Hi guys, could you start off with a little history of your park?
Spit and Sawdust has been running since April 2014, skatepark, cafe and art space. Nia has a background in the arts and myself (Christian) has been involved in one way or another with the skateboarding scene for over 20 years.
Having been open for those couple of years, do you have any particular advice on keeping a park running for so long?
As with all things these days, as with ANY space you HAVE to be multi functional! Keep an open mind. When push comes to shove all the bare bones of a skatepark are, is a big hollow box...fill the space with activity and grow the space organically via community projects, jams, comps, youth activity, gardening, art, the lot. As street skaters, we use objects not designed for such use, but adapt accordingly.
Outdoor Mini | Photo: Sian Michelle Williams
You guys seem to do things a little differently, with a particularly great looking cafe in the park, as well as offering studio spaces and exhibitions in the park. Is this something you've always wanted to do with the park or something it's grown into?
I'm not sure why, but never has there been good food at skateparks (at least none of the parks I've visited over 20 years). Our café is an important hub where all the activity that goes on in our building comes together. We also make sure we use local suppliers and organic meat and make everything from scratch.
We have artist studios upstairs which are offered to artists free of charge in exchange for helping to run the art programme at Spit & Sawdust. This encompases everything and anything from painting exhibitions, to sound art events, to workshops or artist talks. Our focus for the next year is to make sure there’s much more creative stuff going on that people can get involved with. We’ve just started a book club, for example.
We also have lots of regular volunteers to help with keeping the place looking as tidy as possible who we pay in skate-time or through the local time credit scheme.
This was always the plan. NEVER did we ever want a conventional space...that ain't our bag (sorry for over use of capitals).
What would you say is the biggest challenge you've faced since running the park?
Summer! That heated/boiling mistress! Any indoor space would agree i feel? Being consistent is always a must but easily overlooked, independent indoor venues the land over have the same issues, in these turbulent times we need to group together and form as a foundation. We have the knowledge after all!
You've got some stiff competition in the local / wider area for indoor parks, how do you set yourself apart from these?
Ashmore and Exist are our neighbours...never for a second would we class as competition, all have a rich history and investment in skateboarding, jams and comps are staggered purposely as not to conflict and all are engaged with exhibitions. Rampwold, even in the same city, cause no issue as background spawn from BMX and cater for scooter riders too (Smashing bowl there too!)
You have some real unique obstacles in the park, particularly integrating the building strut into the bank in the corner, the San Hose bridge spot style, black ledge embedded in the bank and using the breezeblock wall as a ledge. Where did the inspiration come from for these pieces?
Inspiration? Street skating! 100%! Not for a second would we punt at being the evolutionary venue for the next generation of extreme sports......if it's dry, hit the streets! ...we're here for the bad weather! Banks/blocks/rails a lot of space to PUSH, mates are brought in to aid with tweaks, as many curbs as we can fit in the better! As touched on earlier, adapt with what you have.
Finally, what's the best thing about running a skatepark?
Best thing about running a park is Monday...when i don't work & i can skate! Nia will have different reasons but mine is to provide a multi functional/creative space for EVERYONE, no stigmas, an environment which mixes art with wheeled activity. The possibilities are literally endless, Create.
Lauren Thomas | Miniramp Slash | Photo: Sian Michelle Williams
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