Those of you who’ve been paying attention in recent weeks will have noted that here at Organ we’re not that impressed with the way the suits and ties of London’s SouthBank Centre have been treating the skateboarders, the Undercroft community, and the whole issue of the creative space used and enjoyed in so many positive ways by so many different groups of people. Indeed, you may have noted our WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS show over at Cultivate (an art show that opened last week to very big crowds and healthy positive response).
You have put the Organ/Cultivate connection by now haven’t you? Now as we’ve said quite a few times over the last few weeks (or indeed months), we know nothing about skateboards, other that the obvious fanzine/music/street art crossover – encounters with those Skate Mutties From the 5th Dimension, copies of Organ on sale at Slam City Skates back in the day and such, we are not part of the skateboard underworld. We’re not skateboarders, we’re paint-heads, we’re music-fiends, we ride Melotrons, not skatedecks! Right now we are all skateboarders – everyone should be – musicheads, artists, photographers, cyclists, ballet dancers, people who like their culture served with a little more than just a coffee shop, everyone.
The Southbank Undercroft is about a lot more than just skateboarding, I don’t know one end of a skateboard from another, when I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to get to London and experience this space, I still love going there – so so many people do. And as D*Face has voiced so well further down this page (via a blog we’ve “borrowed” from our friends at the Long Live South Bank website), there’s so many of us who’s lives have been touched in a positive way by this unique and very special space….
Here’s what artist D*Face has to say…
A certain Marty McFly may have encouraged D*Face’s parents to buy him a skateboard but it was at the South Bank where his love for skateboarding flourished. The celebrated street artist shares his own story of the South Bank and how this iconic skate spot not only enabled him to become a skateboarder but also influenced his art, outlook and view of the city of London itself.
“In 1984 after watching ‘Back to the Future’ at the local cinema I managed to convince my parents to buy me a ‘wide American skateboard’. This was no mean feat, in part due to my parents ill perceived view that skateboarding was an ‘outcasts’ activity. Several months and many hours of practice later I’d exhausted the local car park ‘skate spot’ and began seeking more exciting, challenging grounds. London skate spots can be counted on two hands, moreover places that are skateable when raining, which as we know from living in the UK is about 9 months of the year, can be counted on one, thus making these ‘dry’ skate spots even more important. So with the knowledge passed down from the older kids at school I ventured to the South Bank, finding this complex of flat banks was like finding a concrete Oasis. I spent most weekends for near to the next decade at the South Bank, often getting chased off or sweeping away the gravel thrown over the banks by the Security Guards who been instructed to stop the ‘kids’ skateboarding there.
See, the South Bank has never welcomed skateboarders. It has always been a struggle to have this badly lit, somewhat intimidating space seen for its significance to skateboarding. In fact in 1987 I attended the ‘Smell of Death – Save the South Bank Jam’, which was packed from front to back with skaters, with numerous international pro riders making the journey over to show support. Luckily this show of strength managed to save it then so it now seems ludicrous that the same fate is looming over the South Bank some 27 years later and it’s cultural significance is still having to be pointed out and fought for instead of embraced, particularly given the surrounding buildings artistic heritage. You only have to visit the South Bank at the weekend and see the volume of tourists transfixed by the skaters carving their routes on the banks to know this is true. Just image search Google for ‘The South Bank’ to see how many and how far up skateboarding comes in that search”.
And here’s a slice of D*Face action…
And here’s an explanation of that slice of D*Face action…
“Experimental and slightly mental. The D*Face spray paint skateboard interface. What better way to paint the pool then letting everyone get involved? With high-tech remotely controlled spray can apparatus mounted to the underside of skateboards…every line a skater took became the paint job of the pool. The year planning is because of the complexity of making the tech remote control spray can apparatus…not for planning a pool skate party…haha…it’s my pool…we paint it and skate it all the time…no one needs to clean it…do a search for RIDICULOUS pool skateboarding to see other sessions. Thanks for watching…A Peter King Film. More here”
And while we’re here, I’ve got to say a little more……
The rather underhand suits of the South Bank Centre threw together what looked to us like some rather hasty assembled set of propaganda-flavoured art events last week – their recent misleading spin, along with the statements, you tube broadcasts and broadsheet interviews from their payroll puppets like Billy Bragg, and that “I’m a hip-hop-I’m-down-with-the-urban-kids” guy from Radio One – their spin really have been a little underhand to say the least – the cynical divide and rule tactics that last weekend saw the Southbank paying “name” street artists to paint the South Bank Centre as part of their current (rather cynically convenient) Urban Art programme. A lot of so called street artists need to take a look at themselves after last week’s events. Now I have a lot of time for the Southbank and their events and official programmes, I question a lot of what’s going on with the actual running of the complex right now (I do wonder about street artists painting directly on to that beautiful 1950’s Ballardian concrete) , but I love the space, I love the brutal concrete and the glorious greyness, the brave new world of Detics and Skylons, we’ve been to some excellent events there both big and small – I am not anti Southbank, I understand their need for finance and to find a solution, I just very very strongly disagree with their destructive anti-art solution that they’ve come up with as a rather arrogant answer to their current problems. I love the Southbank, but right now, I for one, with the way they are treating Undercroft community and the way they’re frying to force their soulless coffee shop Westfield vision on us all, right now, I for one, would NOT have been painting as part of their official event last weekend, and I’m rather disgusted to see that some of my fellow artists who did… One or two “street artists” need to take a look at themselves this week. Right now, we all need to take D*Face’s lead, speak out and make a stand, right now. If the South Bank Centre artistic director and her board want to make it about skateboarders versus art then we, as artists, choose to stand with the skateboarders, right now we are all skateboarders. (Sean)
WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS goes on for one more weekend at Cultivate Vyner Street…. Come and see some art, pick up some free stickers and badges, sign up to the campaign, maybe even but a shirt (all money goes to the LLSB campaign, Cultivate does not take a cut); here’s the press release from the opening along with some photos from the first night of the two week show,,,,
“WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS – ARTISTS AGAINST THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SOUTH BANK UNDERCROFT”
– A First Thursday two week art show at Cultivate, Vyner Street, East London
Opening August 1st
Here at Cultivate, we’ve been growing increasingly uncomfortable the rather alarming changes that are currently being threatened along the London South Bank and especially to the vitally important and culturally iconic undercroft space. We’ve also, as artists, been growing rather uncomfortable with the tactics being used by those who wish to impose these changes on us.
