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Inauguration: Josh ‘Manhead’ Young

Skate Photography: Andrew Horsley

Sidewalk Magazine - Issue 122 – November 2006

So if memory serves, Plaza Palooza was an A4 Distribution sponsored series of comps at Stoke Plaza and Prissick Plaza in Middlesbrough, where this photo was taken.

I’m just trying to recall anything around this (laughs). I think I won about £100 that day, actually. They were doing cash for tricks, and I did loads of shit (laughs). Nah, I’m joking.

I wasn’t there for this one, so you’d have driven to Middlesbrough with Ben (Powell) I reckon.

Yeah. It must have taken ages as well… window down, BBC Radio 4 on full blast the whole way (laughs).

I don’t think Prissick had been open long at all when Plaza Palooza went on. Was this your first visit to Middlesbrough?

I’d been to the Flip Skateboards demo, which was pretty nuts, but this was probably one of the first times I’d been on a mission to skate at a big event. The plaza had everything, and a bowl that was way too big and only about two people in the country could skate. Going back there now… it’s not as good as I remember (laughs). There’s a step up that’s really fun, but as soon as you land something up it, you either have a nine stair rail straight ahead, a double kink to your right, or a neck high hubba to your left. Or you just turn around and ollie back in (laughs). It was fun for the time, though.

You’d met Horse (Andrew Horsley) a few times prior to this, but what are your memories from shooting the crook photo at Prissick with him?

I remember he had his hat backwards, kind of like Fred Durst (laughs). I was a bit intimidated; he asked if I wanted to shoot the crook, and I was like, “why?” I’d never shot anything before, so it was kind of scary, even though it wasn’t a scary trick to do. I was thinking, “how many tries do I get? How much of your time can I use?” Having to skate around someone as well, when they’re taking a picture of you, I’d never done that before either. It was sick to shoot a photo with him, though.

I snapped my arm and my mum wasn't happy, so I hung my blades up. I haven't bladed since.

The caption reads: “Heavy contender for the best name in skateboarding, Josh ‘Manhead’ Young gets crooked on the moon, which as you all know, is just off the A19.”

Yeah, I remember not really understanding the caption (laughs). I was a bit confused by it at the time.

Do you understand it now?

Kind of (laughs). Nah, of course I get it.

I know the story has been told before, but where did the nickname ‘Manhead’ come from?

My recollection of it is that Joe Lynskey and Ed (Cheetham) were pretty much bullying me at Morley skatepark. They threw my hat in a tree, saw the size of my head, then one of them shouted, “look at his man head”. Everyone that was sat there on the grass started calling me ‘Manhead’. I was 10 years old, and the name stuck. Now I’m 33. I’ve been Manhead for a long time.

You were a proper little brat back then, on your rollerblades, borrowing peoples' boards then instantly being better than them at skating.

Don Irfan: Why did you stop blading?

I snapped my arm and my mum wasn’t happy, so I hung my blades up. And I haven’t bladed since (laughs).

Don: Could you actually do tricks on them?

Oh aye. I did a 900 (laughs). One of the first trips I went on was on rollerblades; I went to a 24-hour event at Rampworx in Liverpool, 11 years old (laughs). It was called YMCA 4 or something like that, and it was the same concept as Night of the Living Dead, at the same skatepark.

Don: Do you still see any of your old rollerblading mates?

I tell you what, we were in Hull skating street a few years ago, and we were skating that spot by the Marina, the one with the banks and the raiIs, and this convoy of cars pulled up, with grind blocks strapped to their roofs. It was this massive crew of rollerbladers that used to go to Aggro Verts, the park we worked in, years ago. There must have been 40 rollerbladers from all over, maybe the last surviving ones from back then, and they were all like, “no way, it’s Manhead!” (Laughs). Chris (Oliver) and Daryl (Dominguez) were skating the bank to rail by the road, and the bladers had their blocks set up on top of the stairs. It must have been a street takeover event. It was like when Channel 5 News and Ron Burgundy meet, and they have a face off (laughs). We were trying to film on the spot, then this whole crew of bladers came up with their event… we were outnumbered.

"Head of a man, body of a child: Manhead" with an introductory crook, just off the A19. Photo: Hoss.

