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Skating at Devonshire Green

Skater Interview
Hi. My name is Nathan Black. I’m currently an entertainer by trade, skateboarding’s just something I’ve been lucky enough to be a part for the last 15 years of my life. I’ve had a couple of broken ankles which have given me a few little breaks, but apart from that, it’s just been straight through. Never stops, never really given it a thought about even putting the board down. I learned to skateboard just by picking up a skateboard, starting outside my house. Picking it up from there and then, as time’s gone by, you meet friends and you learn from each other, you take a lot of inspiration from people you see in the magazines, back on VHS tapes as it was back then.
And just as you go through, you learn from each other and you learn from the pros that you’re lucky enough to skate with from time to time. There’s literally not an untouched place in Sheffield city centre that hasn’t been skated in some form or another. Everywhere, you can probably imagine, you’ll find a waxed up piece of ledge or a set of stairs that’s been skated. I think every city has a meeting point. In London you’ll have the Southbank, in Bristol you have the steps. Here, Dev Green is the meeting point.
You want to come down here on a Saturday at midday, you’re going to form a gaggle of skateboarders and then they’ll go off around the city filming for whatever or taking whatever photos they need for whatever they’re doing at that time. I think it’s kind of accepted that unless it’s Christmas day, you aren’t going to be able to skate the Peace Gardens because they’re on it. And the thing is as well, like, we’re not just– we understand that. You know what I mean? We’re not going to– we’re not going to go out and ruin it– there’s people having lunch on the park. We’re not going to go out and ruin that. And that’s usually that kind of space.
There’s a misconception about us causing small riots in places and it’s just not true. And that’s somewhere that that is the case and so we just stay away. Over the years I would say Crucible is definitely a mainstay with regards to skateboarding street spots. And before Devonshire Green was built here– I mean, you’d have to ask some of the older skaters. I mean, although I’ve been skating 15 years, that was about the cut off point when Dev was made. But also, there was a big stair set. I think it was about an eight set or a nine set at Tudor Square at one time. When they got rid of that, it declined a little bit.
But there was a block there and such things and it was popular. They’ve evolved the whole look of the Crucible at Tudor Square recently and it’s become harder to skate. It is a heavily pursued area. So it is still– we do try to go there a lot but it’s a lot harder and it’s a little more difficult than it used to be. And it’s not as popular as it was. When you get moved on by police, whatever, their argument will be, we built you a skate park 10 years ago, why are you not using it?
It’s just an unexplainable– you just can’t– if you haven’t been to the country and you try to explain that someone, they have to go there to appreciate it. And I know it sounds crazy, but it’s exactly the same with this. They don’t understand street sections, the Sidewalk magazine, they’re not going to put skate park images in, it has to be street. There’s skateboarding and street skateboarding is completely different. It’s another world, another realm. It’s just not the same thing, it’s just not. If you’re skating someone’s house or private property and you’re visibly ruining it and it’s not been skated before, I understand the point.
If it’s somewhere that we’re causing no harm and people are being nit picky for the sake of it and they’ve got nothing else to do that day and they’re seeing a bunch of skateboarders, then it’s a bit like– you take each case individually. If you’ve come down from another city to shoot a photo which you’ve got to get and you go and you get thrown off, it’s not ideal. If you are here and you’re like, oh, should we go half an hour, let’s go and hit this place up. You walk up and it’s not going quite right, so it is an each individual case. But they’ll never win the battle.
I don’t mean to say that arrogantly, but if you move us on, we’ll go down the road. And it’s just an– it’s just a never ending battle and, unfortunately, for them it’s a job and they turn off with it. This is a lifestyle and people will do it all hours of the day. I’ve been on situations where we’ve got up with generators at 2 o’clock in the morning to go and camp out under Ponds Forge roundabout because there’s a huge enormous bank that you can only skate through the middle of the night. And that sounds crazy to people but it’s just– that’s the life people have chosen, to ride a skateboard and they’re the things that come with it.
And that’s all part of the adventure of being a street skateboarder and the satisfaction of seeing that video or that picture in a magazine and knowing that the journey you went through to obtain the image or the piece of film. Barcelona, which is another Holy Grail of skateboarding, I would say probably secondary to LA and the places in America. It’s a lot easier to get away with it. It’s more of an accepted thing. I think that has something to do with– it’s a mode of transport in America and Spain as well. You will see people, middle aged women skating to work on a skateboard, on a longboard, and it’s not as an unusual thing.
Which is different from here where it’s a very stereotyped thing and if you ride a skateboard you’re a certain criteria of person, which is not the case. You go to Barcelona and they all have– they have petrol and electric skateboards. And even though it’s not the same as this, it’s grouped completely differently to how it is in a place like Sheffield. I don’t know exactly where they are at the minute, but there is a massive thing where they’re trying to shut London Southbank down.
If you go down there, there’s always a– it’s almost a miniature tuck shop, if you like, of people that have made t-shirts and hats and badges and stickers saying, I think it’s long live Southbank or save London Southbank because they’re just so passionate. And there is no reason to get rid of it. It’s not in the way. If you walk past it, it’s a nice water front. And people that don’t know anything about skateboarding will stand and watch, and it is a fantastic atmosphere.
The funny thing is, the people who are in charge of making these decisions, they’ve never been on a skateboard in their life, which is crazy to give someone that power to make decisions on behalf of something that they’ve never been a part of. It’s been on computer games that have been sold around the world– Tony Hawk’s computer games, one of the places you could go in skate was London Southbank. So it’s worldwide famous with regards of being a skateboarder. They just don’t understand it and they jump to conclusions and it’s a very narrow minded approach to something which they really have no understanding of, in my opinion.
And making a 40-year-old businessman that’s never been on a skateboard be in control of something that teenagers and younger people are doing, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. And yeah, it has been there, again, there is a– it sounds crazy to some people but there’s a real history there. You’re talking nearly 50 years. They shut half of it down, they left what’s there now. It doesn’t– if you look at the latest issue of Sidewalk magazine, it’s on the front cover. There’s a guy skating it.
And that just shows the impact that it has, that you’re picking up a magazine which is sold around this country, Europe and in America, and on the front there is Southbank which is– to me, that tells you all you need to know in that respect.

In this video Nathan Black, a local skateboarder, takes us through his experience of skating in city centre spaces in Sheffield.

Nathan discusses having been moved on over the years and the places that have been provided by local council to replace these spaces.

If you are not familiar with Sheffield, we have created an online map to show you the local skate spots mentioned in the video.

In the next section, we’ll explore how adults play in their lives as Professor Richard Phillips, Chair in Human Geography, explores the concept of ‘serious play’.

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