If you love exploring the city at a different speed, and if skateboarding is a passion of yours or you simply admire it, then you will find the story of millions of skateboarders in the streets of London. These stories are shown through their graffiti; their hands equipped with coloured cans that have given new life to the urban spaces of the city.
Southbank Skatepark, Waterloo
The Southbank Skatepark is one of the most used public spaces in London by skateboarders, BMXers and rollerskaters. Since the 1970s, millions of people have walked, jumped and scratched the walls and floors of a corner of the Southbank Centre. This space has tenaciously resisted the government redevelopment plan that expected to relocate it in an area not far from where it stands today. A forest of concrete pillars that support the wide terrace of the Royal Festival Hall made its voice heard in the heart of one of the busiest cultural spots of London. The area, which extends along the Thames, is a stage for music, theatre and performing arts. Although skateboarding is part of the cultural heritage that makes London a city for many creative talents, the idea was to replace the skate park with shops and restaurants. The skate park is an area that was not designed to become such, it has been the use of people that made it, over time, an icon. Today, many tourists visit the Southbank Skatepark for the perennial transformation of its walls and columns covered with ever changing graffiti, and to capture a photo of a well-executed jump. What satisfaction to shoot at the right moment! The skate park is currently safe from any unwanted redevelopment.
Leake Street, Waterloo
Leake Street is also known as Banksy Tunnel or Graffiti Tunnel. It is a road that runs under Waterloo Train Station but, contrary to the latter, not many know of it. Close to the iconic London Eye, the tunnel was used in 2008 by the famous graffiti artist and political activist Banksy. Since then, the place has become the destination of many artists, a sort of public gallery with free access to temporary and unknown works of art. You sometimes might see an artist at work one day, but find that the next day the graffiti has already disappeared, covered by a new one. Leake Street does not know stability, it is a road that belongs to everybody, and as such it changes according to people.
Stockwell Skatepark, Brixton
If you want to move away from the centre of London, Brixton is a short distance destination that attracts many skateboarders and graffiti artists. Stockwell Skatepark, unlike the Southbank Skatepark is not covered by a roof, so make sure you choose a sunny day to plan your visit. Stockwell Sands or Brixton Beach, as the skatepark is also called, was born in the late 1970s replacing a Baptist Church, which has since moved nearby, opposite to the major music venue, Brixton Academy. Coming from the closeby Brixton Market, the skatepark, whose surface was once red and now is instead a mixture of gray concrete and coloured paint, opens its doors to wheels lovers. Even children with their beloved scooters have fun climbing up and down the hills of the ‘beach’. At night the park is still in use as there exists no right time for skateboarding or make graffiti – moonlight makes the atmosphere more intriguing!
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An underground culture
Skateboarding and graffiti are part of an underground culture that moves in the city, which uses and enriches every place with a spirit of belonging. What binds anyone who has built a part of the place is what makes it special! You too could leave your story on London’s walls and streets. Art needs to be learnt by doing it!
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