Powerslide your way through Scottish headlands with German skater Markus Blessing as he rolls through the elements filmed by Daniel Mildner and Dennis Götz. Their short film vision is to capture his skating across lands that have never felt urethane before, whatever the weather.
“This unbelievable country carved its everlasting imprint on my mind. And only that one thing underneath my feet lets me know, I got to go. Ahead.“
This Thursday, the people of Scotland vote on whether to remain part of the UK or to carve off alone into the 70s bowl of nationhood, executing a slash grind that’d make David Cameron’s eyes water in the process. In giddy preparation, we flung emails to the northern winds, keen to hear what Scottish skaters thought of independence and our shared little world of radness. As a naïve Englishman, I was surprised that pretty much everyone we contacted didn’t feel able to say very much, which could mean one of the following:
1. Things have gotten so polarised and excitable, what with angry protests outside the BBC HQ in Glasgow n’all, that no deep-thinking Scot would fancy the idea of opening that can of worms, at least until after the dust has settled.
2. That no one thinks that the referendum means two shites for skateboarding – things will go on much the same either way.
3. Or that dudes can detect my guilt-ridden Englishness a mile off, and guess that I may be descended from peasants dragged north with ol’ king Long Shanks to end up splattered across sharp sticks held by Mel Gibson et al.
For full disclosure, I have strong sympathies with the case for independence, not least in never having to listen to an Old Etonian again. But there are risks, for tiny skate concerns as well as those proper grown-up issues discussed elsewhere.
On the plus side the expectation is that an independent Scotland will be more politically ‘progressive’ than the UK. Alex Salmond implores us to think of Norway or Denmark – a small, social democratic country, where people are nice to each other. This is the main reason given by large numbers of lifelong Labour voters switching to the ‘yes’ camp recently. You can almost guarantee that an independent Scotland will never have a Conservative government. Cue greater investment in public spaces (rather than ‘leaving it to the market’), fewer knee-jerk ‘ban skating’ bye laws, and a far greater chance of learning from our more progressive northern-European cousins. I can’t imagine any Government in Westminster green-lighting a Bryggeriet-style skate school, but Holyrood may well be more inclined to think outside the box. Scottish Higher Education is already the envy of the English, due to its rejection of the £9,000 cap on tuition fees. An independent Scotland could see an even greater level of students travelling to study in Scottish universities – not just from England, but from all over the world. An increased influx of students from a wide variety of places each year is usually good for a skate scene.
More widely, if ‘yes’ wins the day, a heady surge of excitement and national pride should follow, accompanied by international interest in the ‘new’ nation, a big shot in the arm for events, tours, etc. Not that Scottish skaters necessarily need this – being a proactive bunch n’all.
On the other hand, the principal risk is money – both for the big picture (whether Scotland can keep the Pound, what will happen to national borrowing costs, etc.) and for skateboarding. Anyone who has skated in both England and Scotland over the last decade will have noticed how amazingly served Scotland is by outdoor concrete. When I first skated Perth, Dundee and Stevenson back in 2006, I had quite literally never seen anything like it. A lot of this park building came from physical regeneration funding, provided centrally from Westminster (with the addition of EU money) – and Scotland does quite well out of this. The ONS estimate that, in 2012/13, public money spent in Scotland was equivalent to £10,152 per head, compared to £8,529 in England and £8,788 in the UK overall. There is good reason for this, with a number of highly economically deprived communities in Scotland in dire need of public cash, some of which finds its way into funding excellent skate parks.
However, an independent Scotland would have to find this money from its own taxation – without the rest of the UK pitching in (in tax terms, Scotland currently puts £7,056 per household into the national pot, compared to an average of £7,360 in the UK overall). So, despite having a Government that may be keener on investing in rad stuff, there may be less money around to do it – at least in the short term.
The other potential negative is the impact on a shared ‘UK’ skate scene. Scottish skating has a unique character, whether it be Livi-gnarl and booze-fuelled coping killing or Bristo-trained Kinetic Kennedy street tech’ (I still advocate Colin as the UK’s answer to Kalis – but with the world’s best back 360 to match Kalis’ tres flip mastery. They share the nollie flip crown). But it’s a difference within a wider united scene. English skaters travel up and kill War of the Thistles, and the Scots return the favour for War of the Roses. Even some southerners make it as far as Livi fun day, and don’t whine about the rain and the scary kids toooo much. OG Blueprint – when proudly a ‘UK company’ – were heavily represented by Scottish rippers, alongside Welsh and Irish heads. Maybe skateboarding has consistently been one of the things that we really are ‘better off together’ doing – to nick the ‘no’ campaign’s cheesey slogan. Could we maintain this with independence?
