“City Of Culture”

Skateboarders in Coventry have been after a new, good, modern skatepark since the day the idea of a skatepark at Memorial Park was even formulated. Covpark was built in 2001, and even before that, the likes of Jim The Skin and Steve Spain were attending meeting with the council to try and get us an amazing park. Throughout the years, the campaign to build this dream park passed from Jim, to myself, to my wife Emily, Davey Walmsley, to Lucas Healey, and many others who gave their free time and worked hard to look for funding, establish the groundwork for a new skatepark, and get us out of this dance we keep doing with the council.

I’ve said that a new skatepark in Cov is always roughly 2 years away. The problem is, that 2 years never counts down, because the council try their best to stop the clock, every time. 

I have purposefully been distant from the campaign for years. I got jaded with it and decided I wanted to concentrate on my own life for a while. Davey Walmsley, however, has been knee deep in it for a few years, and had some choice words to say about it on Facebook earlier this week;

“I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to trying to achieve anything worthwhile in Coventry.

The culture within the City is one of monopoly and nepotism. If you have friends in high places the City is yours to run wild with.

We’ve worked bloody hard with Cov Skatepark Project and we’ve got no where. In fact, I think we’re further away than ever before. It’s clear the council just aren’t interested, almost actively against, that’s how much neglect there is. A huge community, completely ignored before the face doesn’t fit.

If it’s a bowling green for a hand full of old folks, throw the money at it as much as we can! 1 mill not enough? Have a shed load more!!

But an Olympic Sports facility for young people? Nah mate. Fuck ‘em. Slap a PSPO against them instead.”

I recognise this jaded and tired attitude in Davey’s post. It’s instantly familiar to me. I’ve seen it in Steve Spain. I’ve seen it in myself. I saw it in Emily when Culture skatepark fell apart. Campaigning for a facility like this burns out everyone who touches it, and I’ve said it before, so I will say it again: IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD TO GET A GOOD SKATEPARK BUILT.

In light of this, I thought there were two things I wanted to highlight here. The first, was that even if the council don’t care, to the point where we now have TWO justified campaigns to get skateparks in Coventry, Coventry is still meant to be 2021′s City of Culture. With Hull (a former city of culture) really doubling down on giving skateboarders good facilities, there is hope that Coventry’s City Of Culture committee might do something similar. From their branding, website and promotional material, it seems they at the very least support skateboarding in the city and want it to be part of the city’s improvements;

I made a point of this in an instagram story, where I talked about Hull being a city of culture, which has fantastic skateboarding facilities and a positive attitude towards skateboarders. I also called out the city of culture committee on using our skate scene to promote their campaign, whilst they have not helped us get a new skatepark at all. We should be calling out people like this, who want to use skateboarding to see like they are supportive of young people and youth culture, but aren’t putting in the legwork to actually improve skateboarding at all. With Cov Skatepark Project and the War Memorial Ramp Renovation Campaign active in the city, there’s plenty of people to contact about improving our skateparks, and if Coventry fails in this regard, I don’t think they’ll live up to the City Of Culture name.

The second thing I want to highlight, is how much work has already been done. Don’t underestimate the resourcefulness of skateboarders. People like to paint us as lazy, they like to paint us as anti-social, and not presentable, but we’ve pulled together and done a lot of good. 

  • Coventry hasn’t got a new skatepark, but Kenilworth and Leamington have both managed to get improved facilties in the last 10 years. With work underway to get a new skatepark in Warwick as well.
  • At the very least, due to our knowledge, and tenacity, Coventry City Council have made repairs to Covpark and Holbrooks bowls. 
  • We got the council to provide good temporary skatepark facilities which gave us a platform to show how big our skate scene is (and consequently set the groundwork for the Cov Skatepark Project). 
  • Our scene pushed our way into events around the city, with a mini ramp built by Cov Skateboarders, to show off why Coventry needs a better permanent location for it’s skate scene to congregate.
  • The Cov Skatepark Project has inspired and taught kids to skate, and ignited a passion for skateboarding in people who would never have stood on a board otherwise. The collective efforts of all local skateboarders has improved and increased the number of people skating locally and the bigger our scene gets, the more a need for a new park cannot be ignored.
  • We have collectively battled negative press and proved ill informed career politicians wrong, and came out as a positive force for change. We’ve defended ourselves honourably and without compromising our values as skateboarders when attacked by council mouthpieces who see us as an easy target for ASBO’s and PSPO’s. We are a force to be reckoned with and that is all down to the hard work of every skateboarder in the local scene
  • We have proven, that we just won’t stop. We’re used to failing, we can keep on at a bunch of council jobsworths in suits until the world ends.

Whilst I empathise with Davey’s train of thought, and I do feel genuine frustration, annoyance and anger at the council, I take it as a sign to re-evaluate how positive this scene is. I take it as a time to look at how much skateboarders have accomplished in this area. I take it as a time to look at how little the council have actually done, and to remember that all of the good we see from skateboarding in Cov and Warwickshire, is all skateboarders. Regardless of how many roadblocks an out-of-touch politician in a suit throws at us, we’ll keep doing what we do, and no “city of culture” title will change that.

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