Check It Out: A Crossroads at The Southbank Undercroft
We've had our own affection for the historic Undercroft at the Southbank Centre in London going back long before we featured it as one of the skateable spots in our 1999 PS1 title, Thrasher: Skate and Destroy.
Southbank has attracted skaters from all over England since the 1970s, becoming a focal point for the community and a powerful barometer for local talent. While their Californian counterparts were blessed with sunny skies and an abundance of empty swimming pools, Southbank's smooth concrete banks, stair sets and ledges proved to be just as full of potential for first wave freestylers and cruisers as they still are for modern street skating. The combination of covered all-weather skating and clear open space alongside the River Thames made the place ideal not only to skate, but also to just be a part of the scene.
There's always been something perfect about this small pocket of clattering boards and graffiti tucked defiantly beneath some of the city's key arts landmarks, such as Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Hayward Gallery. The Undercroft brings skating right into the cultural heart of the city, now as much of a tourist draw as the postcard destinations above it and a reminder of just how far board (and BMX) culture has come.
Sadly, its future is uncertain. The Southbank Centre has announced plans to take over the space as part of its expansion, swapping the banks for a series of retail units. You can read about those plans in full at www.southbankundercroft.com and if you like, sign the petition to help sustain a major piece of British skating history.