This is a guest post from Chris Skoyles, who dropped a line to Preston Blog after seeing our post about Ashton Park being the home to a new skate park. He is on twitter @cskoyles and blogs at Adventures in Musica.
When the news was announced earlier this week of proposals to build a new skate facilities in Ashton Park, this writer was instantly reminded of his own experiences n getting new skatepark off the ground.
And whilst the following story doesn’t take place in Preston, but rather several years ago over in Wigan, I’d still like to think those experiences are just as relevant to those living near, or otherwise affected by, the development of a new skatepark in Ashton.
Several years ago, Wigan’s Leisure & Culture Trust were the first borough in the country to appoint an Extreme Sports Development Officer whose role, amongst other things, was to help build several new skatepark facilities across the borough.
After the first part was built successfully (and still remains popular amongst young people to this day), plans were put in place to develop several ‘satellite parks’ across the borough.
Not that anything could be that easy.
When a second park was planned for, funnily enough, Ashton (this one in Makerfield), local residents formed something of an ad-hoc collective to ensure that such facilities never landed in their area.
With the usual fears and stereotypes of young people prevalent in the area, those living close to the site of the proposed park were vehemently convinced that planting a youth facility on their doorstep was an open invitation to young people to invade their area; bringing with them unprecedented levels of violence, vandalism, drinking, drug taking and general nuisance.
Around this time I had been working with the Extreme Sports Development Officer and her colleagues on a number of media projects when we secured some funding to put a film together exploring the impact skateparks had on local communities in other areas.
Along with a group of young skateboarders, BMX riders and inline-skaters we worked with, we took off to shoot our film at various skateparks across the North West Coast.
Visiting places such as Barton, Southport, Liverpool and Colwyn Bay, we spoke to young skaters, local residents, council officials and other local authority figures to find out whether they had experienced the same problems in trying to develop their own extreme sports facilities.
Had those behind the developments faced the same oppositions from residents groups? Had those residents expressed the same fears about youth crime and, perhaps more importantly, were those fears justified?
Yes, those same youth phobias had existed, with many people believing that whilst giving young people something positive to channel their energies into was largely a good thing, they did not want it on their doorstep.
Yet once the parks had been developed, it seems that somebody forgot to tell young people they were supposed to turn up with their bottles of cider and trash the place.
Despite one or two incidents, the young skaters who used the new parks were largely well-behaved and got on well with local residents.
With the battle over, these young people had somewhere they could go to indulge in their hobby in much the same way that swimming enthusiasts might take to the local pool or eager tennis players could head to the courts.
And why shouldn’t they? Skateboarding is, after all, Just Another Sport.
That’s the name of our little film; a film which I’ve recently discovered is far too large and awkward to fit onto Youtube in its entirety.
Not to be deterred, I’ve spent this past weekend cutting together a brief trailer which should give you some idea of what Just Another Sport is all about which you can find below.
Meanwhile, though I can’t claim to know what issues may lie at the heart of the new Ashton Park facility, if there are any residents groups out there in staunch opposition to the development of such facilities, I’d urge you to get in touch with me and ask to see a copy of this film.
There’s a whole box of Just Another Sport DVDs lying around not doing much, so if you’d like one, please give me a shout through my website, blog or on Twitter.