So you did the YMCA 4 event at Rampworx on your blades, then we got the train over to Liverpool a year or two later, for Night of the Living Dead…

… and it was just as bad, being there at that age (laughs). Everyone was doing whatever they wanted in there; it was wild. People were setting fireworks off, as we got there someone was being stretchered out after colliding with Dickie (Dave Allen), bleeding out of their ear. Wingy (Steve Wilkinson) was dressed as a vampire. Darrell Stanton and some of the Real team were there, and they probably didn’t have a clue what was going on (laughs).

Going back to the Plaza Palooza article, Smithy (Neil Smith) was at the Prissick jam. There’s a sequence of him here, nollie heelflipping the massive three block.

I remember him doing that, because everyone was watching, and he was the only one skating it, really. That nollie heel was massive… but don’t let him know that (laughs). Around this time, Smithy could nollie heel anything, with his toes curling over the edge of the board (laughs). Doing stuff like this is what set him off to Wallenberg. If he could do it down this…

Don: Hang on, did Smithy try nollie heel Wallenberg?

He tried; he got it to his feet on that EA Skate trip, didn’t he?

Yeah. Geoff Rowley was there, and said if he did it, he’d write him a cheque on the spot for $1,000. He had two attempts but gave up. He flew over again for that Back to the Berg comp that Thrasher did, but that sounded like a nightmare. (Jake) Phelps was giving him no end of shit. So 2006 – what was going on in Manhead’s life back then?

Finishing high school I guess; I’d have been starting college in Barnsley. In the photo I’ve got éS Kostons on, so I couldn’t have been on Vans yet. I loved those shoes; I’d have got them from TK Maxx , or they might have been hand-me-downs from Lynskey.

I've been Manhead for a long time.

According to the write up, you won the ‘Love Park lines comp’.

What? Me? No way.

The steep quarter, you won that jam with a switch mayday, and the Jersey barrier comp you won with a blunt fakie.

There you go. I got £100, and that was the most money I’d had at that point. I felt balling. I don’t remember that, at all. I couldn’t even tell you what the barrier looked like, but I was into that BA:KU: Barrier Kult video, so would have been skating Jersey barriers a bit around Leeds.

Do you remember seeing this photo in print for the first time?

Yeah, I was pretty stoked on it. I still have a copy of it somewhere. I think I was in WH Smith when I saw it, because they sold Sidewalk everywhere. My mum was a bit freaked out, like, “what? You’re in a magazine? Why?” I had to explain to her that people took photos of you skating, and if they thought it was good enough, they’d put it in the magazine. But she was pretty confused by it (laughs).

Have you kept much from over the years?

I think I’ve got everything; I was pretty good at that. Mostly for the photo incentive, so I could scan it in (laughs). Nah, it’s sick to have as well. I’ve tried to keep every magazine, and things from every project I’ve worked on. I guess I was influenced by you and Ben hoarding shit (laughs). It’s nice to be able to look back on everything.

If you had to choose just one, what photo would be your favourite, out of everything that you’ve shot between 2006 and now?

We did a Vans project in Croatia. (Danny) Wainwright had set this thing up called DERP: Derelict Places, and basically we’d go skate in abandoned buildings. We went to a military hotel in Dubrovnik, where in the 1990s, there was a war going on [the Croatian War of Independence], and a ship had shot the hotel up. There were bullet holes everywhere. We’d be skating spots, but our wheels would be getting caught up in bullet holes (laughs). There was this sick bank to ledge at the hotel; I did a back smith on it. That was a good photo. It was in a free giveaway zine that Vans released in Europe. Also, I guess having a Sidewalk cover was pretty dope, with the crook in Leeds. I found out about that one on my birthday, too.

January 2010, that would have been. Any final thoughts on 2006, or this period of your life?

I wasn’t thinking about much back then; I didn’t really know what was going on, we’d just get in the car most weekends and go skate. Petrol was so cheap that if everyone chipped in £3 each, we could drive from Leeds to London and back. I was just super keen; I’d skate 12 miles a day just to go skating. I’d skate to Leeds from Tingley – which is about six miles - skate all day, then skate home, and I didn’t mind at all.

Follow Josh - @manhead

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