Skitch & Putt

As we hit the Easter Holidays, Coventry City Council, in their infinite wisdom, have announced that a temporary mini golf course will be put up in the War Memorial Park. The Instagram post for this, however, did not get the positive reaction they perhaps hoped for.

Skateboarders descended on the post to complain to the council about the skatepark in the park being in a poor state, with no improvement currently in sight, and being fobbed off with (expensive to play) novelty mini golf.

It wasn’t just skateboarders either. BMX riders, parents of locals, and Susie from the War Memorial Ramp Renovation campaign turned up to express their disappointment. Even those who did not agree with the skateboarders couldn’t fault that the city was in need of facilities for the community, and for the youth. Any arguments stemmed from the issue of funding, rather than the specific need for a skatepark.

First things first, and to confirm I completely understand the situation here – I do not believe Coventry City Council splashed out for this. As one commenter pointed out, and as I suspected, this golf course is being provided by an outside supplier who will generate a tidy profit for themselves and for the council.

Above / The skatepark at War Memorial Park

The problem with this is that to young people, they can’t see the difference. The mini golf is being shown off as “something we have put in for the kids”, but those same kids are looking at it thinking “but we don’t want mini golf?”. Granted, there are people who will use it, as parents are constantly on the lookout for entertainment during school holidays, but for the kids whose parents are working, and need somewhere to hang out all day where they can remain active and engaged, this just doesn’t cut it.

There is also the eyebrow raising price of £43.50 for a session. 36 holes will take you maybe an hour to get around, so you will pay your money, play your golf, and be done with it. Unless that money can provide the council with some form of long term benefit for the park (and this doesn’t have to be a skatepark… There’s still plenty of improvements needed elsewhere that could benefit from funding), I am rolling my eyes at the cost. It’s a tall order for families in this time of economic stress – a time where skateboarding is (surprisingly) thriving, due in part to it’s status as an Olympic Sport, and it’s huge popularity off the back of the pandemic.

Skateboarding lessons in Coventry and Warwickshire have exploded in popularity, with Fargo based skateshop Project No. 5 running multiple lessons per week to keep up with demand. Henry, who runs the shop, even had to draft in extra help to cater to the numbers of kids who wanted to participate. This is what kids are after, a long term, affordable activity that they can do by themselves or with friends and family, whenever they want, really wherever they want. And Coventry is lacking in adequate facilities in which to do it.

Above / Henry and crew running a Project No 5 skateboarding lesson

You take this, coupled with what has been a long, drawn out campaign almost spanning 15 years and multiple generations of local skateboarders, and the frustration begins to build up. Older skateboarders were disappointed, jaded and fed up in the comments of the council’s Instagram post, whilst teenagers who are still fresh to skateboarding were angry, insulted and extremely annoyed.

To be honest I get the attitude of the younger lot. This does not look like a local government who listens to young people. The new generation are more engaged, pro-active and vocal about their desire to see positive change. This has been a gradual change I’ve seen grow over the last 15 years, and now here we are with skaters doing the virtual equivalent of booing and throwing rotten tomatoes when the council wheel out a “fun new activity” for the Easter holidays.

Above / What we could have at War Memorial Park. 

The reason I have written this blog post was to sort of highlight this change. Back when I started campaigning for any form of skatepark in late 2008, it honestly felt like I was the only one who was willing to take myself to the council office and sit there telling them why things needed improvement. I turned up in a suit and tie, I was polite, I was professional, I tried to change their opinion on what a skateboarder was – but for all my good intentions it didn’t change a thing.

Truthfully we have tried every avenue we can: Skatepark repairs, new skateparks, indoor, outdoor, trips for young people, lessons, temporary skateparks, successful permanent skatepark builds in other areas of Warwickshire, collaborating with the council, publically arguing with them in the paper, going behind their back to build our own spots and run our own comps. Nothing has given us a long term facility in Coventry built to the standard and quality that is expected of a modern skatepark.

Flash forward 15 years later and seeing people reply with “FUCK COVENTRY” and “You lot are shit at your jobs” may very well not be the best way to present ourselves – but the council already had a pretty bad impression of us anyway, despite all the good work we did. If the frustration and anger gets their attention, if dobbing them in to SkateboardGB and calling the council corrupt, slippery con artists who have fobbed skateboarders off for 15 years gets results, if pointing at the huge body of work we have done and demanding “SKATEPARK. NOW.” is what we need to do… Then, fuck it, I’m all in.

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