Photos: Amy Brown
Maddy and Marie.
Could you introduce yourselves please?
My name is Marie, I am French, born in Paris, moved to the UK five years ago, and I am currently a masters student in Environment and Development Sciences and also a co-founder of Leeds Skate Gals and Pals, a skate collective in Leeds for female and non-binary people in the community.
My name is Maddy Andrews, I am English / American and have lived in England all my life, first of all in Yorkshire and my parents live in Oxfordshire. I’m a masters student studying International Human Rights Practice, and am also a co-founder of Leeds Skate Gals and Pals.
How did you get into skateboarding?
Marie: So at first I think there was no Wi-Fi in my house in second year when we’d just moved in so it was just a matter of finding what could we do that wasn't involving the internet or the TV and there was a skateboard at my house because my housemate had one, so I just decided to go out and try! I thought I could never do it but finally just really got into it and from then I was just skating all the time just because it's way more fun than walking. So from this point I was just like I'm gonna skate everywhere and then got into one thing to do like more tricks and things like this and although people skateboarding and just being like okay I'm just gonna throw myself in it and Maddy was here obviously so it's something that we could bond over.
Maddy: So when I was younger, quite a lot of my mates skated, so I used to hang around the skatepark a lot, some of the boys put together bits from other people’s old boards, I think I was skating four different types of wheels at one point. I cruised around a little bit, but didn’t do much with it. When I came to uni, I started surfing and through that, decided I wanted to try skateboarding again. I then started hanging out with Marie and just went from there really. Started skating and fell in love and have been skating ever since.
Could you take us through the initial creation of Leeds Skate Gals and Pals?
Maddy: So basically, when me and Marie were skating, we started skating with a few of our other friends and we jokingly started saying our group would be called LSG, because the postcode where we’re at is LS6. Then one day me and Marie were at a give it a go night for the University of Leeds skate night where we saw that there was actually loads of girls there so we hastily made this Facebook group and went round asking all the girls their details to stay in contact and all skate together. We were sort of hoping that by building more of a community, girls will feel more empowered to come and skate if they knew there were other girls that wanted to skate with them as well. So that was the initial stage and from that it just all grew and grew like more people added to the group, we made an Instagram and Twitter page and then yeah just start building on the group really!
Marie: Also I was thinking because we went to a girl’s night in Manchester and it was just so busy, there are just so many girls skateboarding there, whereas in Leeds we rarely see girls skateboarding. We could see Katie (Seddon) obviously because she's just like one of the original girls, but before that it was really hard. You couldn't just turn up at a skate park or just send a message on a group chat, it was either me and Maddy being together or Katie sometimes. So when we saw a massive group in Manchester, we wanted to have the same because we didn't always want to travel miles to meet other girl skaters. We wanted to encourage girls in our area to do the same and build our own community.
Was this Barcelona trip the first one you guys have organised?
Maddy: Yeah it was. Myself, Marie, and our mates Patty and Cora went to Barcelona a couple of years ago, just the four of us, as like my first ever skate trip but it wasn't really something that we had properly organized. We decided we wanted to go to Barcelona again this year and then it just sort of grew and grew like it's definitely the first official Leeds Skate Gals and Pals trip we've ever done for sure.
Marie: I think it was quite a surprise because at first it was just us going to Barcelona then we just posted it on the Facebook group seeing if maybe some other people would like to come and the word just started just spreading to the United States, there was a girl from Switzerland and we just asked do you want to come!
The word just spread really quickly I guess because there's just not that many things like this going on.
Maddy: Yeah it definitely got bigger than we expected it to, - I like skating with boys as well but there's something really special about having an all-female skate crew and I think because there's not that many of these trips going people got really hyped on it. I think we’re really lucky because we know different people from around the world and that maybe chatting to one of our friends would then speak to one of their friends and we’d get more people involved. But we definitely didn't expect it to get as big as it was and it was such a learning curve because one minute you think you and your best mate are going to Barca, and the next you’re trying to book flats for twenty girls and organising everything else as well.
Did you take into account different abilities when planning the trip? How did this work out in practice?
Marie: So because Maddy and me just started skateboarding, we were feeling comfortable with having people of any ability on the trip – we didn’t feel like we had a standard or anything, it was more about girls going on a skateboarding trip together and so I guess because female skateboarding is quite new and it’s starting to spread, a lot of girls had just started skateboarding for a year or two. We were thinking it was good to have people with different abilities, so you don’t have to get coaches, but everyone's coaching each other you can have people who have just started two months ago and people who started two years ago just coming together and giving each other advice and it's just inspiring to see someone who's just way better than you at skateboarding and also a female but it can also be really inspiring to see someone who just started skateboarding, it gets you really excited.
