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Scotland and Skateboarding

Kaitlin Dryburgh- 7th June 2023

Skateboarding has always been popular, and cool, it’s a cool pastime let’s face it. It’s a sport with its own sub-culture, attitude, clothing and language. Often featured in movies, music and video games, I think it would be hard to find someone who isn’t impressed by the way skaters basically throw themselves off of the fairly high ramps and then manage to pull of an amazing trick in the air and land back on a board no wider than nine inches, or at least I am. In the last couple years skateboarding has been expanding, and there’s been two major reasons for that. The first; there’s been a big push for more diversity in skateboarding and pushback on some of the casual sexism associated with the sport. The second; when the 2020 Summer Olympics included skateboarding for the first time this really exposed the sport to people who would have never otherwise watched skateboarding before, perhaps for many this was the first time they considered it as a legitimate sport.

In Scotland, where the news often neglects anything that isn’t football or rugby, skateboarding isn’t something you hear about unless you are directly involved with it, yet it’s popularity has grown and grown. I myself and some of my family and friends had never watched it on TV before and the Tokyo Olympics was the first time, and I was very much taken with it. I was in awe of the heights they were getting to, the alien technical terms the commentators were using, and the clothing that was so different to the other athletes at the Games. I think many watching were won over by the youngster Sky Brown competing for Team GB, who at the age of thirteen won Bronze and became Team GB’s youngest ever medal winner.

Scotland even has some rising stars in skateboarding. Aberdeenshire local Daisy Buchanan who’s only in sixth year is one of the top  street skaters in the UK and the rest of Europe. Coming in 6th in the GB Championships and 46th in the World Championships, she narrowly missed out on a place in the Paris Olympic team (but I’m sure we’ll see her at the next one). One of the most impressive aspects of her story is she managed to reach this success in just three years, going from nothing to competing in the world championships, even through lockdown she managed to fashion a makeshift ramp in her garden. Skating all over the world from Rome (even outside the coliseum), UAE and Switzerland, and winning in several different street competitions up and down the UK. All that traveling is expensive so thankfully with access to grants from community funds through-out Aberdeenshire the costs could be a lot more hefty.

However, the problems for any skateboarder remain the same with an elite skateboarder like Daisy, Scotland being a country with about 20 different variations of drizzle means that skating at a free outdoor skatepark isn’t always an option, so indoors you have to go and that isn’t always cheap. Which is why many top skateboarders throughout the UK often relocate to the US, which is unfortunate. It doesn’t look as if Daisy will be moving anytime soon, so it would be great if we could have more sheltered outdoor facilities for skaters. Daisy herself praises the sociable aspect of the sport and the community aspect of the sport.

Scotland’s relationship with Skateboarding is not in it’s infancy. Perhaps those who don’t know much about skateboarding would be surprised to know that Scotland has a world renowned skatepark. The park Livingston is a bucket list destination for skate fanatics. Its old school style is hard to come by now, and many believe that if you can skate in “Livi” you can skate anywhere. Built in 1981 the skatepark was one of the first in the UK to replicate the parks found out in the USA, the architect Iain Urquhart even visited California in his journey to design the park. Since it was built it’s status as a quality skatepark grew and grew, it’s scale and design drew in the crowds, even bringing some of the biggest names in the sport like Tony Hawk who visited the park in the height of his fame in the early nineties.

Yet in recent years the Livi has fallen into a state of disrepair. The thick concrete that can make it an unforgiving venue has developed big cracks, amd the bowl has started to feature mud and litter at times. The problems this can cause can be seen in the documentary “Long Live Livi”, a documentary created by the original architect’s niece which looks into the impact the skatepark has had on the community. However, what it successfully captures is the park’s ability to incite a new generation of skateboarders and that’s where we meet the self-proclaimed “Snagglerats”. A group of six year old girls who love skateboarding, it’s impressive watching they’re bravery as they practice their tricks on the Livi ramps. But as one of them shows a crack big enough to fit her hand in it’s obvious to see the high walls have become that bit more treacherous, providing more opportunities to fall and knock their confidence. Although their mums do everything they can to encourage their daughters in the sport they can’t always afford to take the girls to indoor skate parks, and that’s the great things about the Livi, it’s free.

But this isn’t a story of how a community gave up on a piece of their community, many people are fighting for the park to secure the funding it deserves to carry on functioning. Last month Historical Environmental Scotland in partnership with Livingston Council started the consultation process to possibly grant the skatepark listed status (the first ever in Scottish history). The council received 557 responses that are currently being reviewed, so soon the park may be legally considered a site of architectural importance with secured funding for it’s upkeep, which would be great to see. Although for many a skatepark isn’t the first thing they think of when someone says sports venue, however they can be brilliant places for community, creativity, and art, as well as sport.

Yet there are some great examples of the skating community pulling together to create more accessible options for other skaters.

Four years ago if you were to visit under the bridges in Kingston Glasgow you would have been met with a derelict land scattered with needles, rubbish and the remnants of fly-tipper’s, an absolute eyesore for those living around it and an area that quite often attracted crime. Yet when the indoor skateparks were still closed due to Covid a small group of skaters saw opportunity in this partially covered dumping ground. With the help of a few hands they cleared the area and built a ledge, word got out and others started to come out. The numbers who wanted to transform the scrap land started to grow and eventually a group of people who had never really built anything in their lives started to build an entire skatepark, now with over 15 ramps. With the help of a steady stream of donations both skaters and non-skating locals helped to make this happen, as well as some help from experts they’ve manged to create a fully fledged skatepark, with a small community garden attached to it. This is the community taking ownership of the land at it’s finest, even the police got on board (eventually) after they realised crime in the area was decreasing. The community shares responsibility to police the skatepark and ensure it’s always clean and vandals stay away.  Once an embarrassing eyesore, you now might pass it on the weekend, a clean vibrant place, packed with people of all abilities, sharing their passion for skating.

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