Four Small Ways Skateboarding Can Change the World

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Every sub-culture believes their people are better than the bozos on the outside. Skateboarders have a notable tendency towards exceptionalism. We collectively fail to distinguish between good and terrible skate art. We believe authority should leave us be, whether we are respectful or pig ignorant towards other users of public space. If we see the world differently, with unique expectations of life, work and the city – is this potentiality ever realised? If it isn’t, we may as well be any other group of beer-chugging jocks.

Almost half-way through 2017 and the world is still chain-barfing 2016’s dirty pint, exhausted by elections that serve only the politicians who call for them. If we engage (and you should engage… please vote), it is more out of habit or forlorn hope than genuine belief that things can change for the better. Optimists see hope in the millions galvanised to protest, choking up airports to make Islamophobic travel bans unenforceable, filling town squares to hear a man that looks a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi speak of good, old-fashioned socialism. But we’ve been here before. Although hyper-capitalism has failed in its pledge that each new generation will be better off than their parents, its Randian high priests still sit at the very top of the hill. The sadly departed cultural critic Mark Fisher, known by his blog moniker K-punk, noted: “From the G20 protests, to the millions marching against the Iraq war, to the Arab Spring, to the short-lived student campaign against fees in the UK – the narrative of evental politics since the late 1990s has been reliably repetitious. Euphoric outbursts of dissent are followed by depressive collapse.” Big acts of resistance fail because we cannot imagine any serious alternative to the current way of things.

Illustration: Jason Lennox.

THEY-LIVE-Jason-Lenox-Low-ResI was too busy failing to broaden my flip repertoire through the early 2000s to pick up on the radical thinkers that clustered around Fisher, and am now reading their ideas on ‘hauntology’ with neophyte zeal. This describes a state in which, with no impetus to create anything genuinely new, we are haunted by past visions of the future. Nagging memories of how things should have been are whispered by the ghosts of the 1960s, when man dreamed of space travel and the vast, imposing architecture that brought the modern to the everyday. In contrast, today’s pop culture, politics and economics recycle the past in ever more rapid loops. Baggy-as-hell, light-ass-denims are back, y’all. We are detached spectators, ironically curating, rather than actively reshaping our lives.

Skateboarders are avid consumers and hoarders. We commodify nostalgia’s warm snuggle. But skating is also all about practice over theory: playfulness and participation, which has the potential to be radical (in both senses of the word). We inhabit the city and the everyday with piss and vinegar, and yet, in the most urbanised century in humanity’s existence, still wait to have politics done to us – buffeted along by the story instead of framing the narrative. Long Live Southbank helped change this, doing what Surfers Against Sewage did for surfing in the early 90s: taking responsibility for our environment with an infectious energy and globe-spanning visual language.

I hate Trump, May, Farage and their ilk more than the generation of failed ‘moderates’ (read neoliberal ideologues) they usurped, and am truly terrified for the future. Although most big fights feel lost, despite what the entrail reading of recent UK election polling may suggest – now is exactly the time for little, local and everyday actions that can help push humanity’s stalled jalopy back onto the Enlightenment’s journey towards new and better. Skateboarders can do, and are doing, more to be part of the resistance: these are four things to start with.

SKATE THE STREETS, ALWAYS

Skateboarding imbues the city and our leisure time with purposes beyond consuming or spectating. On Swedish radio, Sidewalk’s Ben Powell and Skate Malmö’s Gustav Svanborg Edén declared skateboarding “inherently political”, which made me want to high-5 the pair of them. Street skating claims our ‘right to the city’ in an age of privatised space and demonstrates, in public, what the human body is capable of in an age of sedentary work and leisure. We know this to be true since the opening frames of ‘Welcome to Hell’, and know in our bones when we are 17 years old, but forget by 35. In an interview with Sidewalk, one of the coolest fucking things I’ve read came from Andy Wood, the owner of Endemic, Huddersfield’s skateshop. In his 40s with a young family, he skates fast, pops over handrails and describes skating the streets as a responsibility for older skaters: how can we complain that the kids, with their abundant and accelerating skillsets, never leave the park if scene elders don’t set an example? By continuing to street skate alongside real-life responsibilities, we change what it means to be an ‘adult’ – and no diggity it needs changing.

joshmIn the EU Referendum and US Presidential election a generational chasm opened to leave poor Wile E. Coyote flailing in the air. The media characterised those who voted to turn the clock back as old, white and resentful of an unknowable future, whilst the young, who by and large voted differently, were smug, consumerist, over-educated ‘metropolitan elites’ (who simultaneously can’t afford to pay rent). Mainstream sport is little help, separating coaches from sullenly obedient players and audiences from participants. In skateboarding, kids shred with salty seadogs old enough to be their parents. Ordinary sports, or Britain’s inefficient and hierarchical businesses (where senior managers fail to say “hi” to lowly co-workers), remind you just how potentially powerful our little world can be.

If you want to see the sort of respectful negotiation of space no longer valued in the UK after 40 years of “there’s no such thing as society” (Thatcher) or, if society does exist, it’s “broken” and we are somehow to blame (Cameron), go skate a Scandinavian city or read our article on the scene in Malmö. Street skateboarding produces authentic, inclusive and active urban spaces, which we must negotiate with people of totally different ages, occupations and interests (in contrast to being penned in skateparks with people just like us). Every time you disprove the prejudices of a pedestrian, you win a small victory that reverses the erosion of our collective social capital. If we’ve given up on education being primarily to “make a man ethical” as Hegel believed, we can bring a small part of his ideal classroom to the sidewalk: by not being dickheads, and not ever quitting.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL

Thousands of words have been written on the role of skateshops as youth clubs, first and last sponsors, community hubs and cottage production lines transforming civilians into skateboarders. We can all agree on their importance, but have no idea how to save them.

mackey If Lost Art can run aground, the challenges facing the Skater-Owned-Shop look insurmountable. Liverpool One (a new generation of sinisterly clever neoliberal shopping centres, erasing the line between high street and private property) forced independent retailers from the centre. Then rents soared as the rest of the city gentrified and the fickle patronage of Nike turned to Janoski-stacked JD Sports and Sizes. Mackey sees future survival in terms of fundamentally re-thinking what a skateshop is for: back to hardgood basics and building links with other local independents – bars, tattoo parlours, book and print stores. Similarly, legendary Athens ripper Vassilis Aramvoglou has kept Color Skates running amidst Greece’s recession and sovereign debt crisis, focusing on similar fundamentals and building a relationship with a local bicycle courier to provide their sole means of goods delivery, sacking off tech utopians like Deliveroo (blinkered to the misery they bring to a precarious labour market) and keeping scarce wealth circulating between firms that genuinely support their city.

