Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has shown his approval for skateboarding in the nation's capital by awarding a £700,000 grant to the Southbank. This news is a shot in the arm, for skateboarding in the UK, and the welcome result of years of dedicated campaigning from skaters fighting the re-development of the legendary spot.
The grant means that the Southbank undercroft can be extended, possibly returning it to its former 1970s glory.
The grant comes as part of the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund, which saw over 200 bids for funding made to City Hall from people wanting to redevelop and regenerate their communities. A total of £24 million was awarded to 27 causes deemed suitable, with a further £46 million due to be allocated at a later date.
"The development will give skaters and BMXers access to newly opened up, and restored, sections of the undercroft"
In a press release, Mayor Khan said “I am using this funding to challenge preconceptions about how regeneration takes place. I want to give all Londoners – regardless of background – the opportunity to be actively involved in their city and have more places to live, learn, work and play."
He added: “The projects I announced funding for today will help us to tackle inequality, strengthen civil society, and ensure the benefits of regeneration are felt by all."
The fact that the regeneration of the Southbank has been included in this shows the Mayors forward-thinking attitude towards the sport which, of course comes in the wake of skateboarding and freestyle BMX being introduced as Olympic events at the 2020 games in Tokyo.
The £700,000 pledged to the Southbank is for creating a dedicated headquarters for the Southbank Centre's new educational program, as well as extending and improving the skate spot that sits beneath the building, on the bank the the Thames.
The people in charge of the Southbank Centre itself are understandably stoked. Chief Executive of the Southbank Centre, Elaine Bedell said: “We’re delighted to have been selected as recipients for this generous grant. The development of this space will give skaters and BMXers access to newly opened up, and restored, sections of the undercroft."
It’s worth noting that the fortunes of the Southbank as a skate spot have turned around dramatically in the last three and a half years. In September 2014, the Southbank was saved from complete closure, as plans to redevelop the area with retail units were overturned, thanks largely to the work of the grassroots Long Live Southbank campaign.
Since then, plans to extend the Southbank's skateable area have been underway.
Reacting to today’s news, Louis Woodhead from Long Live Southbank said “Southbank has a unique creative feeling and it’s great to see this supported by the Mayor of London. LLSB and Southbank Centre have been working hard to show what can be achieved through collaboration and we’re grateful to everyone who continues to donate and support the campaign.
"Receiving the Good Growth Fund brings us closer to our vision to provide more space and opportunities for this creativity to grow and flourish."
As it stand today, the skateable area beneath The Southbank Centre is around one third of the size it was back in 1973, when it was used by some of the UK's earliest skateboarders. It’s unclear whether or not the Southbank will be extended as far as it was almost 50 years ago, but we’re excited to see what the future holds for the world's oldest working skate spot.