Street Skate Together is part of Civic Skateboarding – a project by artist and skateboarder Harry Meadley produced for Leeds 2023 Year of Culture.
At its core, Civic Skateboarding is about forming better relationships between skateboarders and Leeds’ civic and cultural institutions with the long-term goal of making the city’s public spaces safer and more inclusive for all.
It is paying particular attention to the growing number of female and gender minority skateboarders who are disproportionately affected by the lack of safety in public spaces. It has been co-created, co-curated, and co-skated by many members of the Leeds skateboard community in partnership with LS-TEN Charity, Welcome Skate Store, Leeds Playhouse, BLANK_, Henry Moore Institute and more. Additional support has been provided from Leeds Beckett University and The National Lottery Community Fund.
Street Skate Together consisted of eight free, beginner friendly skateboard sessions at various street spots across Leeds throughout August, and four community sessions which have been more focused on bringing the community together through film, art, and building ramps together.
Every session has had female or non-binary coaches offering free beginner coaching, helping many first time skaters get on their way.
These sessions are targeted at marginalised genders, women and girls, but have also welcomed beginners and allies, to encourage more skateboarders to go street skating, despite the barriers that often prevent this.
In particular, we noticed that many of our female and marginalised gender park users don’t go street skating, due to not feeling safe or still feeling intimidated by this. Therefore, this project attempts to tackle this by creating a safe space for us to take on the streets!
Then, we will all be ready for a full weekend of skateboarding at the mini-festival “Civic Skateboarding” in Leeds this weekend (16 & 17 September 2023).
One person who is very ready for the festival is 7 year old Nyla Bowyer, who has attended every single Street Skate Together meet up since it started. Her Mum stated how much it has done for her confidence, being around other women skating and supporting her, as it has been such an inclusive and friendly experience.
Nyla’s favourite quote is “I love skateboarding!” and when asked about her favourite part of the street skate together sessions, she spoke about how many friends she has made. Despite being a bit younger than the rest of the group she had no problems fitting in and has even made a lot of the other skaters feel more at ease from her high spirited attitude and enthusiasm to skateboarding.
Nyla also discussed how she would not fit in as well with mainstream activities, and would sometimes get anxious when doing them, however, skating made her feel much more independent and confident.
Her best memory of the street skate sessions has been when she did a “kick flip” (with the helping hands of coach Elsie) at the Leeds Pride Parade which we all skated as a group. When Nyla landed the whole crowd cheered, it was a really magical moment.
Everyone who has attended has been amazing and helped to create such a supportive network so that these sessions can continue. The community is helping to make street skating more accessible and safer for everyone, while also having the best time skating around Leeds!
This post was written by Machteld DeRuyck
Main photo: Street skaters together outside the Henry Moore Institute
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