But this is still less than half the solution. We punters need to earn our mates’ rates: organise events, art and photo shows and video nights, think how your business, employer or townhall can work with your local SOS. In Huddersfield (again), an assortment of tweakers self-publish Achezine, drawing on skills and facilities from the town’s higher and further education establishments, working on an exhibition, a bespoke ‘no-comply’ lager brewed by the independent next door, and a film premiere in Huddersfield’s lovely Victorian shopping arcade: locating Endemic within the heart of its community. Or Boston’s Orchard, who worked with like-minded social enterprises to keep a free-to-use skatepark running through the harsh Massachusetts winter. Once upon a time, in proud industrial towns, customers, workers and owners came together as cooperatives. With never-ending austerity promised by an Old Etonian from a golden chair, our cities are not going to be regenerated beyond the fire-sale of social housing and green spaces and token ‘creative quarters’ that are often anything but (see Southampton). Shop staffers and lurkers who moan about their scene, as the till rusts shut, need to stop seeing themselves as ‘just’ a shop or ‘just’ customers.

START SOMETHING

The West worships the entrepreneur: on TV and in the Whitehouse. Skateboarders have marvelled at Rocco’s saga for 20 years. But while the wider world reveres modern day robber barons as ‘job creators’, the only jobs skateboarding creates in any volume are in retail or yet more sponsored skateboarders. The production of skateboards – luxury items which are predominantly purchased in the world’s richest countries – survives not through differentiation, but on the lowest possible marginal costs. Economists warn that competing on price alone results in a ‘race to the bottom’, jobs hemorrhaged to low cost countries that tolerate shittier labour conditions (a practice that is in turn threatened by Trump’s protectionism, to the benefit of no one except perhaps the Chinese or Mexican workers who may end up in less stupid industries).

As in decades past, the indie start-up has changed and enriched the face of skating. Soccer-mom friendly logo boards are a minority amid weird, cool and beautiful offerings from Polar, Magenta, Hopps, Scumco, Welcome, Weekend, Evisen, Blast, etc. etc. But we’re still failing to visualise how this can benefit actual skateboarders. Some who’ve recently disrupted the market, like Bronze’s Peter Sidlauskas, counsel others to “just work the job you hate.” I can sympathise with wanting to pull up the drawbridge, but this is terrible advice. It assumes markets are fixed in size (think of the ubiquity of Palace, trading to kids with no prior exposure to skating), illustrating what economists call the ‘fallacy of the lump of labour’. The number of jobs is not finite: a newly employed person spends money, creating the need for more jobs, and so on (btw this is also the best way to shut down your racist uncle midway through his seasonal “coming over here, taking our jobs” rant). More urgently, such thinking keeps late capitalism dependent on bullshit, low pay, debt-subsidised jobs in a bloated service sector. If you have an idea, for pity’s sake run with it, for the good of us all. The internet enables you to launch from your bedroom, with minimal risk, whilst keeping up the 9 to 5. In the face of permanent global depression, skaters taking a punt at something new will provide them job satisfaction (and skills acquisition) and help kill pointless, precarious work.

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Most importantly, your thing doesn’t have to be a board brand or Instagram-driven streetwear bollocks. Surely this is not the limit of our imaginations. Collect boards, do you? Think about what Deckaid has done, exhibiting skate geeks’ collections to aid youth-based charities. Have a massive magazine stash? Rent them out to your local shop. Think you and your mates have skills, enthusiasm and patience? Look what Ash Hall, or John Cattle, or Paul Regan have done with different iterations of socially-entrepreneurial skate schools. Know some artists/are one yourself/know a distributor? Check out these dudes and their ‘refugees welcome’ board project.

All this can be linked together and scaled up. There’s a good chance funders will listen, but they need something tangible to listen to. For that, my friends, you need to organise. If you go to their skatepark consultation, their ‘active in the city’ event, you’re reacting. We can set the agenda. A rabble of voices gets drowned out: but a lean, focused machine that can access and direct resources is hard to ignore. Bryggeriet/Skate Malmö as well as LLSB show us that this doesn’t have to equal endless committee meetings and ‘county council rrrradical’ faux-graffiti branding. They can be super cool, inclusive, and get things done. If you want to link and grow your projects, protect your DIY or streetspot, get a new park built, access charitable and public funding, and eventually employ other skaters in meaningful work, organising is key, and skateboarders tend to be terrible at it.

In the UK, you can get free advice from your local Community and Voluntary Service. Then you have several choices. You can stay small (limited to £5,000 per year) but start tomorrow with a Small Charity Constitution. To do bigger things (including holding premises and employing people), you can become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) or a Community Interest Company (CIC). A CIO is more attractive to funders, but must be approved by the Charity Commission, who will then monitor you closely. A CIC can be created rapidly and is lighter on the paperwork, but may be less attractive to big funders like the National Lottery. And when you start something, and it grows: remember why you did it. Even if you can earn a living purely selling boards and t-shirts, you can still be more than ‘just’ a board brand – take Real skateboard’s projects with Humidity and Uprise shops in support of the American Civil Liberties Union.

MAKE WORLDWIDE CONNECTIONS

Magenta say it, and they mean it. Who would have thought Bordeaux, with its cobbley-ass streets, would be a destination? The end game for all the above – filling in forms, busting your ass skating and filming – is to put your city on the map, boost your scene and making the world a better place. The biggest of big pictures is that this helps roll back the creeping nativism stoked by right-wing demagogues and the tabloid media across the world. Sixty-five percent of the French electorate can’t hold the line on their own. If big politics tells us that internationalism is a thing of the past – what of all of us brought up to think globally? Prime Minister Theresa May told those who “believe you’re a citizen of the world” were instead “citizens of nowhere”. Let that sink in for a moment: millions of us, the first in our families to stay on in education post-16, who went on school trips and took GCSE French, who were told by careers advisers to imagine working anywhere on earth, who have quite literally done what we’ve been told, are now “citizens of nowhere.” Fuck right off, Theresa May: a sense of internationalism is one of the few things neoliberalism gets right.

Luckily, nationalism and skateboarding are not productive bedfellows – and we can do more to unlock the power of this. Skater-led NGOs have brought skateboarding’s unique ability to engage young people to Afghanistan, Palestine, South Africa and Myanmar, alongside projects building or repairing skateparks in quake hit Australia and Native American reservations. And doing something closer to home doesn’t mean limiting your international horizons. Bruce Springstein, proud son of New Jersey and global traveller, says, “My localism is something I want to use as a strength, rather than something to get away from.” A great example is the Rios crew, putting Budapest on the map by skating and filming in a distinctive way, all whilst xenophobic, nativist strongman, Viktor Orbán, increasingly locks Hungary into an imagined past where everyone looked and felt the same.