The Benelux and Scandinavian countries each share a healthy sense of shared scene (and industry) alongside distinctive national elements. Maybe England, Wales and Northern Ireland will do the same with an independent Scotland. The skate scene in the Republic of Ireland is pretty closely hooked up to the UK scene – and has been well covered by British skate mags over the years. So fragmenting off and not talking to each other again isn’t a given, but it may be a risk.
Focus Skate shop’s Glasgow store shut it’s doors last night and said farewell to the city. Their Edinburgh shop is still 100% active but this message was posted last night as they put the lights out after 7 years of service to the skate scene up there.
“And that as they say, is that. Farewell Glasgow, it’s been a pleasure these last 7 years and all that’s left to say is thank you. Thanks to each and every person who’s been involved with the shop since the early days at King Street to the final days at Argyle Street. Thanks to every single person who spent money with us and kept the doors open all these years. Hopefully we’ll be back one day but come see us in Edinburgh or visit our site at www.focuspocus.co.uk Thanks!
Sometimes you have to push the boat out to get what you want, and that’s exactly what a crew of East Lothian skaters did in October to raise money for a new skatepark. With Livingston’s bowl 30 miles away, a bunch of fund raisers got together for a charity skate and managed to drum up £25,000 of cash towards a new park after skating constantly for 53 hours. Teams of three operated in shifts of 3 hours to make this work. Get out there and do it for your local scene.
Interview by Ralph Lloyd Davis Photo’s: Davy Van Laere 10 tricks video by Ralf Goossens
Let’s start with the obvious. How long have you been skating and where did it all begin?
I’ve been skating for 9 years now and I started in Mechelen on a small mini ramp at the local swimming pool.
I have seen you at lots of skate events around Belgium, do you travel by yourself or move with a crew of friends?
Hmmmm. Usually with some friends who where down to go. Most of the time though it’s different people because not too many of my friends are into contest skating.
Who did you start skating with? Do you still skate with the same crew?
I started skating with people from my little hometown next to Mechelen, but after a while we kind of grew apart and I went skating with older guys from Mechelen. It was fun because they had a car already so I didn’t have to pay for shitty train journeys anymore, just the food. The first crew we had was pretty dope we had a realyl good time and made some videos too. It was me, Kristof (a.k.a. Den Dikke), Stefan (a.k.a. Ellington), Jente (a.k.a. Voorspoels) (laughs) and Robin Marien. We had the name ‘Lala Crew’. (laughs) Now two of them are skating again but they don’t have too much time with work and school which sucks because they skate super-good.
Ellington? I guess he’s a fan of Erik’s skating.
Yeah, he skates like Erik Ellington a lot!
Watch Jarne knock out 10 tricks for Muckefuck in the local concrete hole.
Who are your influences?
That’s hard to say but my first influence was probably the Flip ‘Sorry’ video. I watched it everyday but it didn’t really made sense too me because I didn’t know any tricks, it just motivated me too skate. These days I like to watch Wes Kremer, a lot of Skate Mafia stuff and as for others, I don’t know, any skaters who have fun!
Did you look up to any Belgian skaters? I know Hans Claessens us a a rad skater and skates everything. You seem to skate everything too. Is there a connection?
Oh yeah! We watched the Homemade videos (Local skate videos highlighting the Belgian scene filmed by resident pro Geoffrey Van Hove – Ed.) a lot too but we didn’t really look at the names so we didn’t know who was who. Only when we recognized somebody from Mechelen (laughs).
There are not many casual skateparks in Belgium, or not around where I live, so you can’t really skate the same stuff every day. You have to skate everything to skate a lot here, otherwise your always stay in the same place. Also, I like to skate shitty spots and that’s what we have here for sure. (laughs)
Haha! Yes, Belgium is no Barcelona that’s for sure.
What I wanted to say is that I get to skate more now with Hans and its really sick to see him back on his board like before. I have a lot of respect for him. It’s really motivating too.
I know you skate a lot of transition, does that help with street skating?
I don’t know. Maybe it helps you go faster or something, but it sure doesn’t help your pop. (laughs)
True true. Tell me how you got sponsored. Was it through skating contests or did you send sponsor-me tapes out? How did you get on Element?
A friend of mine started a clothing company and sponsored me for a while. The skate shop from Mechelen (Core – Ed.) helped me out a lot at the same time by talking to the Belgian distributor Transind. I also think Phil Zwijsen had filmed some internet clips and was so happy about it and showed it to them. (laughs) I filmed a lot with him that winter and he presented it to the team manager I think.
Phil rides for Element too and lives in Barcelona. Are you staying with him right now? Do you get to travel together a lot?
