Ghost Town

Coventry has never been a skate mecca, but fun can definitely be had on a skateboard in the city of peace and reconciliation. With that being said, over the last couple of years, some of the great spots I, and many others, grew up skating have been removed by Coventry City Council. With no plans for a new skatepark from the council, it can feel like the skate scene is constantly being slapped in the face with the number of places to skate dwindling. I spoke to some of the Cov locals about some of their favourite long gone spots, in an attempt to understand why our dead spots, no matter how innocuous, are part of skateboarding history. 

Header photo by Ryan Bradley.

I grew up skating in Coventry in the early 2000’s. By the time I had started skating, the spots had been skated for decades prior, but still had plenty of life left as the new boom of skaters entered the city. The spots have always had a rough and raw quality to them, but then again that was part of the charm. Banks, ledges, rails, stairs, even the odd street transition – but all of them had a common aesthetic of a city that had been rebuilt and reimagined through a brutalist lense after the second World War. The spots are decent enough to get the attention of Stereo’s Carl Shipman, Darkstar’s Joe Hinson, and the respective Get Lesta and Baghead crews: so it stands to reason that they are most certainly important in British skateboarding history. 

Andy Clare, one of the OG Cov Street skaters, is the owner and operator of Spray Station – a graffiti shop in Coventry’s Fargo Village. He’s a lifelong skateboarder in the city, having seen new spots crop up again and again. He remembers many of the spots from the 90’s era, many of which were still present when I started skating, and only recently were demolished:

“Brickies was great, I grew up skating those banks and loved it there despite the terrible floor and smell of piss. The balcony spot (aka Virgin Wall rides) was fun with good flat, grindy ledges and steep banks. The marble bank/wallride behind the west orchards escalators was great, and there used to be some big square wooden benches too.”

P: Gaz Taylor boosts a melon out of Brickies for his “New Blood” article in Sidewalk.

Brickies, aka The Brickworks, was my favourite spot in the world. So much so, I wrote an obituary on this very blog when it got demolished last year. For many of us who grew up in Coventry, Brickies was endless fun: lip tricks, bank tricks, raw, unforgiving ground, and the openness of a skatepark made it the perfect challenge for anyone who enjoyed riding a skateboard. 

Gaz Taylor was part of the same generation of skaters as Andy, and has been skating in Coventry almost as long as I’ve been alive. Consistently adept at tackling the street spots in the city, he even got snapped doing a melon at Brickies in an issue of Sidewalk. Brickies wasn’t his only favourite place to skate though:

“There was a flat bar outside the Belgrade theatre next to the fountain, about knee high.  Perfect for learning rail tricks on. I remember it used to shoot you off the end at speed as it was slightly down hill, that was really fun. Also, the old banks at Cov and Warwickshire Hospital were really good fun, that was a very long time ago though.”

Ryan Stanway was one of the first skaters I met down the Memorial Park, before Terribleco was even a thing. Despite meeting at a skatepark, he is largely a street skater, and knows the spots of Coventry better than the back of his hand. He remembers one of the most infamous stair sets in Cov:

“Pigeon Shit has to be up high in the list of spots. It was the first decent sized set of stairs I landed tricks down when I was younger. There always used to be massive session there with 20 plus people all trying stuff." 

P: Moose throws a Varial Heel down at Pigeon Shit. Photo by Ryan Bradley

Pigeon Shit was a stairset in a "golden triangle” of spots in Coventry: an area surrounding the University where you couldn’t walk for more than 10 seconds without encountering more skateable architecture. It was a long 4 set, merging into a 5 set as the landing was on a slight hill, and had a knee high ledge running along the right hand side. The ledge was battered from years of abuse at the hands of trucks and BMX pegs alike, but it didn’t stop people like Kris Vile, Josh Walters, Ant Smith and others getting bangers on it. Josh’s last trick in my vid “Batface” saw him getting a FS Tailslide Bigspin out on the ledge, and the same video saw Ralph Cooper close out his part with a switch hard flip down the stairs at Pigeon Shit. It was a proving ground for any half decent street skater in Coventry. 

