Skatepark has recently been listed as an Asset of Community Value – what exactly does this entail and what further steps are you looking for? With the reconstruction of the area having already claimed a local music scene mainstay in the form of the Grosvenor pub, there must be some worries about the parks future?
We initially set up Friends of Stockwell Skatepark after attempts to establish who was responsible for the upkeep of the park proved inconclusive - neither Lambeth Council nor the local Housing Association were willing to take responsibility. We also had and still do have serious concerns about the forthcoming redevelopment of the neighbouring housing estate; the first plans we saw had three high rise towers and came right up to the edge of the skatepark wall! At the moment we're bordered by green space and a four story building, proposed is a twenty story tower and an ominous grey 'plaza'.
Achieving Asset of Community Value status is just the first step on the path to securing the future of the skatepark. It means that if the owners of the land want to sell it they have to give us an option to make a bid and six months to raise money. In effect it creates a barrier to sale.
From here onwards we're investigating some stronger legal protections. We're seeking a Section 106 agreement with the developers. S106s are specific planning agreements between affected parties, for example Long Live South Bank now have an S106 agreement between themselves and the South Bank Centre. This type of agreement could be used as a source of funding for resurfacing and extensions to the park - it could also be used to protect the park as a skatepark, or both. We're also looking at Village Green status and a thing called Metropolitan Open Land, which is similar to Green Belt status but for urban areas.
James Hall reapers in the snow for Rich West's lens.
We've now established that the council owns and is responsible for the skatepark and we've recently had verbal guarantees from the council that they will help raise funds for a resurface. In a few days time we've a further meeting with the local developers, to discuss their plans and the possibility of extending the park by creating an indoor bowl with a community roof garden above it...amidst the concerns about the redevelopment are also unanswered questions about the boundary of the skatepark's land. It should be an interesting meeting.
Jah Screechy is down! Courtesy of Anna Maria Photography
Over the years the park has seen various new surfaces, changes in obstacles and people moving in and out of the area. Want to shed some light on some of the main eras of Stockwell and what major changes have occurred?
The park was originally built in 1978 by Lambeth Council and the enigmatic Lorne Edwards, who was also responsible for Portland, Kennington, Meanwhile 2, and who knows how many more of the UKs classic 70s parks. We think Stockwell is probably the oldest Lorne Edwards park still standing and one of the oldest concrete parks left in the UK as a whole. From what we understand Lorne simply started digging holes with a JCB one day on land recently vacated by the local Baptist Church, we don't think there was much advanced planning! Planning permission was awarded retrospectively in 1981.
The park remained unchanged until 1995 when some of the locals including 'gnarly' Tom Dubern and Matt McMullan (RIP) campaigned for repairs. This led to the much loved red surface. That resurface lasted until 2006, with various rickety local built wooden ramps adding to the fun. In 2006 the local council employed a car park contractor to do a disastrous resurface. This mess was eventually rectified in 2008 after much work by local skater/architect Jeremy Donaldson and friends and local councilor Paul McGlone, who is still helping us today. At the next attempt the new coping section was added. This was a big improvement, but some of the concrete used in resurfacing the old section of the park was not of sufficient quality and those sections are now rapidly deteriorating.
Jeremy Donaldson nosepick. Photo: Jonathan Hay
The area itself has changed dramatically over this time; it's gone from being a working class area with lots of poverty, squatted properties and failed council estates, through the riots of the early 80s and slowly but steadily up to the current situation, with high property prices and extensive local redevelopment, and the gentrification of many local areas. The local population is growing in size and wealth yet amidst all this new money poverty unfortunately remains. The area is probably safer overall than it once was, but some locations don't quite have the same character... that said, this has always been an area of change and it's still a really interesting and diverse community.
During summer months, the skatepark itself pretty much acts as the local community centre. Obviously when the nights draw in the evenings there become less frequent, but I know that local venues have in the past hosted skateboard-based exhibitions. It seems in the time I’ve lived here that the skatepark has a solid connection with the local community and businesses, possibly more so than most parks?
I like to think that the park has a place at the heart of the borough, with strong ties to Brixton Cycles, Stockwell Park Estate and many other people and organisations throughout. Lots of the local kids use the park as well as the bigger 'kids' of all ages who enjoy the unique atmosphere the park creates. 'Brixton Beach' is much loved by observers from all over as well as its users, it's an icon for the Brixton and Stockwell area and it provides a lot of social value to the community. I have spoken to the local police liaison officer who believes that the park leads to a net reduction in crime in the local area. People appreciate this is a free public space and they value it for that.
Jake Snelling stalefish. Photo: Paul Graham
The new generation is killing it hard right now, it seems like skaters who grow up at Stockwell have a lot of flow that’s immediately visible – who is currently smashing it in your eyes?