Without trying to, the Rios guys have delivered one of the clearest rejections of everything Orbán, and May, and Trump, and Le Pen, stand for – and skaters the world over journey to Budapest to share this with them.

Written by Chris Lawton
Illustration by George Yarnton

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Reminisce 20 Years of BAYSIXTY6 Skate Park

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Wow, time flies. BAYSIXTY6 Skate Park are celebrating 20 years in the game today and reminiscing on two decades of scene support, events and sessions since opening their doors for the very first time on the morning of Saturday, 24th of May 1997.

As most of you who have followed Crossfire over the last 16 years know, we hold a special relationship with this park following the events we hosted there and assisting with sponsorship and funding. It was a honour to have been there from the beginning too, as a skater, rolling on the initial layers of tarmac when only a couple of quarter pipes were sat in the middle of the now-known street course. It’s gone through so many changes and they have fought so hard to keep it alive and won. Owner, Paul McDermott and the many characters behind the scenes should be applauded for their commitment. We asked Paul this week what he thought on this achievement:

“What an amazing 20 years. 21 if you include the year of preparation before we opened. We’ve endured struggle, mistakes, a fire, hard work and fights for survival but it’s all been worth it! An enormous amount of incredible characters have passed through these gates, several generations of great skaters have come through here too. It’s been a great opportunity for British skaters to see most of the very best skaters in the world at one time or another, not to mention that it’s been a second home for many of London’s skaters, a place of constant mentoring for young people and a kind of super youth club where youth from all backgrounds come together on equal terms here in Ladbroke Grove.”

To celebrate this feat the park will host a special Wednesday night session, known as a legendary night at this park for so many years, on the evening of Wednesday 28th June where many of the heads that have graced this special spot will reunite for a night of reminiscing. On the walls will be a Xerox gallery show of your memories, so send photos for inclusion via email to 20Years@BAYSIXTY6.com or post your photos and footage on social media with the hashtag #20YearsatBAYSIXTY6

We will see you there but until then, spread the good word by sending this post to friends who have skated the park and enjoy these old images from when it all first started. Congrats to everyone involved!

BAYSIXTY6 Skate Park can be found after 20 years of service still at its same address:
Bay 66, Acklam Rd, Ladbroke Grove, London, W10 5YU. Telephone 020 8969 4669.

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Malmö: Using skateboarding to transform your hometown

Simon Bernacki frontside wallrides the TBS DIY. Photo: Tim Smith.

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For skateboarders in the Northern Hemisphere, the start of the year can feel like the end of the world. An existential and meteorological downward spiral, deepened if you spent last summer somewhere markedly better. But then trips are excitedly planned across chaotically duplicate social media platforms through April and May; a glut of adventure from June to early September; then the stomach-tightening disappointment as nights lengthen and tarmac dampens. The cyclical woe ramped right up in 2016. Brexit’s ‘fuck you, footloose citizen of the world’ followed by the fever dream turned reality of President Donald J Trump make escape more necessary than desirable.

What if, in 2017, we took something back from our travels, improving our hometown environments, the rest of our active lives and the lives of younger generations? Last summer, my friends and I visited Copenhagen and Malmö for the third time. This year, it would be nice to reduce the contrast between away and home. Fortunately, the relatively small Swedish city provides a lodestar for UK skate scenes demoralised by generational churn and municipal hostility. Most impressively, Malmö’s skaters have demonstrated what we already know to be true: skateboarding is an incredible tool for creating and maintaining active and engaging public spaces, a free spectacle for participants and bystanders, encouraging a sense of shared-ownership over the city and its public realm. Politicians in the UK invest millions trying to ‘engage’ young people, to encourage a sense of community, to increase physical activity, and to bridge the generational divide – skateboarding does all this for free.

Zombie Stu getting some at Steppeside DIY. Photo: Simon Bernacki.

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Malmö is a modern skateboarding phenomenon. The 2016 final of the Vans Pro Skatepark Series was not hosted in sun-kissed California, but in a frequently rainy upper corner of northern Europe. The city features in videos from sportswear giants, ordinary Joe’s and several documentaries (with a school within the indoor skatepark attracting particular interest) and is, of course, headquarters to Polar Skateboards. Copenhagen, over the bridge, attracts attention for similar reasons: huge, well-designed public skateparks, indoor parks and global events; flourishing DIY scenes; rippers attracting the biggest of sponsors; and energetic cadres of long-time skaters who have convinced their local authority of the wider benefits of all of this.

Malmö is a more unlikely story than the Danish capital. It’s much smaller – similar in size to Nottingham. It also experienced the sharp-end of de-industrialisation and the fragility of neo-liberal redevelopment. Just as Nottingham lost thousands of skilled blue collar jobs with the fall of textiles and heavy industry in the 1970s and 1980s, Malmö’s largest employer, shipbuilding, went into free fall. Both cities looked to the financial and business services for a ‘knowledge led’ recovery. This proved just as vulnerable to global headwinds, as Malmö was particularly hard hit by the Swedish Financial Crisis of the early 1990s. A visitor from the North of England in the mid-1990s would have observed familiar symptoms of urban blight.

Now, five years after the Occupy Movement and nine years after the Global Financial Crisis, Malmö is an optimist’s poster child for intelligent and inclusive regeneration. And, would you believe it, skateboarding has played an important role. Malmö’s development (aided by small things like building a university and a bridge to Copenhagen) is due to more than skateboarding, but when investment ran in, the local skaters were already at a sprinting start. With nowhere in winter other than an indoor carpark, they formed a club. As membership grew, the City took notice and provided an abandoned school for a mini-ramp, and then the much larger former brewery site for an indoor park, and the non-profit Bryggeriet was born. Competitions built capacity such that, when the Council agreed to support a ‘destination’ skatepark to spearhead the regeneration of the old ship-building area, Bryggeriet worked with a team from Portland to ensure user expertise nibbled into the marrow of the project. The result was the incredible Stapelbäddsparken, which drew Quicksilver to relocate the Bowlriders European Cup in 2006. By this time, Pontus Alv had released his first video, ‘Strongest of the Strange’, broadcasting to the world that parks and events were the tip of an iceberg that encased a street and DIY scene, which in turn helped kickstart the global proliferation of the ‘crete-and-hope’ ethos, as well as the verb “to charge”.

The wonderful Stappelbadsparken park shot by Andrew Cullen.

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When Quicksilver withdrew from skateboarding, Bryggeriet together with the City took over. Malmö’s annual Ultrabowl was given a budget to: “put Malmö on the map, and help develop a relationship with the skaters for other projects.” Even more incredibly, the Council considers skateboarding within its strategy to ensure public spaces are well used, and co-brands Skate Malmö with the skaters. Among other things, Skate Malmö officially encourages skateboarders to visit the city, something that eluded Philadelphia in Love Park’s heyday as a global skate magnet.