Ryan Bradley, a regular contributor to this blog, lives out in the Warwickshire village of Cubbington, but his real home is at the street spots in the centre of Coventry. A regular of the scene for more than 15 years, Ryan’s memory of street spots is pretty similar to my own. He remembers some of the more obscure spots and lesser remembered favourites:

“The pyramid spot at the old precinct entrance, next to New Look was so tight back in the day, and got so rinsed, especially by Tony Lui. The old blue fountain with transition at Belgrade was cool from what I remember, and was pretty fun to skate around in. The double death set, with the double rail that was right next to Brickies was great too. Obviously gotta mention Brickies itself, just because so much shit has gone down there for so long. There was a road gap on the hill in between the Boy’s club and Gosford Street at the University library: I remember Duffman trying to conquer that, and I’m pretty sure they filled that in.”

Some of the spots Ryan brings up were incredibly gnarly and were rarely skated. The double death rail didn’t see many tricks go down on it, but Stan Byrne caveman boardslid it in the 2013 Terribleco video “Concrete Jungle”. The road gap at the University library was like something straight out of San Francisco – a hill bomb spot with a gap over cobbles about the width of 1 and a half cars. The only person I know to have cleared it is Tony Lui. Finally, the old precinct pyramid spot was a small, whippy bank spot, which saw plenty of quick footed lip tricks go down from Tony Lui, Harry Myers, Kyle Smith and a wallie over the whole thing by Joxa. 

P: Tony Lui boosts a FS ollie out of the Pyramid Bank spot. Photo by Ryan Bradley

New spots (at the time) like the Herbert were popping up a lot, replacing old 1960’s architecture. It was a reminder that the city had been evolving and changing long before some of us even considered standing on a skateboard, or even before we were born. Gaz Taylor remembers dozens of spots I had never even seen in my time skating:

“Manual pads in Whitefriar’s car park were popular in the 90’s. Barrack’s car park had some rad free standing painted curbs, and some small banks shaped like half of a pyramid that we used to use to get air out of. There was a small rail outside the transport museum with no run up, that was good for cave man slides.”

“In the late 80’s there was a mini ramp in the woods in Canley next to Tesco, built by Phil Hunt. I remember it had bright orange coping on one side and bright green on the other side. The paint would stay on your trucks for a while after. Safeway’s car park on Holyhead Road had some rad slick curbs and some mud gaps. That was one of the main hang out spots for skaters in the early 90’s too. Grindable window ledges of the Coventry tax office building were very good fun.”

P: An after dark session at the Virgin Wallrides. Photo by Ryan Bradley

This article was inspired by the demolition of the concrete benches at the Littern Tree spot – named after the pub nearby. Current skaters in the scene mourned the loss of the spot, but speaking to sources who have had an eye on the redevelopment a brand new hub of spots is planned. Old spots are great and we miss them when they’re gone, but there’s a lot to be said for the excitement of new architecture and the spots that are yet to be. 

Nostalgia and history are powerful things, and they definitely contribute heavily to skateboarding. The cyclical trends, the feeling of skating a park you haven’t been to in 10 years, and the stories people tell of what trick was done at which spot. No matter what new spots are planned for Coventry, the old spots like Brickies, Virgin Wallrides, Littern Tree and Pigeon Shit will live on through what we remember about them, and of course the footage we got along the way. 

The Brooklyn Banks, Wallenberg, Hubba Hideout: These are all legendary, long gone spots that skateboarders talk about in hushed tones, but they don’t compare to our own personal spots we grow up skating, and miss immensely when they are gone. I would give my left nut for the chance to skate Brickies again, without a shadow of a doubt. For every local spot that gets demolished, it takes fond memories of a whole skate scene with it. Everything is temporary, so skate your spots whilst you got ‘em. 

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