New Social Art School Projects - Aberdeen Street Skaters

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September 2003

I've met up with a bunch of young skateboarders. When I tell them about my mission - to talk about the barricades at St Nicholas House - they are very keen to speak to me...first I ask them to introduce themselves, so that I can keep track of who says what. Here they are:

Graham: My name is Graham, aka Sparky, I'm 17 and I rock!

Duane: I'm Duane. I especially love skating in Broad Street, which I can no longer do. I'm 14.

Chris: I'm Chris and...they spend all that money on that...what they have done with Broad Street...they could have build somewhere for skating. That's all I think. I'm 15.

Craig: I'm Craig. I think it's just horrible what they've done, it just looks really ugly and I'm 14.

Robert: I'm Robert. I'm 13, I've been skating for 2 years and I just moved to Aberdeen and I think it's a disgrace what they’ve done to Broad Street.

David: I'm David, 15. I just think that Broad Street was one of the best places to skate in town and everyone skated there nearly every sunny day...and it's all gone...tragedy!

Do you have other places where you skate?

Graham: We've got other places to go, but they're not as good, like St. Nicholas Centre. But they've put fences up to try and stop us from skating there as well.

What do you think about what they have put up over there?

Graham: Can we swear? It just looks like a big metal lump of shit, really. Just absolutely crap; it looks so disgustingly ugly compared to what we used to use it for.

Duane: It's unnatural. It's just metal; it's like a prison or something.

What does that make you feel like?

Graham: It just makes us feel unwanted and oppressed cause no one is listening to what we've got to say.

David: Outcasts!

I've heard that some guys also skate on top of BT, a car park or something. Are there groups of skaters that skate in different places?

Duane: The older guys go to BT and the younger ones sometimes go up. But a lot of the younger ones don't really like it cause the older ones are there and they are a lot better and some younger ones don't have confidence enough. So they prefer Broad Street where it's all the young skaters...

Robert: I think all the little kids...everyone used to skate at Broad...with the older guys, all the little kids felt they were getting in the way cause the bigger people are better than them. And their favourite place was Broad Street...On top of the St Nicholas Centre is no way as good as Broad.

Graham: A lot of the skaters skated at Broad Street, not just because they didn't want to go to BT but also because there's different types of skating. BT is okay if you do flatland tricks. But Broad Street has ledges if you do grinds and stuff... And you could learn so many different tricks there and it's just amazing, so much fun, so many different things you could do. You could spend the whole day there and just really love it. BT is fun sometimes, but you can only skate there after 6 o'clock.

Why is that?

Graham: Because there are security guards there and they are away at 6. So you can skate after that. But it's not really that fun - it's okay if you have nowhere else to go, which we don't at the moment.

David: I think Broad Street was good for all different kind of skaters because the ledges varied in height. If you couldn't ollie that high, there were smaller ledges, almost like kerb size. And there were the higher ones for skaters that have been skating for a little bit longer.

Have any of you ever been in any accidents with pedestrians?

Robert: Yeah...eehh, when we used to skate at Broad Street it was like...a lot of elderly people and, we would avoid them, but they used to always come up and start complaining at us like "Oh you shouldn't be skating here". We used to ask them "Where else is there to go?" There's the skate park down at the beach, but it costs too much.

David: It's really annoying when people tell you to go and skate at the park because adults don't seem to realise that street skating is more fun for most people than park skating. They just say, "oh, the ramps are so big, can't you have fun there all day?" But it's not the same; street skating is a whole different thing.

Graham: It's kind of like if they build basketball courts for football players. And that's pretty much what they've done with the skate park, they've built all these ramps and stuff, but we like ledges and stairs. We are more technical skaters; we don't like giant ramps and stuff. I mean they're fun, but that's not what we're really into.

Have any of you ever run into anybody or seen anybody do it?

Duane: I have. I've run into a guy called Robert - he's sitting next to me - I ran into him when he was skating past me and I kick flipped and I landed and bumped into him!!!

I mean, have you run into anybody else or have you gotten in the way of people?

Graham: Well, there is this one skater, I'm not gonna say his name, who used to be quite notorious for getting in pedestrians ways and shouting at them and he was quite a disturbance. That's only really one person, but then again it only takes one to ruin it for everyone.

Well, right do you have any ideas of where you're gonna go in the future?

Robert: There was a meeting about a skate park not too long ago. But they've been going on about a skate park for a while and when it did happen it was not our kind of stuff, if they were gonna make another skate park, like they're saying they will, they should get a lot of peoples opinions on what there should be in it - not just build a park, one person's idea of a park

Would you skate in a park if they had stairs and stuff like that, I mean instead of using the streets?

Robert: Yeah, if they build the right kind of stuff then we would, but the skate park at the beach...not only do you have to pay to get in, it's not even like...Yeah, if it were the right kind of ramps then we would actually be skating there a lot more often. But just now, we skate in the streets, because the park is just not good enough.

How much does it cost to get into the skate park?

Robert: It was £10 for a whole day.

Duane: Put it like this; if you count it all together with the buss fairs, the dinner money, just food and your membership and then your hours for skating and renting pads it can come up to like say £7 first time for an hour, something like that. And your membership won't last a year. That park has been shot down and reopened and closed. So the alternative to the skate park was Broad Street and that was a good place where loads of people met.

Graham: Even the stuff they have made the ramps out of. I mean they've made the ramps out of wood and that's for outdoors. And, you know it rains a lot here in Aberdeen. So most of the ramps are rotten all ready, like your wheels go straight through it when you land and it's crap. It's not been researched at all. You know, it's convenient for the councillors so they've got somewhere for us. They can just put us there and they can yell at us if we don't skate there. They've got an excuse now for moving us on, but...they suck.