So many names spring to mind, BMT are mocking it right now: Josh, Tom, Val, Laurence, Rikki, Jack (when he can stay out of hospital), P.J, Ben Broyd, Ewen, Caire and Akin, all the Blast crew, Johnners, Roo.
There has also been a rise in the number of tours stopping through in the last couple of years – what are some of the best visitor moments you’ve witnessed?
I always seem to miss all the big names…saw Bam there once he did a chest high ollie off the end of the big hip , then tried for half an hour to go bigger and couldn’t so he focused his board and went home... kids were fighting over the splinters...
Any last words before we wrap this up?
Join us at friendsofstockwellskatepark.wordpress.com and help protect the best place in the world.
Mike Manzoori in A4 Distribution - Hating Life (1999)
Manzoori hits a few 70's gems around London in his section for Hating Life, before returning to Stockwell's back wall. A couple more Stockwell clips, alongside tricks at other 70s gems, can be found in the Adrenalin Skateboards promo video;
Heroin Skateboards - Good Shit (1999)
Heroin Skateboards' first production is a whirlwind of rad; Stockwell, random nutters, grass rides, Stockwell, Flying Medallions, Blind Ollie Soft Rock, Voorhees, random nutters, Stockwell, slams to flat, Stockwell and Voorhees at once with Bam and auld pisshead cameos? Brixton Beach is basically Heroin's secret pro, and it killed it for this video!
Stockwell Jam (2000)
Kinked wooden quarters, soggy tre flips and naked Davross courtesy of Tidy Mike.
Done Video/Doneover (mid-2000s)
The early 2000s saw a couple of full length Stockwell scene videos by the locals, Done Video and Doneover feature plenty of locals at the time smashing it including some killer Diego Doural footage in both and Stevie Thompson in the latter. Check out Done Video in full and some uploaded sections from Doneover below:
Out of Stock Jam (2006)
Some 2006 footage of Adam Johns, Jeremy Donaldson, Chris "Whip" Bisson and Stevie Thompson having it re-appeared in 2011 for a nearby exhibition.
Vaughan Baker in Monkeys in a Van (2009)
A revamped Stockwell is hit hard by Vaughan Baker, taking in most of the transitions the park has to offer...the last trick is savage!
Theeve Trucks - Chris Oliver Welcome Clip (2011)
Chris Oliver rips the park a new one in his Theeve Trucks welcome clip, taking some lesser seen lines and showing that a park or spot is never fully played out - especially one with the possibilities that the Beach offers.
Chris Jones SML Wheels section (2013)
Taking a short break from skating every semi-rideable bank in South London, Chris Jones decides to rip up a skatepark for SML Wheels before return to said crusty banks.
Arthur Derrien for Hélas Caps (2013)
Arthur Derrien hits up some lines at the park regular and switch with apparent ease, probably powered by something along these lines.
James Hall for Flicknife Clothing (2013)
Flicknife Clothing are a heavy part of the regular Stockwell session and James Hall always kills it, here are some leftovers while they film for a full length video.
Blast Skates - Blast at Bl'ast (2014)
This was my second or third day living in London, with an all day Stockwell session followed by a trip to see some bonafide hardcore legends with the crew giving me a very good feeling about the move.
Kingpin Magazine - The Scene: London
Kingpin's The Scene series reaches London, tipping its hat on the way to Stockwell and BMT with tricks from Tom Moatti, George Row, Josh Jennings and Chris Ault.
Carhartt and Kingpin Magazine - Phil Zwijsen's Time Chase (2014)
Phil Zwijsen is a beast, bringing two new tricks to the 'over the wall' book in the form of a kickflip footplant and a crooked grind on the electric box.
Polar Skateboards Tour (2014)
A short one from last year's Polar tour shows the David Stenstrom show in full effect; I turned up a fair while later than this and he was still charging the park full throttle with a power belied by his size.
Thrasher Vacation Yardsale (2014)
A couple of Grant Taylor lines and a Ben Broyd cameo whilst behind the scenes Phelps is being made to sweep up broken WKD bottles.
Ben Raemer's for Converse (2014)
Raemers charged hard throughout 2014, here's a small part of that charging in the form of an indy fastplant taken to the electric box.
BMT - Roadside Regulators (2014)
BMT mega edit featuring most of the park's usual suspects laying down general gnarliness, with special mention going to the Ben Broyd homing missile-type attack on almost all corners of the park.
Beach Life with Jack Moore (2014)
Jack Moore is a beach local and it shows - flying around the park ten times faster than most would care to try and displaying powerful steez even on Stockwell's most awkward quarters in this edit from Jelle Harnisfeger.
Rory Milanes, Switch Ollie
Photo: Sam Ashley
Photo: Paul Graham
Craig 'Questions' Scott, frontside invert
And you know Questions is down for life:
Invert photo: Rich West
Tattoo photo: Jono Coote