Forensic skate archivists will trace much of the above to Phil Evans’ ‘Coping Mechanism’ and recent interviews with Gustav Edén, one time Unabomber rider and now Skateboard Coordinator for the City of Malmö. Gustav was generous with his scarce time and responded to our questions, exploring factors that may enable British skaters to have the confidence and sense of agency to act on Malmö’s inspiration.

The foremost questions are: can lessons from Malmö be applied in the UK? Is hard work and a can-do attitude more important than the serendipity of living in progressive Sweden? Malmö City did not always regard skateboarding so favourably, once seeing it in similar terms to many UK Local Authorities: a ‘nuisance’; young men making noise and wasting time. Gustav argues that Malmö’s skaters’ attitude and ambition were as important in changing perceptions as the successful hosting of global events: “the City supported the development of the skate-organisation and helped it grow. The City gave skaters a chance. That’s half the story. Perhaps more crucial… is that the skaters here realised they had to be a good partner to the City. They realised they had to give the city value for their investment.”

Our experience in the UK is often characterised by Local Government hostility (in Kettering, Norwich, Birmingham, Sheffield and other towns and cities where bans have existed for years or have recently been implemented). However, we have to be honest and admit to often choosing a passive role. We lobby councils to pay for skateparks; we launch online petitions to fight bylaws and save skatespots. Rarely do we tell the town hall what we will do in return… and then go out and deliver it. Though successful skater-led UK campaigns often argue that skateparks may reduce anti-social behaviour, or increase physical activity – little is usually done to ensure that “may” becomes “will.” There are many brilliant exceptions, such as Frontside Gardens, the work of John Cattle and Wight Trash, Ash Hall and Sheffield’s Skateboard School, and, of course, Long Live Southbank.

I’m generalising, but the point stands and Gustav concurs: “Skate organisations often (not always) forget to shift the focus to what they can do for the city and how this can help them grow, rather than just thinking about what the city can do for them. The skaters in Malmö have been a strong, driven partner for the city. For a community development department, this is a godsend. Someone wanting to do something and actually being able to deliver. That is a crucial part of the Malmö story.”

A common fear is that officialdom inevitably ruins the cool of skating, wrecking the credibility of skaters amongst their own communities. We are currently struggling with this trade-off in Nottingham. I found myself farcically misquoted in our local newspaper, “jump up” instead of “kicker”, alongside the depressing old chestnut placing street skating within the gamut of anti-social behaviour – when skateboarding is the most supportively ‘social’ thing in most of our lives. In skateparks we socialise with people exactly like us, rather than negotiating space with other users of the city. If 2016’s tale of political and social upset is one of old against young and the educated against the left-behind, actually sharing space and interacting with different kinds of people is more important than it’s ever been.

Notts crew at Steppeside. Photo: Andrew Cullen.

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Malmö’s skaters learned that hosting events ordinary people could appreciate and engaging with the public via skate schools actually benefited the core scene: “The idea from Bryggeriet has always been to deliver above the expectations of the City, as well as staying true to the skate scene.” Perhaps it’s the Scandinavian tendency to approach even the most casual thing with an enviable mix of extreme seriousness and whimsy, but the proof is in the pudding. Malmö has one of the corest, most aesthetically fucking cool scenes on earth – not just the best known company, Polar, but also Post, Hats, Details, Poetic Collective and the visual output of Bryggeriet and Skate Malmö themselves (helped by master-videographers-in-residence like Phil Evans). The skaters have managed to nurture a successful, expansive and civically-minded ‘skate destination’ and grow a cool-as-all-hell sub-culture. Gustav described global events like the Vans final as “the result, not the instigator” of this year-long scene.

This has wider impacts for the arts and youth culture. We spoke to Street Lab skateshop big-popper Rasmus Sjölin, who told us a little about the social buzz the Malmö skate scene produces. Even relatively little things like a DIY build at the famous TBS spot can end in a street party spilling from the bar round the corner from Street Lab, whilst local hotels, shops and venues all recognise the benefits visiting skaters bring. Gustav added that the type of person attracted to the characteristics of skating (not a team sport, unstructured, intergenerational) can have a genuinely life-changing experience that leads to connected interests and skills from “a network that permeates every walk of life in the city.” And for older people already sold hook-line-and-sinker, the rich skate scene attracts them and their families to move to the city – bringing their skills, interests and creative ideas. The OG street spot now on my ‘favourite on earth’ list after several afternoons this summer, known as ‘Svampen’ by the locals, is overlooked by Malmö Art Centre, directly illustrating these permeations.

Malmö Harbour. Photo: Simon Bernacki.

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As a counter-balance to encroaching ‘sportification’ from the Olympics and the sportswear brands, Malmö’s skaters have ensured that their events emphasise the cultural crossovers of skating, with Ultrabowl and the Vans championship being closer to city-wide music or art festivals, rather than singularly big corporate events. The Malmö scene has also helped pioneer the greatest antidote to dumb-ass, alpha males: as many women and girls are encouraged to skate as possible, and then those who get good are supported – just as you would with male skaters. Recent upstart brand Poetic Collective proudly support Sarah Meurle front and centre in their team: in the UK only Lovenskate have the guts to strongly back (fellow Kalis obsessive) Lucy Adams. And power to them: it’s (early) 2017 people – the 1950s live on only in Trump’s inner circle of porcine Breitbart comb-overs.

We’ve so far skirted around the biggest of big things: Malmö’s advocacy of the positive role of street skating. This provides a real-life example to accompany the theory that street skating uses public space in an engaging and inclusive way, contributing to a town or city’s “collective symbolic capital”: the things that make it unique and attractive. Visitors aren’t drawn to the ten-a-penny high-street (unsurprisingly in terminal decline), where the design (and merging) of public and commercial space explicitly steers them towards either retail or work in Iain Borden’s analysis, but to imaginative, lively spaces created by the people who live there.

TBS DIY in all its post-industrial glory. Photo: Simon Bernacki.

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Ocean Howell demonstrated this in the tragi-comic story of Philadelphia in the early 2000s, whilst warning that skaters could become the unwitting foot soldiers of gentrification, useful in reclaiming unutilised space but ultimately expendable when the fruits of their labour raises the real estate value. A more sustainable situation, where skaters are neither vilified or exploited – where they are “good partners” to the city – is the long game Malmö seems to have nailed. From recent news that Hull aims to be the UK’s first genuinely skate friendly city (designing street skating into, rather than out of, new public space), it is perfectly possible in our hometowns too. But Kettering shows that the reverse can still happen. A punitive townhall seals the generational divide in law: not only does skateboarding in Kettering carry a £1,000 fine, being younger than 18 during certain times is similarly punished. Hull, European City of Culture in 2017, says to its residents: “this city is yours, activate it.” Kettering instead opted for inevitable population ageing and the calcification of civic space.

