Thursday, 13 June 2013

Hey Jude

Jude Kelly OBE, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, has taken to the Standard to tell the skateboarders exactly why we really ought to just pipe down.
Here's her article with my thought in italics:

A theme of Richard Sennett’s Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-operation is that only co-operation between people with different interests allows us to interact as properly social beings.

- A theme of Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' is that homogeneity, predictability and mindless consumerism are damaging to the soul. 

As one of London’s great public spaces, there’s an irony in these words for the Southbank Centre as it launches its summer-long Festival of Neighbourhood, featuring Sennett. The centre is in an unappetising — and expensively legal — wrangle with skateboarders over plans to fund its Festival Wing refurbishment by relocating the skate park to the other side of the Royal Festival Hall.

- Why unappetising? I was there and it seemed like a of people (whether they were skating or not) had a great time at this event
- "Expensively legal"?
- You say wrangle, I say proper interaction as social beings.
- The "skate park" is not being relocated. It is being demolished and a new facility built in a separate location. This is a small distinction, but a crucial one.

A potent symbol of the counterculture, the skateboarders appear at first glance to be right in refusing to budge an inch. “We love this space and it is special and unique to us,” they say. Why put a coffee shop in place of skate history? And who would have thought such a thing of the Southbank Centre, with its roots in the people’s Festival of Britain?

- These are good questions that aren't directly answered. Instead mitigating circumstances are offered for why this is inevitable.  

There are two troubling facts. Rather than a grand project,  the Southbank’s refurbishment will deliver a huge expansion of its education spaces in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. Already, 1,000 people of all ages take part in learning and participation workshops each week, with two classes of schoolchildren daily during term time. The plans include a new children’s centre, community spaces and opportunities to enjoy art for the 25 million people who use the site annually.

In this context, are the skateboarders right to refuse to move 100 yards upriver, still within the Southbank Centre, to a riverside site of equal size and prominence, where passers-by can still gather to enjoy and admire them?

- If your hotel room was advertised as having 'riverside views' and when you looked out the window all you could see was the underside of a bridge you might be quite irritated.

It won’t be the same, they say: an accusation common to the crustier sort of arts audience but surely not to street skateboarding.

- This bit is just wrong. It won't be the same. Maybe it'll be better, maybe it'll be worse, but it definitely won't be the same. 

Their second powerful argument for rejecting the new skate site and the funds to make it fit their purposes is that iconic skate spaces are found, indeed taken. Such places are not offered and certainly not designed.

And yet within the last decade, the Southbank Centre got planning permission on behalf of the skateboarders to improve the skateability of the existing space.

- And for the last four decades the Southbank centre has been chipping away at both the skateboarders and the skateable area itself. Anyway, tweaking skate spots to open up new possibilities is nothing new. This is hardly the 'Gotcha' moment it is presented as.

For years, the Centre has provided lighting and security, first aid for accidents and public liability insurance. Indeed, it is providing event management and electricity for the skate protest this weekend.

There is no doubt that funding the arts is an increasing challenge. Arts Council England has made a generous £20 million commitment to the £120 million scheme and a white knight solution for the remainder is unlikely. The Southbank Centre’s approach — well-managed collaboration with caf├ęs and restaurants — has proved over the past six years to draw more people into a relationship with art, while paying for that art to be free.

- Here's your answer! Money! Who'da seen that coming?

We could see this as one of the first tests of the decline in public funding. Or we could see in this a great institution going about its difficult job: balancing the needs of different people in the heart of the city and enabling Londoners, including skateboarders, a chance to co-operate and respect each other. In that light, it is reasonable to ask the skaters to budge up, and to hope they will do so.

- Absolutely we could see it as "one of the first tests of the decline in public funding". And the answer chosen by the Southbank Centre is the simplest one possible, to roll over and do exactly what the Tories tell them to. 
- And let's not pretend the skateboarders haven't been 'co-operating' for years. The skateable area is a fraction of the size it once was.

Jude Kelly OBE is artistic director of the Southbank Centre.

- That bears repeating. This article was written by the ARTISTIC DIRECTOR. I'd hate to hear what the financial director had to say.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Sidewalk 200: The Deleted Scene

Sidewalk issue 200 is out now and it is immense. For a start, it looks like this:

And there are two separate Avi no-comply photos inside and a dump truck full of other goodness.

The shady shape-shifters in charge interviewed me and, for whatever reason, this question and answer didn't make the cut.
I liked the question a lot and I enjoyed trying to come up with a decent answer for it, so here it is:

Do you think people are scared to take the piss too much in skateboarding now? Seems like since big businesses got involved everybody has to be all serious.

Something that quite irritates me is when people censor their own swear words on the internet. Someone will write something like 'the new Coldplay album is really s**t' on Facebook and you just think 'why? Why did you do that? For who's benefit are those asterixes (asterices? Or maybe asterix is the plural too, like sheep)?' Why would you choose to censor yourself like that? Unless a lot of your friends on Facebook are little children (paging operation Yewtree) then you've made a choice to do a stupid little dance for no reason whatsoever. You know what word you meant and everyone reading it knows what word you meant. Either commit and spell out the whole word or choose another that you feel brave enough to actually type in full. 

I think that skateboard companies in this country have got a bit like that. There's really no-one to stop you from doing pretty much anything you want and printing it on the bottom of a board or on a t-shirt. I guess it's a bit different in America because if you step over the wrong line you could actually get sued and probably put out of business, but over here there's really not a lot of repercussions. Worst case scenario is probably that people on the Sidewalk forum will shout at you a bit, but unless you're just being an unrepentant dickhead then someone else on there will stick up for you just as hard. So why not push things a bit to see what happens? Stick a toe out over the line and see if you like it?

And I'm not talking about making graphics about how you hate scooters, or scooter kids are all gay or whatever. Ugh. For a start, it's been done a million times and it's boring as hell. It's a pretty pathetic thing to be angry at, too. The kids who've actually spent some time on their scooters don't go barging around parks like they own the place, dropping in willy nilly. They know how to look around them and see what's going on. It's the tiny children who normally ride their scooters to school that get in the way and don't look around. This is because they're TINY CHILDREN. Tiny children are universally morons. And that's fine, we're ok with that. We don't let them drive or vote or buy lighters. Let's find something a bit more worthwhile to be angry about. There probably won't be an NHS soon. Let's get all riled up about that instead.

I don't know if it's that people are scared to take the piss or whether they choose not to. It does definitely seem like there's been a bit of a lurch towards being 'grown up' among UK companies. You see a lot of graphics that wouldn't look out of place in a GCSE art project - monochrome photos of sad looking buildings, old people's hands and a lonely streetlight or a bunch of meaningless brightly coloured shapes. Ikea print graphics are fine and all and some of that sort of graphic are really beautiful and well done, but a bit of mischief would be fun to see now and then. Why not stir things up a bit and see what happens? It's pretty telling that the best pisstake in ages is the Palace Surf Co t-shirt which they actually made themselves. It feels a bit like the first day of uni when no-one knows anyone else and they're all trying their hardest to look cultured and interesting and cool. It's all Voltaire, Le Chat Noir posters and roll ups. 

I should probably have prefaced this by saying that I don't really know what I'm talking about and these are just, like, my opinions, man. But I didn't. So I'll do it now. I don't really know what I'm talking about and these are just, like, my opinions, man.