Finsbury Park – Unleashed

Finsbury Park in North London is a huge green space stuck right in the middle of chaos.

I lived there in 1994 for 3 years, we were burgled twice, the car done once. I only revisit when i have to, as the area has become a serious dumping ground for stinking chavs, illegal immigrants and drug dealers.

Traffic pours through there in droves, it gets clogged up, people are tired looking and hang out in gangs with pitbulls. But on a positive note, Arsenal Stadium is just round the corner and just outside the tube station have a bagel shop that rocks, especially if you like saltbeef and pickle.

The park hosts the occasional festival annually, in fact the last bands i saw their on the same bill where The Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop in the late 90’s – one of the best shows that park has witnessed to date, but now, the park has concrete to skate, so we went to check it out a week after the last pour went down.

As we moved up the hill towards the park it is clearly far from finished. The area around the bowls are still covered in scrap wood, pipes and bricks but the first thing we noticed about the park itself is that it has a really strange layout that could be fun. The park was built by Fearless Ramps also known for their concrete build at Dagenham which has some nice lines but this bowl in Finsbury Park is tight. They were obviously stripped of a budget like all parks seem to be in London. Same old story.

Locals we spoke to who sat in on committee meetings mentioned that the mellow bowls at the Southern point of the park were supposed to be a small bowl with a spine in the middle of it, until people shouted “what about us street skaters” and instead of building ledges, a manny pad and stairs across a flat smooth surface and scrapping the bowl idea altogether, the design was changed and a block with coping edges was dumped into the middle of this mess making it very difficult to skate. If you hit the tranny straight up and down, you then have to avoid this block at your peril. This is just word of mouth though so not set in stone.

The bowl is as tight as arseholes. Too tight to really enjoy a great session there. There is nothing like flowing around a bowl and although you can have fun in there, you just wished it was bigger. Greysocks managed to skate it well as he can shred anything in sight but to be honest even he was struggling to keep his lines flowing without running out of space. We met a guy called Jake who ripped it. He even managed to get a fs grind up the ridiculous escalators that were dumped in there but yet again, it’s so tight that you run out of ideas after hitting a few walls. Also, if you ever run into Jake, ask him about the egg he has on his elbow due to the PLASTIC drain installed, yep, it’s a wheel killer.

I asked every person skating what they thought of this park out of 10 and the average figure that came back from 10 skaters was 5.5. The fact that London STILL does not have a World Class Plaza/Skatepark still bemuses us all and this tiny park and the new surface that ruined Stockwell are the latest additions to taking us further away from skating really decent parks. The better the parks, the better the skaters.

In addition to this news, locals from Cantelowes were skating with us at Finsbury Pk who also report that the plans for their local in Camden are completely up in the air due to budgets and designs conflicting, so the project is currently on ice with local media sniffing around trying to help skaters to voice their opinions.

In other London skatepark news, we hear on the grapevine that Rich “Holland” Badger who recently designed the Interstices Exhibition at the Lille Expo (click here to read a feature on this exhibition) has designed a street plaza for a new indoor park in London Bridge but this is far from done. With gas pipes becoming an issue and the council being fans of prefabricated skate ramps, it has reached a sticky point. More on this soon but Badger is also designing the new street plaza for Bay Sixty6.

If you want amazing parks to skate, don’t travel to Central London right now, all our parks are good, but just not amazing. The 2 most recent concrete parks worth skating are in Potters Bar and mainly Boreham Wood made by Freestyle. Travel up North instead as up there, they seem to be on a level par with the rest of the world, or even down South to Bournemouth. Maybe London is just too expensive to get shit done, maybe people just take the money and don’t give a shit, but with key people sitting in on meetings about council funded skate parks, there should be no room for errors such as the tightness of Finsbury Park but as i said before, some people will love it’s quirkiness, we are all different. I just hope that one day we will have the luxury of watching the real skate park designers and builders sign up to the UKSA and hopefully like regular builders, their work will be stamped with an official UKSA badge so we know what parks are worthwhile and ones that are just shite can be ignored. We also hear that a UK pro vert skater is thinking about organising a UK skate park book. With lots of new parks being built all over the country right now, it may well be needed.

Finsbury Park is located in North London. You can get there by tube on the Victoria Line.
Click here for a map of the tube.

When you leave the station, head along the main road and follow your nose to Finsbury Park, you can’t miss it, it’s opposite a bagel shop. Go into the main entrance, up the hill and you will find the park on the left hand side of the tennis courts.

Chuck Bangers

Written May 10th 2006