There’s been heaps of opposition to the slated demolition of the Central London skate spot. Ahead of a decision on the site’s future, Jenna Selby, who’s skated there since the late 90s, tells us why it’s so special
Words and photos by Jenna Selby
Back in the late 90s I met a girl called Dee Sansom at a club in London. We became good friends and she persuaded me to buy a board. As she lived in Burnham and I was in Hertfordshire we used to arrange to meet every Sunday down at the Shell Centre (round the back of Southbank). We’d skate the steps there for a while before heading off into town. Later on in the evening we’d head back to Southbank when it would be a bit quieter and roll around the banks until late. I guess one of my most memorable times down there was the time Dee and I thought it was a good idea to see and skate-in the New Year, I think it was 1999. For the first hour it was fun, then it kind of dawned on us just how cold it would be to stick it out for five hours. From what I remember we did stick it out, though more due to sheer stubbornness than enjoyment. And we were on a train quick smart at 12.05am trying to de-thaw!
Though female skater numbers are rising, there are still far more guys who skate. At the end of the day it’s not a “pretty” sport but those who are drawn to it are some of the most dedicated you find. Although female riders are dotted around the UK, a more concentrated number are found in London, and all of them have skated Southbank at some time during their skate life. Being a skater is about belonging to a community of likeminded people who are brought together by a common bond. Southbank’s very roots represent that ideal, it is the one place every skater has in common and the one place that everyone has a story about.
There is always a friendly vibe down there, the skaters themselves form an integral part of the tourist attraction that is the Southbank. The enjoyment that passers-by seem to get out of watching the skateboarders also suggests that losing it would take away some of the area’s charm. Southbank is incredibly special to so many people. It is a place where anyone can be themselves, to share time with friends, to be alone, to experience culture outside of your own norm, and all of it is for free. This does not exist anywhere else in London and this is what will be lost if the space is turned into yet more cafes and shops. It will become yet another bland part of the riverfront with nothing to offer to people who more interested in being part of a community rather than living a material life.
Southbank is an iconic place that holds strong cultural importance. It is one of the key places in the UK that people from all over the world purposely travel to and try and conquer and that is hugely important for continuing to inspire and motivate young British skaters, which is why, I think so many people have got behind the campaign to save it.