Interview: Ben Cook on The Moon DIY Spot

  • Interview: Ben Cook on The Moon DIY Spot

    After the rad looking jam at The Moon DIY spot last weekend, I decided to get in touch with Ben Cook, one of the guys behind the spot for some questions. He sent back some very detailed answers so cheers for that Ben!

    Photos by Ben Cook and Matthew Dobson unless stated.

    I know your crew wasn't initially involved, and the spot was around for a few years before you did. When did you first get involved with the spot?

    Honestly, I’m not 100% sure who first discovered the spot but I know it’s been around for a good few years. For a long time I think it was just a nice bit of flat ground with one little rail that only a few people knew about. I know people like Dave Apomah and Aiden Lowthian used to go there a lot when the usual swarm of skate park kids were too much to handle. I think it was about the summer of 2012 when we started to realise the potential of the place and begin to build a few things. It started with the usual, a nice block and a little manny pad, but again it stayed that way for maybe a year before we really got into it and decided to start putting some proper effort in. Since then the spot and the regular crew have just grown, especially over this year.

    Who's the main build crew? Do you all chip in for materials?

    Well the Sunderland scene crew has always been pretty tight knit and we’ve all been involved to some extent in regards to skating the place. When it comes to the building of it, it’s always been Blayne Mchugh and Tom Cruikshanks at the helm with them two being bricklayers together full-time, they’ve taught us a lot. Then there’s me, Darren Mason, Cal Pacino, Gordon Skrezka and his brother Dave, Coco Thompson and a few others that act as the labourers but we’ve all learnt a lot since starting it and could probably knock up something half decent on our own now. I could go on really, everyone chips in with what they know how to do so sorry lads if I missed you out. On a big project, once we know exactly what we’ll need we’ll always have a whip round and try get everyone to chip in what they can. Some smaller stuff or the odd repair, we just pay ourselves as it usually doesn’t cost too much. Apart from the sand and cement, most of the materials we just scavenge. There’s a huge wall to the side of the place that probably holds over 5000 bricks I imagine and we just take those out as and when we need them. We’re always coming across scrap metal we can use as angle iron/coping too. If you think it can be skated, save it. With B&Q literally being next door, it’s never a hassle if we run out of stuff or need the odd tool.

    You have some unique obstacles at the Moon compared to some spots, what's the process like in deciding what to build next?

    Well when we started we knew a good foundation was to build the standard stuff. This way it’s easier to piece together the simple lines we wanted and we weren’t going in over our heads, because to be honest, apart from Blayne and Tom, none of us had any experience really with working with concrete. Once we had the block, manny pad and the little quarter in, that’s when we started to actually design a few things. Adam drew up the L block and Tom had it pretty much finished the next day. I’m not sure whose idea the bank to ledge was, but props for that because it’s amazing. The keg spine was a combined effort, it was brought down one day and we weren’t sure what to do with it. We had the idea from that classic photo of Grant Taylor blasting out of that tire hump. Needless to say, it didn’t quite turn out like that thing but it’s still rad. There’s never really been any disagreements on what to build either so that always helps speed the process up.

    Photo by Ryan Flynn

    Harry Veitch channels GT during the jam

    Photo by Adam Thirtle

    The Moon's had a relatively long life for a DIY spot, why do you think that is? What kind of wasteland is the spot on?

    There’s definitely some solid reasons behind that. Firstly, it’s not fenced off. This does come with its down sides too at times, but it’s been used for years by people walking their dogs through so there’s no worries of anyone claiming you’re trespassing. It is tucked away down a hill and surrounded by trees so it’s not exactly in full view of anyone. Another thing is that the police have been down a few times, not for any real reason, they’ve just been passing by on their bikes. Every time they’ve told us they’ve no problems with us being there and are actually stoked we are putting the space to some good use. According to them, until the land eventually gets sold off or plans are made to build there, they have no intentions of stopping us. The only thing they have an issue with is after dark when some of the local kids might come down drinking or starting fires, but that equally pisses us off too. It’s been barren for so many years, I’m not actually sure what used to be there. Rumour has it, it used to be an old hardware store then B&Q possibly bought them out and opened up next door. That’s backed up by the fact that one of the first times we built there, one of the guys from B&Q came out to say we shouldn’t really be doing it. That soon stopped when they realised we were buying all our materials from them though and we’ve never had bother since. No one is really sure though, but whatever it was, it had a real smooth floor, and that’s all that was left behind.

    How'd the idea for a jam come about? How much organisation did it need?

    I’d been wanting to do one before the summer started but knew there wasn’t really enough obstacles there yet. We’ve built a lot over this summer so about a month ago I just asked Jackie at Native if he would be down to try get a hold of some product for us to use as prizes. I knew from the start it was going to be a fundraiser event so we can build more stuff before the summer was truly over, so we needed prizes to give out in return for people’s cash. Once he was down, simply making a flyer and a Facebook event page was all that was needed to get the hype going. Slowly after that a few local clothing companies messaged me asking if they could donate some stuff too which was cool of them. Then on the run down to the day, a lot of cleaning the place, sweeping and repair work went in by everyone to make the place ready. A few trips to the supermarket for beers and BBQ food and we were all set. Managed to sell about 120 beers and 50 burgers plus all the entry money so we ended up making a pretty decent amount. Native managed to come through with a crazy amount of loot so massive thanks to Jackie for that! All in all, it turned out to be a much bigger and way radder day than originally expected so I’m stoked and hopefully we can do it again next year when the good weather starts again.

    On a last note, I wanna say to anyone who isn’t involved in a DIY spot; go get involved.  Find an empty space, get the lads together and start something. Slowly that first thing leads to something else, and then something else. Before you know it you’ve got a cool little spot that will probably end up being your regular weekend hangout. If the police bust it, don’t be a dick and they might let you carry on, if not just find somewhere else. There’s nothing better than having a spot to call your own, and the feeling of everyone having a rad session on something you have all built is unrivalled. You’ll find yourself really being attached to the place and you’re bound to learn a lot about DIY, even if you know nothing from the start. MOON GOONS!

    Below is another rad edit of the jam, this time from Think Culture, featuring a particularly rad section on the bank to curb.