Hi guys, could you start off with a little history of your park?
The Boneyard opened in 1996 and was the result of a communal effort led by the mother of a local rollerblader. The first building was on the same site as the current one, but was much smaller and was more or less derelict, with very little lighting and the ramps were all built by members of the community. Initially it was free to come and use the skatepark, with a membership costing around £10 and lasting a few years. The only refreshments available were Calypo drinks, which were made in a factory round the corner.
Initially it was proposed that the building was to be split between use as a skatepark, and a rollerhockey practice area but a few months down the line everyone realized rollerhockey was rubbish. After that the skatepark took priority and was moved into a bigger and better building, which we still occupy.
As one of the longest-running skateparks I've contacted, do you have any insights or advice on keeping a park running for so long?
The Boneyard has always been more of a community project than anything else. We run as a non-profit, have quite an old building in the middle of nowhere and rely heavily on people helping us out with things, be it building ramps, running the business, sourcing materials or just general day to day operations. I think having a very realistic views of things is also important. We don't turn over much money, and nobody involved with the skatepark is getting rich. Times are frequently very difficult, with hard choices to be made. It's important to maintain a positive outlook and remind yourself that it's important to keep the place open.
Si Davis Melon transfers back in 2013. Photo: Lewis Royden
A little different to the other parks, you're ran by a skateboarder, BMX rider and Rollerblader. Because of this, have you noticed a difference in the type of users using the park?
The diversity of the staff is probably just a reflection of the people who use the skatepark. We get a healthy mixture of all three groups coming here, all our sessions are mixed aside from jams or events, and everyone gets on pretty well. Obviously we have occasional conflicts of interest between users, but the diversity of the staff definitely helps to smooth these over.
You guys seem pretty open to changing up the park which is rad too see, how do you decide what to put in?
People give us suggestions all the time, or we might see something cool somewhere. Then we decide if we can afford to change something, which we usually can't, then we do it anyway. The things to take into consideration for us are; what are we missing? Why aren't a certain group using the park at the moment? How will changing a certain section affect existing users? Once we have answered these questions to the best of our ability, we just kind of get on with it. We do everything ourselves as much as we can, only employing additional help were some kind of specialism is involved and relying, as with all things here, with people coming down with a drill or a hammer and getting stuck in.
Si Davis Backside airs, 2012. Photo: Lewis Royden
Have you seen any change in the amount of users from any of these changes?
When we, as in the current staff, started working here, none of us had any experience with building ramps. And so it's only now, a few years down the line, when we are starting to get comfortable with what we can manage and how we build things. The last major changes we made where to add a smaller section of the park, and to update the jumpbox section. By adding the smaller section, we have definitely noticed in increase in skateboarders, and also probably certain types of BMX rider. As things go on we will certainly take note of this, and probably try and develop that side of the skatepark with small, street type obstacles.
What would you say is the biggest challenge you've faced since running the park?
Undoubtedly the biggest challenge is making enough money to stay open. Things can get very tight, especially in summer when nobody is coming down. But we always manage to scrape through. The second biggest challenge is probably keeping the skatepark dry. Our roof leaks, the foundations have shifted and we are the bottom of a canal bank, but we always manage to sort it out.
Finally, what's the best thing about running a skatepark?
Meeting people, hanging out with our friends all day and building ramps.
Boneyard: Mark "frocker" Hewitt from Andrew Lawrence on Vimeo.
Here's Mark "Frocker" Hewitt's excellent night in the park clip from back in 2012 - check that last trick!