Hi guys, could you give us a little history of the park?
While we opened officially as The House in 1998, this skatepark is technically House 4, the last in a line of DIY indoor parks we'd been knocking together in our spare time with any materials we could scrounge. These parks were in derelict buildings around Sheffield, but sooner or later we'd get caught or they'd get dismantled, so this time around we decided to do things properly. We started the park with support from the Prince's Youth Business Trust on just £5,000 figuring if we build it, they will come. Thankfully, they did, and now we're older – but not necessarily wiser - than a lot of our park users.
As one of, if not the, longest running skater-owned skateparks in the country, do you have any particular advice on keeping a park running for so long?
Do whatever is necessary to make it happen, that's fundamental. We try to keep moving forward and keep things fresh. Because we build the ramps ourselves we're constantly updating the park to meet customer needs and stop it getting stale. But we also recognise we're part of a bigger local scene, and we do what we can to support skating in Sheffield, because if the scene slips so do we. We try and get involved in events happening in the community, help out local skaters when we can, and generally keep the vibe going because skating should be fun.
Ben Broyd Frontside Airs for Hosoi at the Halloween Jam 2015
You have a real cheap entry fee into the park, how / why do you keep it so cheap?
Our business plan was basically make some ramps and go skate them. We never expected to be skatepark millionaires, which is lucky really because there have been times when taking a wage just isn't an option. When we started there weren't many outdoor parks locally; now there's several, so if you hit people too hard they'll go somewhere they can skate for free. We have a small staff, and we keep costs down by doing our own building and repairs, and we recycle a lot of our materials. Wood gets thrown away when it's too small or too wrecked to be usable. Everything that needs doing down there we do ourselves, and that saves a lot of money.
Could you talk us through the process of getting the DIY bowl built? I imagine it was a mammoth task, and with Sheffield having a predominantly street-oriented scene, what was the thinking behind it?
Our landlord had a spare unit going, so we thought why not do something ridiculous? Indoor concrete is still pretty rare in the UK, but it's becoming normalised in places like the US, so we thought we'd try and raise our game. Scene stalwart Joe 90 had experience in building concrete bowls and the unit was standing empty, so we reckoned a few months would do it. In fact it took nearly a year of insanely hard work, helped by local skaters who pitched in their time for nothing to make it happen.
Sheffield has a solid street scene because there's so many good spots, but now we have customers who love transitions and come down to use the bowl, especially the older guys (like me). It's a bit of a cliché in skating but when you get too old to throw yourself down things you start skating transitions.
Joe Howard Frontside Feebles around the corner.
You guys seem to rep a few lesser seen brands in your shop, particularly Consolidated, one of my personal favourites. Is it important to you to support similar brands?
We're a skater-owned park, we've always said support skater owned and we mean it. We back the Don't Do It campaign to keep big business out of skateboarding and keep it in the hands of those who know and love it. That includes stocking smaller companies who care about skating rather than seeing it as a cash cow, like some global sports companies do. We've been friends with Consolidated for years, they make great boards and have good ethics, I was so stoked to be able to collaborate with them on a House / Consolidated board.
Could you tell us a bit about the annual House comp? It's one of the last-standing major UK comps right? How do you keep it so well attended each year?
The comp's been running annually since 2002 – the first winner was Scott Palmer - and we always look forward to it. We started it as a bit of fun, really, and one thing that makes it so successful, I think, is that we've never taken it too seriously. If you start taking skating seriously then you're missing the point. While the prize pot's grown in recent years, we've tried to hold on to the original feel of the comp as a day when skaters can get together, watch some skating, maybe win some shiny new stuff, and just hang out and have a laugh. That said, every year we try and introduce something different to shake things up, from 'King of the Stairs' to the Wheel of Fortune trick generator. Last year we live-streamed it for the first time; people were watching it from all over the world, which was slightly surreal. This year? We'll see what we come up with.
Bruce airs into his Tailblock...
What would you say is the biggest challenge you've faced since running the park?
Keeping things on a level while not sacrificing the ideals and principles we set the place up with. Keeping the place relevant is always a challenge, especially as you're getting a bit older and all the kids seem to be asking for is foam pits and resi ramps. Not getting disheartened on a hot July afternoon when you've only seen two customers all day and hoping you can hold the place together until winter when you're needed. And knowing you'll never skate as well again as you did in your twenties and you can't land half of what you used to.
Finally, to end on a positive, what's the best thing about running a skatepark?
I get to be my own boss, I get to go out and skate still, I get to watch kids who turn up at The House with their mum and dad progress to the point where they're skating for a living. And you still get a buzz when you get to watch someone do something that really shouldn't be possible, and know you've played a small part in helping them achieve that by knocking that ramp together.
Blinky Mute Grabs with the standard face...