The UK never had a regular video-magazine. Whilst 411 was enjoying quarterly success both at home in The States and throughout the rest of world, our little island couldn’t quite keep up. Obviously the climate in the UK doesn’t lend itself too kindly to frequent and full length video offerings (owing in large to weather, spots and injury, it’s safe to say that quality domestic company videos can take anywhere between one and five years to produce, for instance), but throughout the 1990’s, there were a good few contenders who were looking to fill that home-grown VM void.
Rollersnakes were first to see the gap and the market and jumped straight in with their short-lived VideoLog series. Between 1994 and 1996, Rollersnakes produced 7 instalments of VideoLog, which, along the way, featured full parts from the likes of Tom Penny, Frank Stephens, Harry, Geoff Rowley and Ben Rodriguez, alongside competition coverage, sections imported from overseas (Gershon Mosley in VL5 being one, Chad Muska and friends in VL6 being another) and extensive product ‘reviews’ for the latest in demand gear that Rollersnakes were stocking.
Summer 1996 saw Snakes pull the plug on VideoLog, leaving a big VHS shaped gap in the scene that was promisingly filled two years later with the appearance of Viewfinder #1. Filmed and edited by the likes of John Cattle, Ben Powell, Alan Glass, Tom Moore and various other hard-grafting lensmen of the time, this 30 minute first offering featured skating of every type from as many different areas of the UK as their 8mm tapes could reach. Top pro’s, up and comers, legends, local heroes, visiting friends…the amount of people included is seemingly endless. Twelve months went by and Viewfinder #2 appeared in skateshops just in time for Christmas 1999. Clocking in at just under an hour in length, #2 covered more ground, featured more people and generally covered everything that happened around the UK that year that wasn’t already earmarked for in progress company releases from the likes of Blueprint and Unabomber, and accurately documented the state of the British skate scene in the lead up to the new millennium. Accompanied with a soundtrack as unpredictable and eclectic as the skateboarding, #2 is, to this day, still widely regarded as a classic amongst UK VHS enthusiasts.
Issues #3 and #4 appeared in 2000 and 2002 respectively, by which time those involved in the gathering of footage for Viewfinder found themselves heavily involved in other video projects, leaving John Cattle largely in charge of the VF vessel. After several years seemingly lost in the wilderness, Viewfinder #5 saw Cattle and co. step into the DVD arena with a double disc offering made up of recent footage, archive clips, UFOs and plenty more visual oddities.
It’s no secret that the internet pretty much replaced the video-magazine over the course of the 2000’s, but the first four Viewfinders contain some pivotal moments in UK skateboarding that deserve to be applauded. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some of the finer sections from the series for you either to be stoked on for the first time (if they somehow passed you by or you were unfortunately too young/not born upon the time of their release) or for you to reminisce over if you were paying attention to UK releases during the late 90’s through to the early 00’s.
Engage your eyeballs, grab yourself a brew, sit yourself down and enjoy…
Mark Baines - VF#1
Like a lot of sections from the first Viewfinder, Mark’s appearance here is short and to the point. A Milton Keynes staple gets a seeing to, a transitioned church wall in Sheffield get tre-flipped off of and the old block at Radlands bears witness to some mid 90’s certified UK ledge progression.
Added bucket hat steez for the glow-stick posse.
Carl Shipman/Lee Shipman – VF#1
Having found himself unable to re-enter America following the release of Stereo’s duo of VHS offerings ‘A Visual Sound’ and ‘Tincan Folklore’, in 1998 Carl Shipman was back on home turf in Worksop and could be frequently seen passing on winter evenings in the nearby undercover haven of Rehab (Unit E), Wakefield. Here’s a 30 second glimpse at a couple of heavy sessions with Carl at the legendary Yorkshire park, also featuring a few tricks from his brother Lee. He killed it as well.
‘Places and Faces’ – VF#1
The first solid montage of the first Viewfinder release – featuring such familiar faces as Mark Channer, Gustav Edan, Morgan “Traveling Uncle Morgan" Campbell, Andy Scott, Tom Penny, James Hacker and Neil Urwin.