The headline here is that the South Bank Centre Artistic director Jude Kelly and her board’s latest tactic, in their response to objections bring voiced to their plans to replace the existing skate park space with yet more coffee shops and retail opportunities, appears to be to try and portray the Save South Bank campaign as a simple case of selfish skateboarders versus art.
The South Bank Centre spokespeople seem to want to tell anyone who will listen, that the skateboarders are the only people who use, value and celebrate the beautifully brutal organic Undercroft art space, they insist that the boarders should move along and make way for the rest of us in the name of art.
The plan seems to be to close the ever-evolving, organic, historic, creatively-alive, skate-space and the art-covered walls, to arrogantly shut down some thirty or more years of artistically important creativity and acknowledged history, to shove it all out of the way and replace it with more glass-fronted coffee shops and “retail opportunities”, replace it with yet another soulless hopping mall frontage and maybe have some art hidden behind it somewhere out of sight.
We at Cultivate, as working artists (who, on the whole don’t know one end of a skateboard from another), feel strongly enough about the misleading tactics and cultural destruction being forced on us all by those who run the South Bank Centre, to cancel our planned August First Thursday exhibition and instead put in a completely new (last minute) show called WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS.
WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS will be a group show of work from contemporary artists, an open show – we’ve invited painters, small scale sculptors, art-makers of all shapes and sizes, to join us and make it clear that we ALL want the place to stay as it is and that we don’t want it destroyed. moved, hidden away in favour of yet more over-priced coffee shops, retail opportunities and sanitised programmed versions of what we already have.
The Undercroft has been the heart and soul of the Southbank for longer than most of us can remember. This issue is not just about skateboarders losing their space, this is about us ALL losing something of massive artistic, historical and cultural importance, about a space we all enjoy, this is about us ALL wanted the art space and not wanting more coffee shops…
WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS is NOT a show about skateboarding, skateboards, street art or the art of the South Bank undercroft,WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS is simply a diverse eclectic show of work from contemporary artists who wish to voice their objection to the planned cultural destruction. By simply being in the show the artists involved are making a statement about not wanting an important cultural space destroyed for the sake of another coffee shop and a profit margin. and that if the South Bank Centre artistic director and her board want to make it about skateboarders versus art then we. as artists, choose to stand with the skateboarders
WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS will be a selected curated show put together by Cultivate founder Sean Worrall
“WE ARE ALL SKATEBOARDERS – ARTISTS AGAINST THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SOUTH BANK UNDERCROFT” – A First Thursday two week contemporary art show at Cultivate, Vyner Street, East London
Opening night. First Thursday. August 1st, 6pm – 9pm and then 2nd until 13th August, usual gallery opening times
For me as an artist, gallery owner and employer of creatives, I cannot begin to explain how much I owe skateboarding and what it has given me creatively. It introduced me to some of the most incredibly talented visual artists I’ve ever met, not to mention some of the most athletically creative people I’ve ever witnessed. It taught me to look at the city differently and has connected me to artisans globally. Without skateboarding I would not be the artist I am today; without the South Bank I would not have been a skateboarder.
The South Bank was then as it is now the Holy Grail of London skate spots. It’s never been the most suited, ‘ideal’ skatepark, but that is what makes it so endearing. It’s hard to contextualise this to people that haven’t skateboarded, certainly those who haven’t grown up skateboarding, but it is to skateboarders the same as the Oval Cricket Ground is to Cricketers or Wimbledon is to Lawn Tennis Players. Now you may think this seems like an exaggeration but really it’s an under statement. The love for those simple concrete banks runs deep in the heart of GLOBAL skateboarding and it is a seminal skate spot with huge historical significance. To destroy this would be a crime and surely the great oak of a building and institution that stands above those humble concrete banks it is meant to be a bastion for artistry, creativity and self expression, don’t let that oak loose its roots.
Long Live the South Bank.