This isn’t just about skating, it’s about positive micro-action. The unspeakable horror of Big Politics in 2016 may continue all the way into 2017 if Marine Le Pen’s resurgent National Front aren’t stopped at the ballot box. The urban theorist David Harper, in calling for a new fight for our collective ‘right to the city’, remarks that, “while big fights might seem unwinnable, small victories can lead to bigger ones.” In Gustav’s view, skating’s success in Malmö has been part of the city’s wider success as a place to live, be young and grow older. If we want our hometowns to benefit us economically and socially, we need to stop seeing skateboarding in separation. In times of tight local budgets, our cities need us as much as we need them.

Written by: Chris Lawton.
Thanks to Rasmus Sjölin, Skate Malmö, Bryggeriet, Gustav Edén, Phil Evans. Watch Coping Mechanism on Vimeo OD.
Photo thanks to: Andrew Cullen, Simon Bernacki and Tim Smith.

This final photo is Chris putting in work to film Nottingham’s Elliot Maynard for a killer line in ‘Crows’ Feet‘. Photo: Andrew Cullen.

Get inspired. Collaborate, think, plan, lobby and transform your hometown.

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Skating the Rainbow

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Brian Anderson’s decision to come out has been met with support and affection across that slice of internet lacquered thick with skateboarding. In addition, joining Antihero, that most manly, broken-toothed, gun shootin’, hill bombin’, beer sluggin’, say-it-like-it-is and shut-up-and-skate of all teams, couldn’t be more perfect. Surely the homophobia that has lingered in skateboarding like a drug-resistant superbug can’t survive in this environment.

The idea that things were once worse and now, perhaps, are better has been explored in brilliant pieces for Jenkem and Huck (the latter written by Patrick Welch, who five years earlier highlighted the injustice suffered by 1990s Birdhouse am Tim Von Werne, whose career finished before it started after being told not to speak about his sexuality to Skateboarder magazine). But when Toy Machine’s Welcome to Hell was brand new and BA frontside bluntslid into stardom, this would likely have all met with significant amounts of homophobic dumbfuckery.

To spell it out to the few today who miss the point to the tune of “who cares?”, a skateboarder being gay shouldn’t matter but clearly does. If someone possessed of such enormous capital (Skater of the Year, World Cup winner, a big giant of a man respected by salty ol’ peers and board-purchasing kids) still had to go through years of anxiously guarded privacy, what messages has skateboarding been transmitting more widely?

When we asked Marie Dabaddie, a skater, photographer and founder of genderqueer skatezine Xem Skaters, Marie felt that, “skateboarding has never been welcoming for gay people in general.” With everything skateboarding purports to be – non-conformist, creative, better than narrow-minded squares in the ordinary world –  the idea that gay people are either dissuaded from skateboarding or that gay skaters feel less able to come out is deeply disappointing. For Marie, BA’s announcement means “people are going to talk about it, and it might help gay people feel more confident to come out in the skateboard community, or even to start skateboarding…I just think that being gay shouldn’t be such a big thing anymore but I guess it still is.”

A video posted by Joey Digital (@joey_digital) on

And of course everything is not now suddenly OK in our little world. As Patrick Welch puts it, skateboarding shouldn’t let itself ‘off the hook’ for decades of excusing prejudice (including violent prejudice). At a micro level, listening to the self-admonishment and motivational abuse that carries thickly and loudly across skateparks and street spots shows that homophobia and misogyny remain stubbornly sealed into our everyday ‘vernacular’. Ordinary skaters have little power over Californian skate moguls closing ranks to protect stars such as D Way or the late Jay Adams (RIP) from serious scrutiny into their roles in potentially homophobic, fatal assaults (Way was never charged for his alleged involvement in the death of a gay man for which his friend, Josh Swindell, served 19 years, whilst Adams served six months for felony assault after starting a fight with a gay couple, one of whom was beaten to death). We do, however, have power over the language we use.

This leads to several tricky questions. Are older skaters projecting how they once talked onto the young – to whom this no longer appliers, what with 20 years of progress n’ all? If ‘gay’, ‘fag’, ‘pussy’, etcetera are still habitually used to signify ‘weak’ or ‘bad’, do the small minority who think deeply, write and tweet about such things (and we are firmly within this group, ‘checking our privilege’ as we go) risk over-earnestly policing language that has been long separated from its original cruel intent?

Sources like the British Social Attitudes Survey indicate that the population as a whole has become much more tolerant of difference in sexual orientation. But there is a difference between stated and revealed prejudice: how we describe ourselves versus what we then say and do. Tour bus chatter made BA fear how peers would react if they knew he was gay. Presumably those individuals would never have viewed themselves as prejudiced. The use of such language may be thoughtless, but the consequence is to ‘other’ people who differ from the ‘heteronormative’, male-centric assumptions of skateboarding.

What the skate-o-sphere has got absolutely right is that this is bigger than skateboarding. Derogatory slang is used throughout our school and teenage years, generation after generation, its origins stretching from Chaucer to Orwell to Chris fucking Moyles. We may not be any worse than wider society, but we are surely no better. Paraphrasing Kyle Beachy, each chauvinistic cuss cumulatively results in an “act of violence” to anyone who is not a heterosexual male.

BA put the harm done by the habitual use of the word ‘faggot’ into historical context for Kevin Wilkins at The Good Problem: “It’s a really horrible word. I think a lot of older gay people really think nobody should ever say it…kids just don’t know how hurtful it really is. It’s a term these kids all use, but they didn’t grow up in the times of the 60s and 70s when being gay was illegal and when gay bars were being raided. They didn’t live through the 80s and the AIDS epidemic, where some people were losing a friend a week. Just think about what you’re really saying.”

As well as projecting hostility to gay men, this language sends a very similar message to women and girls. BA may be the first openly gay male top tier pro, but many gay female professionals have been out from the start. In this case, skate culture has much in common with the wider world of sport, where sponsors and pundits evaluate male athletes against masculine clichés of strength and power and female athletes according to the sexualised male gaze. Female participation in skateboarding has grown considerably, but a strange consequence of the particularly hyper-masculine nature of skating is that, for women who skate, being gay isn’t actually a big deal: quite the opposite, it’s sometimes assumed by other skaters. Any woman or girl skater is already ‘other’, exactly because she is doing something than projects itself as exclusively male. Skate comps backed by major ‘action sports’ sponsors remind us of this skewed hierarchy by accompanying male prize winners with scantily clad hostesses whilst often failing to include female competitors.