Harry – VF#1
Mass-eye ollies, grinds on taller than your average flatbars, a car-bashing cameo from Unabomber OG Pete Hellicar and some eye-watering fruit consumption…it’s Harry Bastard pre-Unapromo; embrace the rawness.
John Cattle – VF#1
It’s no secret that Viewfinder just wouldn’t be Viewfinder if it weren’t for John Cattle. Not only has he been firmly rooted behind the scenes since the first release, he’s also managed to come through with hefty amounts of footage for near enough all the videos to date too. Here’s John’s short section from VF#1 filmed on his native Isle of Wight (with some Radlands chucked in for good measure) as John’s stint as part of the emerging Blueprint/Panic camp was coming to an end.
Jimmy Boyes - VF#1
Want someone to ride off the roof of your Land Rover into a bank? Need someone to chuck a medicine ball through the screen of your pesky TV? Found yourself some fire that somehow needs to be incorporated into a wallride?
Jimmy Boyes is obviously your man.
About as energetic and brilliantly rugged as it gets with words of wisdom to boot…
Flynn Trotman – VF#1
In between banging out back-to-back parts for Blueprint, gathering footage for the early Fifty-Fifty videos and dominating every event he could drag his frame to, Flynn Diesel also somehow found time to hammer out another full part for the first Viewfinder!
It’s hard to put into words exactly how productive Flynn was back during the late 90’s; the vast catalogue of video parts and photos out there in cyberspace and beyond will more than stand testament to his output though.
Paul Silvester and Rob Burn – VF#1
Back in 1998, Leeds was a very different city than the one you probably think of now. You could easily count the amount of locals who were nationally known on one hand, there was no indoor park, and Hyde Park was either still in its original wooden incarnation, or had just received its equally as appalling Scaletrix upgrade.
Most of the areas most promising kids vanished almost overnight (Leeds resident Wayne Hemmingway was actually name-checked by Baines in an early Sidewalk interview as his tip for great things) with only a handful of the then youth still skating today.
Two of the names which are probably most well known from Leeds in 1998 were relocated Huddersfield head Paul 'Man' Silvester, and Rob Burn, who rode for Blueprint for a brief spell during their early years. Whereas Paul is now regarded as a stalwart of the UK scene, Rob went AWOL not too long after he originally appeared, never coming close to fulfilling the promise that he displayed during his fleeting time in the public eye.
Aside from the Blueprint/PNC release ‘Anthems’ and a couple of occasional tricks on Yorkshire scene videos, this Viewfinder section is probably the most concentrated amount of Rob Burn footage that exists.
Radlands 98 – VF#2
The legend that is Chris Ince once again keeping the indoor flame burning as only he could, this time around for Radland’s Sixth Anniversary jam.
The cream of the UK scene descend upon Northampton for the 1998 gathering, which sees the likes of Marc Churchill, Paul Carter, Mike Manzoori, Howard Cooke, Scott Palmer, Frank Stephens, Chris Pulman and more getting involved, all of which is set to a banging Beenie Man track.
Plymouth, Belfast and St Albans – VF#2
F*ck the winter, head indoors like Alex Moul, Flynn Trotman, Julien Molyneux, Pete Helicar, Mat Davies, Paul Carter, Mike Manzoori, Paul Silvester, Bernard Rae, John Rattray, Dan Cates, Carl Shipman, Pritchard, Scott Palmer, Vaughan Baker, Greg Nowik, Rodney Clarke and Danny Wainwright did.
Chris Pulman – VF#2
Way before Descent and a good few years ahead of his joining Fos’ Heroin empire, Chris Pulman was the UK’s ambassador for Foundation Skateboards, holding down the fort around the South coast, London and Wales, even scoring himself a quick Stateside cameo in Foundations 1999 video ‘Nervous Breakdown’.
Pizzer’s penultimate section on Viewfinder #2 is a sterling two-minute display of properly popped no-complies, inspiring use of unorthodox coastal terrain and a perfect dipping into the Boogie Nights sountrack for the choice of song.
