No surprises that the ongoing little local argument about the skateboards kids outside firstsite still hasn’t been resolved. The Gazette is running with a story that claims Colchester Borough Council has ignored the skateboarders, and that a petition with over three hundred signatures hasn’t been accepted by the local authority.
Rob Ellingham, of Colchester shop Double Cork has told The Gazette:
“I have tried to contact them three times since November, but we haven’t heard anything from them since then to now. It’s a long time. We really want to work with the council on this.”
Ever since firstsite opened up its doors in early September, the skateboard kids of Sunny Colch have found a new home amongst all the art. Car free and with plenty of ‘urban furniture‘ [urgh] to carry out all the rad moves – or whatever it is that the skateboard kids come up with nowadays – firstsite seemed like the perfect fit.
Except the Golden Goose at the back of the old bus station wasn’t designed for cool looking kids to jump off concrete steps from planks of wood with wheels attached. The firstsite square was put in place as part of the grand entrance to the building, opening up a swathe of pubic land for art lovers wanting an escape from the bustle of the High Street.
But as with any urban planning [urgh, urgh] the users often come up with a new approach to using the space. Saturday afternoon skate sessions outside firstsite seem rather well attended, and certainly liven up the area. firstsite needs to grow and find a genuine community use. If this means accommodating the skateboard kids, then so be it.
The safety of other users is crucial, but the times that The Chronic has rolled up to the Golden Goose (minus skateboard) we have found the kids are certainly aware of their surrounding and give the oldies a rite of passage. Plus there is the argument over what exactly constitutes art? The Colchester based Buffalo Tank recently staged an event outside firstsite, encouraging more public use of the firstsite square, and projecting artwork on a nearby wall for the skateboard kids.
As for the petition with over three hundred signatures? It is possible for any resident or group to address either the Full Council of CBC, or even a cabinet meeting, as part of the Have Your Say initiative. Only three minutes of public speaking time are granted per speaker, but you do get your audience with the civic leaders who make the decisions. An eyeball to eyeball with the Councillors that serve us is wonderful for the soul.
Skateboarding around the town is an issue that is now firmly on the agenda and has certainly got the attention of the CBC Planning Committee. The recently submitted application – by CBC – to build a new town square down at St Botolph’s was rejected, partly because of the consensus that the skateboard kids were being excluded.
Included in the St Botolph plans were some “non-functional benches” [nope, us neither...] that would have objects placed around the edges to try and restrict the skateboard kids from mounting them. Some members of the Planning Committee were of the opinion that if you present a challenge to the skateboarders, you are in fact encouraging more activity.
As for the solution for firstsite?
…over to the CBC cabinet that needs to give a clear indication, one way or another, what the official policy is on the skateboard kids. If they are allowed to continue to share the public space with other residents in the town, then safety and understanding is needed. If CBC comes down all heavy-handed, then a suitable, nearby alternative site is required.
Co-operation and common sense please.
* cos yeah, we’re like really RAD here at The Chronic, right?
4th Jan edit: Many thanks to Gary for sharing the superb Double Cork video, which helps to address some of the myths about skateboarding. Litter patrol – wonderful.