A couple of months back the skateboarding denizens of the internet collectively raised themselves from pixel-induced torpor to drool at the sight of a converted village hall, for sale on a property website, with the biggest room converted into a large wooden bowl. In fact it wasn’t just four wheeled fanciers taking notice – the story went viral enough to be picked up by news sources ranging from local Midlands papers to the BBC. After that, a period of quiet leading to an assumption that the house had been sold was broken by the appearance of Instagram and Facebook accounts for the Terrington Skate House, alongside numerous lo-fi web clips.
Curiosity well and truly piqued, and with some familiar faces amongst those appearing on said clips, I got hold of contact details through friends and messaged owner Rob Marsden about the possibility of visiting the house. He was fully down so we sorted out a date, rallied the troops and descended on rural Norfolk from various points around the country to chat to Rob about the house and, obviously, take advantage of its skateable confines.
Getting there late afternoon, our planned warm up at some street transitions in Kings Lynn was washed out by winter dampness so we headed over and got stuck into a session while the kettle boiled. Joxa showed the ‘local knowledge’ lines and correct tailblock techniques both frontside and backside, Wapo flowed around the hard-to-skate layout like water and Raemers had managed to throw himself at the brickwork above the transitions a number of times before an hour had passed. As more people trickled through the doors and the session got heated, my beaten legs started to cry out for a beer break; like any DIY build the bowl has some unusual features to figure out, with the nearest comparison we could get too being a smoother, more open version of Wonderland. It seemed like the perfect time to crack a can, leave the latecomers to fuel the session and catch up with Rob for a few words about how the whole thing came about…
So to start things off, how did you come to be the owner of a village hall as a house?
I was looking for a first house about fifteen years ago and it was either this or a terraced place on the same sort of budget, because this had been abandoned for years. I put the bid in, they rang me a few weeks later and the job was done. When I first moved in it didn’t have a bedroom or bathroom or anything, it had been a youth club when it was last open before I moved in. I had to build everything from scratch pretty much and I’m a mechanic, not a carpenter…hence why the bowl has a few unique features!
What brought on the decision to build a skateable obstacle inside your house? And how long ago was it built once you'd moved in?
So I left it pretty late to get into skating. A few of us went down to Newquay when I was about 28, went and bought boards and made a couple of friends down there. We visited Mount Hawke, I went in and went to the biggest ramp there thinking I’d have no problem. There were some kids in there looking at us like as we were older, we might be famous or something…as you can imagine, I failed spectacularly. But that was the start, I got bitten quite badly.
I thought maybe I could build something like this in private and learn how to fall with style. We didn’t have much in the way of parks around here at the time. It started as a little four foot ramp 13 odd years ago, I got the Thrasher book How to Build Skateboard Ramps which had a section on how to build bowls in and then started getting into corners.
How did it work out logistics wise? How many people did you have helping out?
Pretty much just me. I had a mate who finished work at 3pm, he stopped by two or three nights a week to help for a couple of hours, but the bulk of it was me. Plenty of blood, sweat and tears went into building it (laughs).
Have you had any problems with the council with regards to insurance etc?
No, no problems at all. I mean it’s been here that long that I imagine I’m cool for that sort of thing. I didn’t approach the council, it’s a free standing sort of thing and not structural…I haven’t really thought about that kind of thing to be honest!
And you’ve been having the regular Bowl Night sessions here recently…
Well the Bowl Night has been running for about ten years I suppose, just for people we know. We didn’t have any social media, but we’ve recently got a Facebook and Instagram page which one of the younger lads has taken on. It was really after we put it on the market that we got all the interest, which decided me that it was well worth hanging on to. I mean I didn’t want to lose it, it’s great!
So after the hype generated by the Rightmove ad, you decided not to sell it on?
Pretty much. There was so much interest, people offering stuff – I had a look around to see if there was somewhere suitable I could move my Range Rover business to and nothing really came up. With Christmas coming up I thought you know what, why am I thinking of moving? Once people start to take interest you look at it differently and don’t want to let it go. Perhaps if it had happened in summer and I’d have found a place then things would be different, but it worked out in the end.
Who have been the regular visitors and what is some of the gnarliest stuff you've seen go down at the sessions so far?
Joxa, Jozef (Szklaruk), Nathan (Farrow), Ben (Graver) - but everyone’s been getting on it really! Standards have been getting higher each time, even someone getting that inch higher up a transition. There’s a lot of room to try new things. It’s getting tested tonight, I’m hoping it’ll hold together…we’ve just been rolling around on it by comparison to tonight, it’s great.
You’ve also got the DJ booth hyping the session, and there’s a fairly extensive vinyl collection in here. When did that become a feature of the bowl?
Well we’ve often put it in there for Christmas and stuff, moved the turntables from in here, but it’s nice to have some tunes in there when everyone’s skating. I’ve been DJing for god knows how long, combining the two is quite nice – it means I can hide away up there when the session is happening (laughs), I’ve got a bad leg. The position is there for people too, I’ve said people can bring their vinyl when they come skate; but it’s vinyl only, I’m old school with that. It’s essential, the music really, it’s been a big part of my life.
And do you have particular tunes to fire up the session?
Quite a few – it’s a job to carry them all through there to be honest!
What does the future hold for the bowl? Are there any plans for further building at the house?
Well we put a couple of more extensions on this week, but just to add standing room for tonight because we knew it would be busy. I don’t really know if anyone has suggestions or where else we could go in here, we might have run out of room, but I’m always hyped for building extra bits…
Concrete outside perhaps, or a spot in town?
If I moved I’d definitely make some covered concrete…all weather sessions. I had a look at a farm down the road, but it was well beyond my reach. Maybe one day, concrete is easier to shape but I definitely don’t like falling on it. With this place there’s a slight amount of cushioning when you slam.
Do you find yourself waking up for work and thinking to yourself “I’ll just squeeze in a little roll around"?
I used to every day – every morning I’d open the curtains, the sun comes in, I’d stick some tunes on, lovely! 7 o’clock, I’d be down here pretty early before I had to go to work most days for probably five or six years. It’s only recently since my shoulder dislocation…and I did the other one about ten years ago, it’s never been right since. I’d love to say I still get out every day, but work is work. I never thought I’d let it get in the way, but it happens. You’ve just got to get your priorities right I suppose – people tell you you’ve got to grow up, but I’m not so sure…