I saw him last week when I was in Barcelona, but just for a couple of days because he went to a contest in Austria. We usually skate together on Element trips but for the rest he’s always on tour or in Barca. When he’s in Belgium we skate together a lot.
Backside Crail on some seriously heavy metal. Ph: DvL
What’s Muckefuck? I saw you had a pro wheel with them.
Muckefuck is an Austrian brand that makes boards and wheels. I skate for the wheel part and everyone from the team got a pro model. It’s really sick. I saw some kids at the skatepark that bought my wheels and they are really good. I’m really happy about it.
Where have you traveled with skateboarding? What was your favourite town/country to visit?
Hmmm…I don’t know really. I went to the same countries a lot and it was always a little different. I went to Scotland a couple of years ago and I really liked it there. Man, it was pretty rough but there was a lot of nature too and a sick contest. Istanbul and Budapest are really sick too. I also like Spain a lot. There’s always good weather, good food, good spots.
Istanbul? I didn’t know that. Did you go to Livi in Scotland? It’s one of the oldest concrete skateparks in the country.
Yeah, Istanbul is a really hectic place but such good spots and weird food. I went to Livingston but it was raining, we just drove past it and checked it a little but it was just fun being there (laughs). It just sucked we couldn’t skate it!
It rains a lot in Scotland. You should try and get there this summer!
Yeah indeed! It rained there almost all the time we were there I think (laughs). It would be sick too go back.
Jarne spends his time skating the globe. Frontside ollie to ball anyone? Ph: DvL
You went on the Kingpin Drive trip, what was that like? Any good stories?
Yeah, that was a crazy trip man super sick! We went swimming in a super nice lake somewhere in Austria close to the cradle skatepark. where Rodrigo did the crazy Hugo Liard drop in. That was crazy because you had to aim between some rocks otherwise you were probably dead. Manuel Margreiter was doing front flips into it (laughs) but he’s a local you know, he’s been there before (laughs).
With all the traveling, how do you manage school? Do you still go to school? What do your parents think of your skating “career”?
Yeah, I still go to school. I almost quit just before because I was going on a lot of trips and it didn’t look like I was going to make it, but I got some free time so I can catch up while the others have lessons. I don’t know what you call it in English but its like lessons for starting your own business. It sucks that I’ll miss some lessons but it’s good to have the diploma at least. My parents are cool with it, my mother even said I could stop school and just skate, so that got me a bit confused so I carried on going anyway (laughs). Having a diploma is good though, and if I quit now I would have done all this slaving for nothing (laughs)…
Ha! Good luck with the diploma. School helps in the long term but skating and traveling can teach you life lessons. Your English is pretty good. Is this because of school or did skateboarding and traveling help? Was it difficult in the beginning?
Thanks! I hope I get it the diploma! I learned a lot of English from TV actually. I have older sisters and they always watched The Simpsons and Friends and stuff (laughs). So I learnt a lot of English from there and now when you travel you speak a lot of English too. I learned a lot of French on trips too but not enough to do interviews (laughs).
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know, just skate, try make a bit of a living from it, move to Barcelona, work a bit and go on trips. I’ll see what happens. I just have to get a diploma first and then I’m free to go!
Is there anyone you would like to thank?
I would like to thank all my sponsors and everybody who helps me out right now, muchas gracias!
When Scottish skater Kerr McLachlan asked us to share his online artwork last week, we gave him a test to Smell The Glove and this sexist offering based on cult heavy metal film Spinal Tap is what came back in return.
You can see the rest of Lois and Kerr’s artwork on their fb page.
The Scottish skate romp that is War of the Thistles returns this year, regardless of the fact that its compatriot event War of the Roses is taking a sabbatical. The Scots will be welcoming skaters across the country on the weekend of 26th-27th of May with Transition Extreme skatepark hosting the Saturday and Transgression Skatepark in Edinburgh taking care of Sunday’s carnage. Share this and start planning your travel and accomodation to save dough in advance. All details can be found at www.skateboardscotland.com
The Focus One Day Sale takes place this Saturday the 12th November from 11m to 6pm at 40 Osborne Street, Glasgow next to the St Enoch car park and 13th Note. Up to 75% off Stussy, Vans, Supra, Carhartt, Obey, Dickies, Converse, Nike SB and more. If you are local, get those xmas presents sorted. Click here for the facebook page.
Whatever the reason, there are little things better than writing a news piece about John Rattray. The same goes with reading ’em, it means there’s something rad coming your way. This is no exception.
John Rattray has updated his Predatory Bird blog again in a slightly off-character non-esoteric fashion. The post contains a stream of photos taken while John was filming for that amazing Artist Reel for Elwood.
Click on the ridiculousness below and have a read.