Maddy: When we were planning the trip we did put out a little form and just sort of ask people what they were hoping to learn and if they were interested in skating like parks or street, so that when we were planning the itinerary there was definitely something that everyone was interested in. I think one thing that's really sick about Barcelona is because you can skate around a lot, it really helps people feel comfortable skating around on their board and so whether you’ve been skating for years or just started skating, you know you’re definitely going to improve. But as Marie was saying, there was definitely a big range of abilities, but that’s really sick because you can bounce off each other and learn things, it’s super inspiring no matter what level you’re at to see people smashing their personal goals. The range of parks in Barcelona means there’s something for everyone.
Marie: And what we did as well, we printed some bingo cards so even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do, you could fill out this bingo sheet, and by the end of the trip the goal was to learn as mean tricks as you had written on your bingo sheet. I guess this was good motivation for people and also good motivation to learn a trick you’d never thought about.
Charlotte Lyon and Lorna Thompson.
What were your best memories from the trip?
Maddy: I don’t know if I have one particular memory, but I really enjoyed skating MACBA. When everyone is skating together, and you’re getting really hyped on each other, it was really nice to be feeling really empowered and to have such a big girls group. There was this one moment where this guy at one of the parks came over and asked if he could have a picture with all of us because he’d never seen that many girls all together at the skatepark. While that was quite funny, it was true, I’ve never really seen twenty-something girls all rolling up to the skatepark together. It was so sick and so empowering to be in that group.
Marie: I think my favourite memory was maybe all the girls being together and also just waking up in the morning with twenty girls and everyone just skating together. I don’t have one best memory but when you just realise there are twenty girls in a skatepark skating together and that there was no drama whatsoever. It was just the peacefulness of the trip and how people could really easily connect, that was my best memory and the reason I’m so up for doing another trip – it’s something I’m never going to be able to find elsewhere.
Maddy: Also there was some peng food, there was this bakery just down from where we were staying, I dream about those sandwiches…
Photo One, Left to Right: Katie Ellis, Svenja Jene, Megan lama, Maddy Andrews, Em Jackson, Carissa Thorne, Mara Bragagnolo and Kitty Prior.
Photo Two, Left to Right: Lorna Thompson, Olivia Lillie, Rachel Corcoran and Em Jackson.
I know you’re already in the stages of planning the next trip, have you got any other future plans?
Maddy: Yes we do! We’re going to Berlin in April, so if anyone reading this fancies coming along, if you identify as female or non-binary, please give us a shout. It’s going to be a similar setup to the Barcelona trip, all staying together for a few nights, skating some sick parks and a bit of street. What else have we got planned?
Marie: So we’ve got what we do with our local indoor skatepark. We’ve organised a few events and social nights, planning our website, making a zine just to talk about the girls in the area and skateparks in the area too. I feel like because female and non-binary people are new in the skateboarding world and we are just getting coverage, we have quite a bit to catch up on, like building boards, making snazzy griptape –
Maddy: Making our zines, we’re doing a zine workshop as well –
Marie: Making zines and getting the girls involved in the skateboarding scene, but not only through skateboarding, but other activities. That’s what we are doing. We’ve got some merchandise, tote bags, we’ve made some skateboarding wax that was really fun to make.
Maddy: We’re just having fun really, just trying to empower the community as much as we can and organise stuff, try to get people really connected with each other. As well as skateboarding, what I’ve really loved is some of my best friends now are through skateboarding. So we’re just trying to have a sick time, create bonds with people and just really try and encourage as many people to get into skateboarding that might have felt it might not be something for them, by doing different things like this. Hopefully people see that skateboarding is for everyone.
Marie: Yeah, skateboarding is for everyone. Shout out to the girls in Leeds who are part of the group because nothing would happen without all the girls we have in the group. Shout out to the two hundred and thirty girls who are part of Leeds Skate Gals and Pals because you are the best girls ever.
Maddy: Yeah this group wouldn’t be a thing without everyone involved, and thank you to everyone who’s supported us as well, big shout out to Welcome Skate Store, LS-Ten skatepark, The Lounge Leeds, just everyone really that’s supported us through doing all of this!
If you'd like to get involved in the upcoming Berlin trip, get in contact below!
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