On this counter-intuitive jumble of attitudes towards gender and sexual orientation, Marie observes that: “Female skaters have always been suspected of being gay somehow. If you’re a skater and a girl, you might as well be gay because you’re skating and ‘skating is for men’ so ‘you’re playing the man’. It’s a stupid cliché that probably made it easier for women who are homosexual to live in skateboarding. Not that it’s easy at all, it’s just not such ‘A Thing’ anymore.”

With reference to the mainstream sports stars who came out some time ago, articles on BA have posited that skateboarding lags behind even the retrograde world of ‘proper sports’. But these are exceptional cases: even in mass participation sports, there are far fewer out gay athletes than the proportion of LGBTQ people in wider society would lead one to expect. The UK’s ‘national sport’ of football presents one of the saddest stories. Justin Fashanu came out in 1990 in a tabloid interview after lengthy press speculation and abuse from fans. No club would subsequently offer him a full-time contract. He took his own life in 1998, following an allegation of sexual assault in the US State of Maryland (where homosexual acts were at that time illegal). His suicide note expressed his doubts that he’d receive a fair trial because of his sexuality. He remains the only English premiere league player to have come out whilst still playing professional football.

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Systemic prejudice harms men and women of all sexual orientations and gender identities, which Marie describes as part of a damaging and “ceaseless genderisation”. The journalist Owen Jones relates the mental health crisis facing young people to these deeply entrenched forces: “A rigid and unreconstructed form of masculinity is enforced, sometimes brutally, in the playground. Boys deemed to be insufficiently manly face being abused as ‘girls’ or ‘gays’. Speaking about mental distress is certainly not seen as ‘manly’ – it is ‘weak’.” This is linked to the terrible fact that suicide is the main killer of men under 45 in the UK. For women, equally rigid assumptions of femininity play out particularly in pressures to conform to unobtainable body images and expectations of total male agency over sexual gratification – shockingly revealed amongst a supposedly more enlightened younger generation in the current spike in sexual assault and harassment on university campuses in both the UK and US.

Skateboarding can make small differences to this bigger picture. In case you haven’t noticed, it is so hot right now. Palace’s inventive mashing of cockney and Jamaican rudeboy patois with nostalgic stoner wit, expressed through their web-catalogue and Insta account, is enthusiastically adopted by upper-middle class teenagers who’ve never even stepped on a skateboard. In a large British university, you’ll do yourself a neck mischief looking round every time you hear a Lev-ism. Ubiquitous street slang, strained through the colander of skate culture, contains plenty of ‘gay-meaning-weak’ for every ‘trill’ or ‘’pon the…’. The least we can do is to delete those terms whilst our little sub-culture is currently niche leader rather than mass follower.

The danger is that we are lecturing those who are as yet unprogressed through the informal education skateboarding brings. Rather than letting essentially good kids grow out of prejudiced language, we might provoke a digging of foxholes. The depressing popularity of anti-feminist and, in particular, transphobic memes suggests that expressions of identity politics can make some young men, lacking social and historical context, feel they are being unjustly criticised. With the organised misogynists wallowing beneath the internet’s grotty bridges (and labouring to help install one of their own as POTUS), there is plenty of energy to recruit those who feel that liberal activists have ‘over-played their hands’ (which Alt-Right Troll King Milo Yiannopoulos cites as justification for his behaviour).

Skateboarding’s secret weapon is that it is genuinely inter-generational. It is unique in creating a non-creepy space where 40 year olds treat 18 year olds as human beings, and vice versa. This enables older and/or wiser skaters to exercise the weird privilege of ‘unofficial life mentor’ as one inevitably takes on the role of group skate mum/dad simply through not quitting skateboarding. You don’t have to scold bros in your crew for frequent utterance of ‘gay-meaning-weak’, simply don’t use that language yourself – micro-actions are increasingly proving to be world changing, for good and ill. We’re already seeing the benefits of skateboarding becoming more diverse. Parameters of critical appreciation expand at an exponential rate, encompassing a late 40s Gonz, super cool female skaters like Sarah Meurle, and Frenchmen who can perform body varials when popping waist high tricks – all successfully counterbalancing the jockish claptrap spouted by the likes of Nyjah.

For those with that peculiarly Anglo-Saxon aversion to ‘political correctness’ (i.e. basic human kindness and tolerance) dampening skateboarding’s outlaw spirit – it may be that greater diversity holds the key to resisting homogenising commercialisation. As Marie also said to us, opening more “paths for individual identity building within skateboarding” will not only make it more “welcoming to everyone and anyone” but will lead to more genuine expression of identity and a lot less “copy-paste from the magazines and massive brands.”

Words by Chris Lawton
Thanks to Claire Alleaume and Marie Dabaddie
Blunt illustration thanks to George Yarnton
Rainbow on a rig artwork courtesy of Marc Johns
No thanks to Darryl Cashman

If you would like to write for Crossfire then get in touch now, we are always looking for fresh views.

Fashion and the Cringification of Skateboarding

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave with terrible wi-fi, you’ll be aware that a few weeks’ back ‘the bible’ of mainstream fashion, Vogue Magazine, celebrated skateboarding’s ‘coming of age’ through their ‘Skate Week’. Quartersnacks already took the time to summarise the content, but there’s something addictive in checking out stuff you already know you’ll find offensive. If you’ve not yet delighted in the self-torture, like a Cenobite who can kickflip, the topics and the manner in which they are covered are cringe-inducing.

There are ‘flip kicks’, celebrations of longboarding as the “more stylish” option (yo, how can a magazine in love with all things French not know that Monsieurs Gillet and Puig are more stylish than anyone, and they don’t fucking longboard?), discussions of which skaters have the greatest hair, and this picture of Brit ex-pat Ben Nordberg that makes you want to vomit on yourself, eat it, then vomit again in a necessarily extreme ritual exorcism. This awful coal seam has been mined with succinct humour by others, from Jenkem to Complex, our contribution is to investigate just why we care so much about such ham-fisted appropriation.

Ph: Getty Images

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In the absence of specific postgraduate reading lists, an informed guess would distil things down to the almost physical discomfort one feels when their sense of identity gets messed with, alongside an asymmetric power relationship between skateboarding and the mainstream.

Identity is important. We invest time in constructing it, feel a huge amount of ownership over it, yet it’s a place of constant conflict. It’s necessary for the functioning of politics and society: it motivates us to vote (“I am a civically responsible person”), who we vote for (“I’m not a fucking Tory”), what we buy (“these sneakers will make me feel like early career Lucas”), and who we hang out with (“these people are like me, and by hanging out with them, I become more like the person I want to be”). But individuals have only partial control over it. Our identity is formed by the interaction of internal and external factors: how we see ourselves (our subjective identity); how others see us (objective identity); and how we think others see us (social identity).