Oxford/Alex Moul – VF#2
Made up of footage from the streets, parks and schoolyards of Oxford, alongside a few cheeky clips from London, this here is Alex Moul at his late 90’s, UK based finest, filmed upon his return from America where he had re-established himself as part of the expanding Flip empire alongside Ali Boulala and Eric Borkcman.
The first part this particular Mouly section also doubles up as a Oxford based montage, featuring passing faces such as Harry, Frank Stephens, Flynn Trotman, Vaughan Baker and plenty of others.
PS – ‘Little Donut’ is actually an embryonic Ross McGouran.
PPS – Mouly never got to ride for The Firm, though Lance Mountain apparently did end up see the footage.
‘No War for Heavy Metal’ tour (abridged) – 1999.
Following the release of Viewfinder#2, Channel 4’s documentary series The Other Side decided it would be a good idea to give the VF crew the chance to film a weeklong tour video and air the thing on the channel some time deep in winter 1999.
With Alan Glass, John Cattle, Tom Moore and Kingy on organisation/documentation duties, and John Rattray, Flynn Trotman, Paul Carter, Frank Stephens, Dan Cates, Nick Zorlac, Joel and Seth Curtis, Mark Channer, Alan Rushbrooke, and Harry Bastard all in tow to handle the skateboarding, what resulted was effectively a groundbreaking 30 minute tour video come TV show where spitting on the bible, admiration of service station porn mags and Cates’ outlandish outfits were all projected directly into the front rooms of the unsuspecting nation. The full thing is online somewhere I’m sure, but for now, here’s the abridged version.
Osiris Aftermath Tour – VF#3
Smolik Athletic Goods?
Smolik Athletic Dudes?
Brown Ale, Oatmeal Stout?
Tell me about your trousers?
The early 00’s were an interesting place…
Peter Smolik, Chad Fernandez, Dave Mayhew, Chad Knight, Kanten Russell, Chris Pulman, Stu Graham, Danny Wainwright, Will Gilbard, Rodney Clarke, Andy Scott, Gary Chevalier and more get stuck into the Osiris ‘Aftermath’ Tour…
Paul Silvester and friends – VF#3
Paul Silvester holds down the closing section from the third Viewfinder, featuring Man taking care of some Brighton based business, alongside cameos from Ben Blake, Bob Sanderson, Frank Stephens, Benny Fairfax, Alan Rushbrooke and others.
“At least it weren’t any bones…"
Liverpool Deathmatch 2000 – VF#4
Pretty simple really – transitional madness, the kind that only a city such as Liverpool could host.
“This is the Liverpool Deathmatch. F*ck. Off."
With Stu Graham, Howard Cooke, Foxy, Joe Habgood, Doug McLaughlan and more.
Ireland – VF#4
Classic shredding from across the Emerald Isle, with Bernie Rae, Wayne Gallagher, Bruce "The Ox" Kelliher, Jer Evans and others, and appearances from visitors and familiar VF faces such as Frank Stephens, Matt Davies and Howard Cooke.
Alex Moul park section – VF#4
It’s 8am, there’s no fisheye for the camera, Mouly has cornrows and the now deceased Huntington Beach skatepark is calling.
Some after-credit park business from the age-old pairing of Alex Moul and Ben Powell…
Tom Penny unseen 1995/1996 footage – VF#4
So after the main Viewfinder #4 video was finished, there was close to another whole hour of ‘after the credits’ footage, featuring everything from BMXers to ex-pats to female breasts. It was undoubtedly a journey into the random, but if you persevered with it, you were greeted by some absolute gems.
These two short edits of largely unseen Tom Penny clips from around 1995/1996 were hidden in and amongst the collected post-credit madness, and definitely caught most who bore witness by complete surprise.
No one can front on footage of a young Teeps cruising Radlands in his prime, so this three minutes of buried nonchalant gold quickly became a heavily rewound highlight of the whole release.
Mini Brady – VF#4
Who’s the Monkey? - VF#4
I don’t know.
Ask Chris Forder.