You are here
Home > Course Work >

Southbank- Its Importance to Skateboarders and The London Skate Scene

Southbank- Its importance to Skateboarders and the London Skate Scene

When many people see the Southbank Undercroft, they see it as a noisy mess of children jumping around on toys, but what they do not see is the way that the undercroft has affected the lives of the people that skateboard there. The undercroft gives people a space to do something creative, and make friends and socialise, and without it, many would have nowhere to go. 

To skateboarding in London, the Southbank Undercroft is one of the most important places in the city. In fact, it is one of the most iconic skate spots in Europe, if not the world. 

Thousands of skateboarders travel to the undercroft every year to skate there, and because of its location between Waterloo Bridge and Hungerford Bridge, it is in a very central location on the south bank, and because of this many tourists pass by throughout the day to watch the skateboarders, or take pictures with the graffiti.

A skater called Noah said “You skate better because people are watching you, eyes are on you. I don’t know, it’s old as well and it’s hard to skate so it’s a good challenge.” 

The Southbank Undercroft is like no other skate space in the world, and has a certain energy, and has a feeling while skating there, that draws people to it from near, far and from different countries across the world. 

Michael B., a skateboarder who moved to London from America said of the Southbank Undercroft “Southbank feels almost like a second home to me”

The Southbank Undercroft is a skate spot and free creative space, and one of the world’s longest used skate spots. 

The skate space is open twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, allowing for people to come and skateboard whenever they want to. 

The space consists of simple ledges and steep banks. The walls are covered in graffiti, and it is almost always packed with skateboarders.

The undercroft is settled beneath the South Bank Centre, and after the opening of Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Rooms in 1967, skaters found and began using the space around 1973. 

From then on, the Southbank Undercroft has been integral to the London skate scene, and one of the most important places for skateboarding in the world. 

Slowly though, in the 1990’s some of Southbank’s features were destroyed, and in 2004 sections of the space were closed off, and not reopened, and in 2005 the space was reduced even further.

In 2013, South bank Centre announced its plans to permanently close the Southbank Undercroft and replace the space with shops. This was stopped however by the hard work, and efforts of skateboarders across the world coming together to save Southbank.

Long Live SouthBank created an extremely successful grassroots campaign to save the space, and gained support from not just skateboarders, but people who have never skateboarded in their lives. 

The argument of the developers was that they were going to build a new skatepark close-by, but the skaters did not want just another skatepark, because Southbank is special. 

Alex K., who has been skating at southbank for three years said “It’s just got character, it makes you want to skate better just being there.”

After moving to central London for University, he said he’s been “skating there every day since I’ve moved to uni.” 

The space was not originally created with the intention of skateboarding, and because of this, it could never be replaced with something else, the uniqueness of the space, and the energy there could never be replicated at a new skatepark.   

After the success of Long Live Southbank’s campaign, their relationship with the South Bank Centre has improved greatly, and in a joint effort between LLSB and the South Bank Centre, a part of the skate space that has been blocked since 2004 has recently been restored. 

The vision of Long Live Southbank, as stated on their website, is “to provide more free creative space in the very heart of London, for all, forever.”

Even though most passers-by may enjoy watching the skateboarding, there are still some people who see the space as a nuisance, and a waste of space. 

I wanted to write this feature, because since moving to London, the Southbank Undercroft has been a place that I can go and meet up with friends, as well as make new ones.

The Southbank Undercroft is not only a place for people to go skateboard, it is a place where people can go and socialise with friends, and make connections with people. 

When I first moved to London, I did not have many friends, but I skateboarded. Because of this, I could go down to Southbank and meet dozens of people who like to do the same thing as me.

Now I have a good group of friends who I met from skating southbank. Noah said “I feel like I’ve made most of my friends there, the vibes there are great.”

There is a community around the Southbank Undercroft, and it is a place where many friendships have formed, and flourished over the years. 

Sometimes though, due to the business of the area, and since it is a covered space, the Undercroft is a bit of an attractant for people to take cover from the weather, and do what they were doing in the streets in the skate space, which can sometimes be bothersome to the skateboarders.

The influence of skateboarding can be seen greatly today, and skate companies are some of the most popular brands. Brands like Supreme and Palace that have lines around the block when they release a new collection, and many people who do not skate shop at these stores.

Advertising campaigns for collaborations between Adidas and Palace skateboards have been shot at the Southbank Undercroft, and Adidas has even made a shoe in collaboration with Long Live Southbank.

Also, events put on by skate companies are often held in the Undercroft, and are always a fun time.

Skateboarding also produces many business owners, videographers, journalists, and photographers, and as a space for skateboarding, the Southbank Undercroft may be influential in all of these fields.

For example, Blondey McCoy is a professional skateboarder and artist who grew up skating at Southbank, and he now runs his own clothing company, THAMES, and is sponsored by Adidas. 

Overall, the Southbank Undercroft is one of the most important skate spots in the world, and is extremely meaningful to many people. 

The Undercroft is a place where people can make friends, get exercise and express themselves.