Did you know the Prime Minister appeared in Death’s 2006 video “Escape From Boredom”? Out of every possible politician who could have been caught on camera by the Death team, it’s funny that it was Boris Johnson. And 14 years later, that same person is telling us to stay indoors to stop the spread of a deadly virus.
We’re in the midst of a second lockdown here in the UK, and part of this comes with the terrible news that skateparks are officially meant to be closed for the duration of this lockdown. Now, first and foremost we should be staying safe, and avoid spreading of the Coronavirus. Having said this, closing outdoor skateparks seems like a bit overkill.
At time of writing, playgrounds remain open: areas with a lot of touch points, which have also been used quite heavily by parents (as, to be honest, there isn’t much to do with kids as a lot of places are closed). It seemed odd to me that these places remained open, but skateparks were lumped in with Gyms and outside exercise equipment.
Skateboard England have been in talks with the government, arguing the case for outdoor skateparks to remain open. So far the conversations have led to skateparks being closed, but skateboarding as an activity is still “permitted” to take place. It is perhaps all too familiar with this government, for their advice around skateboarding to be so contradictory: Yes, you can skateboard, but the places where you are usually allowed to skateboard are closed.
Skateboard England are obviously working off advice that doesn’t make much sense, and have encouraged skateboarders to hit street spots and potentially band together to create DIY skateparks, knowing fully well these cannot technically be shut down as they aren’t actual skateparks.
Last lockdown saw a rise in these kinds of spaces, as communities banded together to reclaim forgotten land – such as Bournbrook DIY in Birmingham, Hackney Bumps in London and the RBL Spot in Essex. These were shining examples of the positivity of skateboarding, and have definitely set a precedent for a new, legitimate avenue to get a skatepark built if you don’t have one nearby.
Knowing what we know about the Coronavirus, and knowing the incompetence of our government (which, sure, might be mere opinion – but backed up by their handling of COVID and Brexit), there’s more of a sense of blatant disregard for their advice this time. The UK Skateboarding community seem completely unconvinced by the government’s insistence that skateparks are a vector for the virus, especially as we are all aware close physical contact to others is not essential to the act of skateboarding.
The closing of skateparks is probably more of a blanket attempt to stop people gathering for “organised sports” more than anything else. But confusingly the government guidance has pushed people out of skateparks and onto the street, as skateboarding has never been an “organised sport” like Football or Rugby. Changing the venue for where people skate is not much of an adjustment for us. There are people I know who never visit skateparks, and always skate in fairly small groups, so for them these new changes are simply business as usual.
I think skateboarders have spent so long being treated as anti-social and undesirable that this news of being told where we can and can’t skate just feels like more of the same. We are so used to flying in the face of what standard rules of society tell us that, whilst we will mostly continue to stay safe and protect ourselves where necessary, we’ll continue to just “move to the next spot”, or graft for the trick we want to land, regardless of the hand-wringing coming from people who don’t skate, concerned that there are 2 fully grown adults socially distancing whilst skating a curb.
I’ve seen a lot of people giving Skateboard England a hard time over this, but truth be told they are merely messengers. They can only insist on the best course of action as far as the government is willing to listen. And ultimately we all know councils will forget to fence off lesser used or forgotten skateparks, meaning this is party time for every shit, hidden, tiny, GBH built, tin-can circus in the country. With the guidance being so reluctant and full of holes, I think Skateboard England knows there’s plenty of wiggle room to subvert and step around what we’re being told without going against the advice – and anyone giving them a hard time has been told as such.
The point of this meandering, pondering blog post is probably to reinforce that once again people who hold power have made a decision that shows they know little about skateboarding. This insistence on treating skateboarding like any other sport, and using logic for contact sports as a reason to close skateparks, is just a cherry on the cake of incompetence we have seen from the UK government during this pandemic.
Again, this is pure opinion, but with one of the highest death tolls in the world, and some very contradictory and confusing guidance from a government that clearly doesn’t want to take action that keeps people safe, was it any surprise that they would fluff any guidance around skateboarding?
And this brings me back to Boris. A man so clearly having the worst time of his life as PM, that to an extent you almost feel sorry for him. When he was filmed by the Death Skateboards team uttering the lines “I’m Boris Johnson and you’re watching Escape From Boredom”, it was a world away from our current global situation. Personally, I think this is a hell of his own making, but that’s just me.
What has become clear, however, is skateboarding can and will continue, and lockdown has greatly improved the skateboarding community with creative, awesome initiatives. We have adapted pretty well to the dire situation we find ourselves in, and I have great hope at the graft we have all put in to still get out and skate in this time, whilst remaining safe and responsible. So, with that in mind: get out, stay safe, be creative and let’s make sure skateboarding is even better when Boris finally let’s us use skateparks again.
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