Would any of you be interested in coming to a public meeting about this, where we hope to get some politicians to come along?

Graham + Robert:Yeah!

Duane: What's a politician? (everybody laughing)

Graham:So tell us, is this gonna be in a magazine or is it just independent research or what?

Well for a start it's my interest. I saw these fences a while ago - when was it finished?

David: 5 weeks ago.

...and I thought, shit what's this, you know, it looks quite fascist, it looks very hostile.

David: They blame us...They think the place looked bad enough because we apparently vandalized it, grinding and crunching up the kerbs a little bit, but it looks much worse now than it did when we were skating on it. All the metal bars...

Graham: You know what all the "normal" people used it for? They sat on it occasionally. That's not very exiting; you don't get very much happiness out of that. You know we skated on it, we progressed and we learned and it was amazing fun - the most fun ever. The amount of enjoyment we got out of that was much more than anyone gets from looking at a ledge with no wax on it!

Probably people think that you are quite noisy. Those boards make a lot of noise.

Robert: No! Skateboarding makes hardly any noise, at all.

Chris: It was really the BMX'ers that were breaking the kerbs up and it was the roller bladers that got in peoples way and sat at the end of it and made it look messy, probably.

Craig: BMX'ers suck!

Chris: Not as much as bladers!

Craig: If you go to the meeting you will be beaten up when they hear that!

Graham: BMX'ers are kind of cool, yeah. I kind of get on with them. There are three kinds of people that would go to Broad. There are the roller bladers, the skaters like us, and the BMX'ers. And the roller bladers, some of them were okay to talk to, but a lot of them really argue and just get in the way. But the BMX'ers are nice enough people. It's just what they did, kind of, wrecked it for some of us...Their bikes are really heavy and they've got metal stunt pecks that stick out. And because they are much heavier than skateboards they grinded the ledges, they took big nudges out. So they needed a lot of wax on the kerbs as well, which kind of helped us, cause we like to grind them up as well. But we didn't do as much damage as they did.

Duane: I don't see why they've done it. I mean, Broad Street has been going on for years even when I wasn't here, when I didn't even exist. A lot of the pro's used to skate there. If it survived that long, I don't see why it can't be here right now.

Someone told me that those metal strips were put up a long time ago and the skaters used to rip them off?

Graham: They lasted about two months.

Now they've done something that looks like it will last a bit longer!

Robert: There's a pro skateboarder, John Rattray, a really, really good skateboarder. He was brought up and skated in Aberdeen when he was a kid. I don't know what he would think if he saw it now.

Did he use to skate here in Broad Street maybe?

Robert: Yeah, no doubt about it, he skated Broad Street years and years ago.

Do you now where he is?

Robert: He's in California. He's famous and everything now.

Maybe we should try and find his address and send him some pictures?

Graham: Andy at the Boarderline shop has got it; he's friends with him.

Okay, I'll go and talk to him about it.

Graham: That guy we're talking about, you know, in one of the Blue Print videos - Blue Print is a skate company that John used to skate for. John had a section in the video and in the end John actually had Broad Street on his Thank-You page. He's extremely rich now, living in California, skates for one of the biggest skating companies and it's all because of Broad Street. He could go there, he could train and he learned new tricks and had fun. That's what he's doing, he's now getting paid for it and none of us will ever have that opportunity cause we've got nowhere to practise and it sucks!

Of course it sucks...

Graham: It used to be really good fun. I didn't know any of these guys before I started skating at Broad Street. I pretty much met every single one of them there. I used to get the bus, not arranging to meet anyone, just show up and it was guaranteed there would be someone there. Being complete strangers at the start of the day and we would be best friends at the end of this man here (David) and this man (Robert)...

Duane: We all had the opportunity to skate at Broad when we started, it's unfair for the newcomer skate boarders cause they won't get the experience of skating at Broad and all the stuff they've probably heard about. Like it was so good and they will never get to try it out.

Craig: They deserve it, cause we got it, so why shouldn't they...

Robert: I moved to Aberdeen 6 months ago and I knew about Broad Street and that's the only place I went when I came and if it wasn't for Broad Street, I would only know half of the people I know today. I wouldn't have so many friends.

Graham: There's not many hobbies where you can just do that, meet a complete stranger and just instantly be friends with them. I mean, a lot of other guys, we like to call them "Bams" or "Neds". You'll see them in their Burberry caps and designer gear. All they really spend their time doing is sitting around at McDonalds, starting fights with anyone for no reason. They start smoking when they are about 12, they go out and they get drunk on cheap cider, they smash up bus shelters and shout at old people and they are just general useless. I've got lots of friends that don't skate and they are cool enough. It's just these people; their whole life seems to just being devoted to pissing other people off and getting in the way and hurting other people as much as possible.

So you think that you are doing a healthy, fun, good thing, making friends and being friendly?

Graham: Yeah. It's a really good alternative cause there's not so much else that young people can do in the city. So skating is a really good thing for us. Well, it was until the stupid fuckers did that...

We have to try and find out who did it.

Robert: The council...

We try to do some research and try to get these people to meet you guys and talk about it. Your opinion should be heard by them.

Duane: Half the noise that skate boarders make doesn't add up to the amount of noise that car engines make and the busses.

Any other comments?

Graham: We're not bad people, like when we're talking to you...

You don't look bad to me!

Graham: Thanks. If they actually spoke to us, we're easy enough to get along with. It wouldn't be that hard to get us somewhere decent to go where we would want to go...That's all I have to say! So, when is this meeting you were talking about?