For young people especially, heroes and role models play a big part. When I was 21, in rare moments of self-confidence, I believed that dressing like Josh Kalis made me look a bit like Josh Kalis. This delicate illusion quickly dissolved when others objectively informed me that I looked like a fucking dork. Vogue Skate Week hurt a little because it provides a window into how others see us, how they make sense of our sub-culture, and where they locate it within the context of the things they find familiar (for example, why a fashion magazine needs to talk about skateboarders’ ‘great hair’). All together, the outcome isn’t pretty when parked up against our image of ourselves.

Ph: Glen Luchford for Gucci

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The cast-iron motherfucker is that platforms like Vogue, with none of the knowledge, have more of the power. By ballsing up their representation of skateboarding on a massively public stage, they risk actually changing how skateboarders perceive skateboarding. How many of you had “mosher” or “greb” shouted at you as a kid, even if you exclusively rocked gleaming white sneakers, a Yankees fit and a t-shirt covered in rappers’ faces? Incrementally, a view of a subculture loudly expressed by a majority who know nothing about it mutates the self-identity of those within it. When I was a teenager, MTV and Fred Durst had more power in dictating how others perceived me than any imaginary covenant signed in private with the Church of Robert ‘Wu’ Welsh, and I found myself constantly apologising for, or playing along with, the cringified image held by my non-skate friends.

The really interesting argument is that skateboarding brings this upon itself. In cosying up to something powerful, we can hardly complain when Big Fashion makes us look like bigger pricks. New York’s excellent Stoops magazine, which combines the high standard of photography we’ve come to expect from independent mags with superb writing, goes deep on this tricky question. Stoops’ Ted Barrow and Eby Ghafarian point out that, rather than originating what we look like, we’ve instead co-opted and repurposed aspects of our identity from elsewhere. Skateboarders are essentially stylists rather than designers – picking and arranging looks that already exist. In the 1980s, skaters may have repurposed looks from punk and hardcore counter-culture, but in the 90s, it was straight from the mainstream: Polo, Nautica, Guess, pre-SB Nike and Adidas. What made skaters look cool was:

1) Good taste and an attention to detail.
2) The act of skateboarding itself.

Gino is a well-dressed Italian American in his early forties, but when he steps on his skateboard – even when just pushing, of course – he becomes something much cooler. The mainstream dig skateboarding because we reflect a well curated interpretation of their own language straight back at them. If you doubt this, think about the corer-than-core brands like Dime (whose logo shadows Dior) and Palace (who, amongst other high fashion call-backs, had a popular run of t-shirts repurposing the Chanel logo). This can also be seen in Vogue’s interview with Koston this week to mark the release of some depressingly limited high-end collaboration. Koston gushed to Vogue that skaters have always cared about fashion – a skateboarder pretending not to care was evidence of “him caring about how he looks.”

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And the pay-off is seductive. In the mid-to-late 90s, the only people who’d look at a skateboarder for sexy times were particularly broad minded indie kids. In the early 2000s, it became the Nu Metal kids congregating in provincial town centres. Now skateboarders are attractive to everyone from preppy college students to hot models. No longer are we pariahs in the eyes of the popular and beautiful. The price is that we stop being a counter-culture, and when that happens, we start playing by the same rules as everyone else.

The French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault explained how popular culture engenders social control, building on an idea developed by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th Century. Bentham imagined an ideal prison, ‘the Panopticon’, where every inmate could theoretically be observed at any time. Even though the prisoner had no way of knowing if he or she was actually being watched, they would behave as if they were. Foucault theorised that contemporary society has evolved as if it were one huge Panopticon – not just through the technology that enables constant universal surveillance, but through a populace that constantly self-polices conformity. When an individual or group deviates from cultural norms, an army of media commentators, cultural figures and ordinary people ridicule or ostracise. And knowing this, we modify our behaviour and appearance accordingly. In women’s magazines in particular, and in fashion more widely, this gentle but constant enforcement is explicit.

Vogue, Grazia, Marie Claire and their ilk are full of condescension dressed up as friendly advice. Articles include “20 things no one over 30 should wear”; “how to be the perfect lover”/ “housewife”/ “employee” / “parent.” All of this reinforces highly conservative gender and age-based norms, gently and subtly steering us towards the economically ‘useful’ roles of worker and consumer. This is the genius of modern capitalism, as predicted by Aldous Huxley in ‘Brave New World.’ Through the promise of eternal youth, a ready supply of casual sex, abundant leisure time and easy, shallow happiness, we don’t need to be coerced to sacrifice our identity, we do it willingly. JG Ballard, in ‘High Rise’, described the sort of citizen who falls into this easily as someone who “was content to do nothing but sit in his over-priced apartment, watch television with the sound turned down, and wait for his neighbours to make a mistake.” The Vogue articles delight as much in pointing out those who have made a mistake as celebrating the Nordbergs who’ve successfully played the game. The rest of us fall in line more unhappily, like Brave New World’s John the Savage, alternately attracted then repulsed.

Image: Foucault by Rinaldo Hopf

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As skateboarding is subsumed within the mainstream, as Vogue’s unwanted certification surely indicates, our lives become easier on a surface level. It is now normal to be a skateboarder at school or college. Regular folk rarely shout abuse or try and assault you. But the cost is that you’ve walked willingly into the Panopticon, accepting its norms. Skateboarding is a sport. It is done exclusively by young men. Skateboarders are athletes. Their look is just so hot right now. But just as easily: skateboarding is last season, do something else. You’re too old. You’re not good enough. It’s not for women and girls. These are the real reasons why skateboarding’s journey from counter-culture to mainstream represents a loss – in a world where few people actually ‘do’ anything for any sustained length of time, they ‘like’ rather than ‘love’, being a fan is much easier than being a fanatic.

But one of the wonderful things about human identity is its capacity for reinvention. We might bemoan the current trend for nostalgia in skateboarding, but it celebrates a simpler time when skateboarding was both tiny and outside the mainstream. By keeping this alive, the Mad Max style lawlessness of EMB and Love, Fairfields, the Shell Centre and the Gasworks, their fashions and attitudes become newly relevant to new generations. By re-telling our own story, rather than borrowing from the mainstream, we keep a little bit of power and protect the soul of this thing.

In an interview with Transworld, Dear Skateboarding’s Chris Lipomi enthused, “what’s exciting to me about it is that for the first time in the longest time, skateboarding is referencing itself. And that’s really awesome. I think for so long, skateboarding has sort of looked to something outside, and then brought that into its own world. Which can be interesting but then can also lead to this idea that what we’re doing sort of isn’t good enough.” And more fundamentally, the soul of the thing is maintained by the constant doing of it. Skateboarding can never be truly mainstream in a risk-averse, passive culture because it will always really hurt.

