Spot Check: Bromley

Words Jacob Sawyer
Group photo: Andy May
All other photos/sequence by Smay
Footage feat Matt Hill, Elliot Rowe and Jerry Wilson thanks to AD @ Drawing Boards.

My first memory of skateboarding took place in Bromley. Two kids were weaving in and out of pedestrians on old plastic boards outside of Allders.

It looked like the funnest thing ever, the only time I’d seen a skateboard before that it was ridden by Snoopy in a Peanuts book. When I got my first board in the post from my uncle I spent every waking hour in the carpark/Market by my house.

A few years later, first board in hand my dad took me to a mini ramp built on wasteland which is now a police station. This was behind Skate City which was an institution integral to skateboarding in the Borough we grew up in. Around the time of this ramp Bromley had a checkout in R.A.D magazine.

The mini ramp existed in different incarnations at different times. When this one was destroyed a new one was built in Churchill gardens. This was frequented by many people I still know today. Dave Minns, Andy May, John Foster, Steve Neale, Simon Jones, Jon Laidlow, Andy Skinner, Andy Dale, Danny Mody. I apologise now for any names that aren’t mentioned. I considered running nothing more than a list of names but settled on some kind of narrative.

Aged 10, Skate City club membership card and 29p Sainsbury’s coke in hand I met a young Ben Dominguez down there. We skated some street spots together after a kid tried to steal my Airwalk hat. Twenty years later and we’re still skating Churchill gardens together, who’d have thunk it? This ramp was burnt down and years later Ian Felton who ran Skate City raised funds for another mini again behind the shop.

During the period where no ramp existed we would all skate the banks, rails, stairs and benches dotted around. Most frequently sessions occurred in the Glades underground carpark. Some nights as many as ten of us would be down there to be joined by maybe that many again from a Croydon convoy. We would skate down there for hours. Mostly skate missions were further afield in the daytime, London or Croydon bound. There was certainly a time in my life where not an evening went past that I wasn’t in that carpark.

The ramps that existed behind Skate City drew a lot of people. When Ewan Bowman was living at Shier’s house the two of them would often visit as would Mark Skinner, Peter Lee, Rayman and Lee Stewart. Lee would do two foot high melons. I remember Shier and Skinner following each other as fast as they could. Backside grind, backside grind, backside grind.

At some point Skinner decided it was a good idea to turn frontside into Shier’s oncoming backside grind. Headbutt! Ben dropping in on a 6ft high vert extension (plank of wood) is another good memory. He dropped in on rollerblades to face plant once too, constant comedy. When these ramps were no longer a constant scene of good folk splintered as is often the case. I’m happy to report that many of my friends who spent some years away from skating are again doing it all the time.

It was amazing the Boxing Day just gone when Nathan organised a skate at Churchill Gardens. Serious crew showed up. As you’ll see from the photo it was peppered with faces old and new. Finally there is a park of sorts just behind these banks, this crew shot was a premonition of something to come. Since it’s been built serious visitors have passed through. Jerome Campbell, Neil Smith, Colin Kennedy, Lucien Clarke, Chris Ault, Casper Brooker and Jerry Wilson. I’ve been spending some time down there skating the ledges and it’s amazing seeing a new crew and solid scene emerging. If the rumour I heard last night is true, this will only get stronger.

It wouldn’t be right to have this printed and not thank the following not mentioned within without whom the days past would be nothing: Neil Hamed, Paul Kerekgyarto, Simon Ricci, Matt Janes, Fungus, Matt Wilson, Robert Grace, Robert Belcher, Alex “Brindle” Johnson, Rob Stevens, Adam Willis, Dan Callow, Matt Hilder, Richard Tavner ,Ralf Hilder, Andy Bedford, Dominic Marley, Billy Waite, Riaz Donaldson, John Nolan, John Davis aka Gwobtest, Darren Hopper, German Tom. Also thanks to the crew keeping it friendly in the tennis courts – Max, Nathan, Benji, Will, Nick, Law, Harry, Dr Creature who is off to Portland whose name always escapes me and anyone I forgot. Enjoy the footage!