student life

Skaters’ quest to S.O.S.: Save Our Southbank


Since the birth of skateboarding, or back then Sidewalk Surfing as it was known, skaters seemed to have had a bit of a hard time.

Since the birth of skateboarding, or back then Sidewalk Surfing as it was known, skaters seemed to have had a bit of a hard time. Struggling to be accepted by the rest of society (seen as yobs by elderly and…well the same by the cops), it’s been tough to banish the negative stereotype that comes with rolling around on wheels. (It’s not surprising the well-known poster saying ‘Skateboarders: Proudly annoying pedestrians since 1972’ has become so commercial.)

Skate parks are the one place where boarders can’t be moved on by authoritative figures. Somewhere where the council says ‘here you are, go wild.’ The only possible set back is when you arrive at a park to find it being dominated by scooter kids.           

Regardless, skaters have always been proud of their sport and its scene, and will seem to defend it to the bloody death! This is currently being proven as the skaters of London are defending what is rightfully theirs, as the well-known Southbank is under threat of being shut down to be turned into a retail area.

As a skater myself I may be a tad biased, but even if the words heelflip and boardslide mean nothing to you, I challenge you to YouTube a skater doing a loop the loop and tell me you would have the balls to try that, or watch Killian Martin and tell me what he does is not an art form itself. Whether skater or spectator, its appeal is universal.

The highly controversial decision to try and abolish the park has understandably outraged many and as a result of this, petitions and Facebook groups have been set up to fight against these plans. On Bank Holiday Monday, I went to Southbank as a three day event being held to raise awareness of the threat was concluding, and to get as many people on board (excuse the pun) with their petition as possible.  

I arrived in London and headed to Embankment. I then used my normal navigation technique of asking random people on the street for directions. One attempt included asking a street cleaner, who replied by saying he knew where NatWest and Lloyds where. Bless him. Eventually I was on the right track and as I walked across the Golden Jubilee Bridge I saw a lad in front carrying a skateboard. I finally caught up with his pace asked if I could walk with him as I didn’t know where I was going. Five minutes later Jonathon and I had become acquaintances and I won’t lie, he was rather cute.

I’m currently sat in the park which has certainly grabbed the attention of the public. Along the whole of the side are spectators, most of which look like they’ve never step foot on a skateboard. They seem to be fascinated by the skill involved in skating and perhaps the artistic vibes this park has to offer too. There isn’t an inch that isn’t covered in brightly coloured graffiti. At the entrances, staff members are embracing their bright orange t-shirts quoting ‘Long Live Southbank,’ as they are sat at tables collecting signatures for the petition against its closure. Skater or not, EVERYONE is signing it. It finally seems like the world isn’t against skateboarding, yet is supporting it instead. It’s nice to see people come together.

A variety of people came to show their support and enjoy a day of skating, including sponsored riders such as Dan Cates. But it’s not only the elite here—locals of the park, kids, teenagers, even complete novices! In fact, lessons are being offered to the public for free, so anyone and everyone is welcome! 

Videographers and photographers are present to capture some of the action and remember the day where the Southbank skaters joined forces and stuck their two fingers up at whatever moron it was who wanted to destroy such an iconic park and well known London landmark.

There are tourists to my left, a DJ to my right and everyone else is rolling around on a set of wheels, whether it be a board, a scooter (thankfully only a few) or a BMX. I have to say London has done incredibly well to defend its park in a peaceful yet powerful way and hopefully the signatures will be enough to keep it alive and well for years to come. 

Long live Southbank!

What do you think about the role of Southbank and the plan to abolish it? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.