Words: Chris Lawton
Lead Illustration: Steve Larder

If you’d like to write some stuff on Crossfire, contact us.

Tom Asta Signature Colourway éS

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Tom Asta’s new Accel Slim on éS is about to hit your local skate shop. This signature colourway, influenced by the colors of the American flag with red and blue accents, come with a tongue ventilation system to keep your feet cool and a 400 NBS outsole providing flex and grip for the perfect flick.

Search them out, vote with your feet and support skater owned.

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Science Skateboards – ‘The Important Nothing’ video

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To get to the point, ‘The Important Nothing’ is really darn good and you should watch it. If unavailable in your bricks n’ mortar skate shop (R.I.P. SS20, support your local), you can get a copy from the Palomino.

Within a relatively small scene such as the UK, reviewing home grown videos is a delicate task, because they’re invariably a labour of love, by someone with admirable intentions who is likely to at least know someone you know. This small degree of separation means that each such review in our now extinct domestic print media has tended to be super positive. Who would say they didn’t love a work that someone has slaved over, with little commercial return, especially if you could conceivably session a spot with individuals involved in the near future? But you also want to be credible. A review can be a recommendation.

With internet clips vying for attention, why should you, the reader, part with both money and time to watch a full length vid, if you’ve been told that each and every UK video is brilliant? I wrote that the Isle video was excellent, because it was, I’m now going to tell you the Science video is more than worthy of your 25 minutes and £10, because it assuredly is. Unfortunately there are a number of videos that came out between these two offerings that are less than great. Because we’re all friends here, those sub-par offerings are left unmentioned rather than subjected to some narcissistic display of mean-spirited wit.

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Science are an interesting outfit, and are part of the movement of small firms that are increasingly important to our culture and lifestyle. To distill an argument advanced in some detail here, the act of ‘just doing’ something, like setting up a small skate firm, stamping your tastes onto a corner of the market, keeping yourself motivated in the face of the pressures of adult life, connecting to other scenes and firms, and hooking up a community of like-minded skateboarders not only keeps skateboarding diverse and unique in the face of increasing commercialisation, but it helps us pursue our essential reason for being – the urge to create (our “species essence” in Marx’s view) – that is so often lost in the alienating experience of the 9 to 5. And when motivations are this pure, the outcome is more often than not cool as fuck.

Starting in 2006, owner Chris Morgan has been responsible for the lion’s share of the brand’s look and feel, and is behind the editing, design and large part of the filming of ‘The Important Nothing’. His interview with Crossfire is a good read, and provides detailed insight into one man’s personal vision of skateboarding balanced with a keenness to frequently collaborate (including with big names like Sergej Vutuc and Jon Burgerman and team rider Sam Taylor). Aesthetically, Science could be placed within the tradition of post-Blueprint 1.0 UK companies that combine unashamed artiness with an appreciation of gritty UK street scenes, 90s callbacks and golden era hip hop, soul and lo-fi indie, alongside Landscape, the National Co and Isle to name the most obvious. Where the National have looked to the hot shit that comes out of Sweden in their team line up and video aesthetic, Science make connections with the equally hot Japanese and SF scenes – and ‘The Important Nothing’ has strong similarities with recent Japanese independents like the Lenz videos.

Ph: Dan Tomlinson ollie noseblunt transfer by Chris Morgan

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The filming style is unobtrusive, and avoids the closer-than-close fisheye steez currently en vogue and beloved of the Magenta bros and some of the aforementioned Japanese films. There’s a nice nostalgia, with a lot of black and white and deliberate graininess (and the jazz intro keeps things far more classic Stereo Super 8 than Palace VHS), with callbacks to a 90s hip hop appreciation of kung fu movies and frequent flashes of primary colours complementing the lovely DVD packaging and Science’s graphic output and logo. The soundtrack fizzes with a nigh on optimum balance of hip hop, soul, stoner rock and indie that made me think of some of the classic UK and East Coast vids – with Dan Magee, Josh Stewart or Chris Mulhern likely to be pretty stoked on the choices. Rounding off the ‘just right’ mix of characteristics is the 25 minute running time – if my knee wasn’t jacked, I’d have picked my board up and raced into the grotty streets of Long Eaton as soon as the credits rolled (in stark contrast to the soporific effect of the 1 hour plus running time of certain very big budget hammer fests).

Highlights from the skating includes London-resident, Leicester ex-pat and prolific scribbler Sam Taylor and his quick feet, loose style and mastery of wallrides and no-complies. Pete Buckley, whose time in Sapporo, cements the Japanese connection, rocks a classic Girl/Choc (circa Mouse/Paco) steez and boss man Chris Morgan can do stylish new-old (no-complies) as well as old-new tricks (refuting the assumption that 30+ skaters can’t do good flips). I dig any Luka Pinto stuff since his Eleventh Hour section, and really like how he and Glenn Fox have established this unique style that Channel Islands (get it?) Quim Cardona looseness with Magenta quick-feet.Ben Cruickshank reps the lanky-tech (more golden era Girl/Choc – gangly natural street styles of Shamil Randle) and the dope Saafir track.

Dan Beall has been another favourite since his standout Baghead Flats section. Dan reps a different fine vintage of street skateboarding, strongly British in style – the nimble precision honed on rough terrain that other slight-of-frame bros like Welsh Tommy and Jin Shizmizu also rep.

The premiere went off.

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There’s a rad SF friends section that includes relatively well known locals like Tony Manfre and John Lindsay and the combination of spots doesn’t overkill the hill bombs (and includes Fort Miley, some DIY spots and street that isn’t sloping at 45 degrees). Dan Tomlinson is sick, with powerful pop and clean trick selection, that contrasts with Josh Cox’s unusual trick bag and manny mastery. Holdtight London alumnus Joe Sivell holds down the last section, with Roots Manuva setting the scene for tech and fashion that throws a contemporary British-take on early 2000s Puzzle glory days. Remember Stephane Giret? I’ve been betting a pirate’s hoard of gold doubloons on a come-back for both the tricks and the wardrobe of that brother, and Joe’s leading the charge to make sure I’m soon a wealthy man (and laughing at the rest of you as the pound sterling continues to fall through the floor).

I don’t want to do this video a disservice by listing too many historic references (that many of you won’t have been around for… but I’d bet more doubloons, and maybe a bronze cudgel and a horned helm, that Chris Morgan knows exactly what I’m talking about). Suffice to say, a bit like Pontus’ amazing Polar video, you can enjoy it equally as a fresh feeling contemporary offering, if you have the gift of youth, or as a life affirming, knee cartilage re-growing re-up of a certain era that burns very brightly in our sub-cultural memory.

Chris Lawton

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