Josh and Dennis - Leeds, February 2021. Photo: Brendan 'Brenna' Harrap
Our good mate Farran Golding takes the Locality reigns this week, as he uses some of his spare lockdown time to have an extensive Leeds themed chat with Welcome Skatestore's resident filmer and flatground guru Josh Hallett.
As you'd expect from a conversation between these two West Yorkshire skateboarding enthusiasts, this one runs deep, so grab yourself a brew, get comfortable, then embark upon your virtual tour of Leeds below...
Paul Silvester at Josh’s favourite, now extinct, skate spot in In Motion (Sidewalk Magazine, 2003)
Best skate spot from back in the day?
The Four-Flat-Five in Leeds University. It was perfect. It existed at a time when you could skate the uni for more than five minutes before getting the boot, so we’d hang out there for hours. You could put a bench down the four as a hubba, and there was a slight slope after the five so it felt like you were cruising a hill.
Old footage of Tom Brown and Mike Wright always come to mind, and I even got a couple of lines there myself. Which is a shocker. It probably wasn’t best spot if you were visiting to get some footage, but for regular sessions, the Four-Flat-Five was the best.
Dom Henry takes the Leeds route less travelled at The Henry Moore Institute - Afterbang by James Cruikshank (2019)
Best skate spot, present day?
The Henry Moore Institute, occasionally combined with Leeds Art Gallery.
Although, I was talking to [Welcome shop rider] Will Sheerin about this, and the Leeds Playhouse came up. I was like:
“You think that’s our best spot.”
“Oh, I don’t know… Do we have a ‘best spot’ in Leeds?”
[Laughs] So I’m claiming Henry Moore, because there’s really nice flatground, there are ride on ledges that you can go go off – I mean people go up them too, but there’s only a few who have. As long as it’s after 5pm, you can skate there as long as you like, and it also connects to the nine stair outside the Art Gallery for a line.
If you intended to go filming and decided to meet at Henry Moore for convenience, you very well might film a trick there too. Also, it’s slap bang in the city center, so there are other spots around it.
As far as notable tricks go: Denis Lynn did front nose up the ride-on ledge to fakie, in Albion. Mark Baines had a Blueprint ad on a different ledge there, which no one skates, shot by Oliver Barton. But Dom Henry’s line – nose side pop-up, quick carve and then backside flip down the third set of stairs – is the best thing that’s been done there. Ever. It’s not possible to take that route. Plus, Dom’s the only person who has skated it that way, up then down. He owns that spot, and he doesn’t even live anywhere near Leeds.
Best local video and/or video part?
Snyde Park & the Curse of Brudenell Road by Alex Appleby . It’s such a nice, crew-based video. It covers all the spots in Leeds – some you’d never think of going to – and includes everyone. Remember when we used to go that thing called ‘the pub’? Well, it’s a video I’d put on and enjoy when I’ve got back from the pub, with a cup of tea, before going to bed.
Alex is a real top bloke. I had no idea he’s incredible at skating because I never saw him being filmed, I only saw him out filming. He’s got really casual feet and is quite nimble on his board. He was in Leeds for a few years and made multiple videos, which were great. Then he just left, and now he’s in Glasgow doing the same thing.
For a single part: James ‘Foz’ Foster in Reprobates [Sore Skateboards, 2012]. Vince Orr started Sore as a local board brand, but I reckon it a was bit before its time. He hooked up some good dudes, it was a tight crew with solid videos, and I think it would still be going now if it had been started a little bit later, when ‘small brands’ were popping off. Vince put a lot of work into filming in Leeds for a long time, and not just his team either. I’m gutted Sore isn’t still around, because there isn’t a ‘Leeds brand’ these days.
I love Reprobates. The premiere was in the middle of the day at The Hyde Park Picture House, so everyone went to Hyde, then the prem, then went back to Hyde – and there was a party in the evening. Foz’s part was banging. There’s the switch flip into the Man Bank and the pop shove into the Pig & Whistle bank (from the wall) – he worked for it and it’s a real standout Leeds part.
Honourable mention to Brendan ‘Brenna’ Harrap; he’s got my favourite part in the whole video. His style and trick selection are great. And he does varial flips. But skating-wise, Foz had the best part, hence it being the last. For the time too Foz was definitely the ‘best skater’ in Leeds.
Lastly, George Smith in Paul, [Welcome Skate Store, 2015 ]. I don’t want to plug something I was involved in, and this has nothing to do with how it’s put together, but at the time nobody knew who George was.
He’s Leeds through and through. He’s Mr. Leeds, so it’s perfect for me in that respect. When Sidewalk me hit me up about putting out a part, I was down, and when I asked which, they said “George Smith” without hesitation.
He’s so humble and was never hyped about anything he’d landed. He’d be like, “Yeah, alright…” but any time his mates made something, he’d be screaming. He ollies a legitimate road. I don’t think I filmed it well enough to do it justice, but that thing was massive, and he flew over it. Pop, power, and he’s the nicest man ever.
The other thing is, it’s probably going to be his only part ever [laughs]. Since then he’s had a kid and he works a lot. It’s pretty heavy just to have that as your back catalogue.
Pre-DLX Harry Lintell tackles a (previously) untouched rail configuration in Leeds, to close out iPath’s entry for 2010’s The Big Push. It's still not been skated again to this day...
Best trick committed to film?
Harry Lintell’s 5050 on The Casino Rail. I wasn’t there but everyone was shocked to hear he’d done it. We still are. For it to be in a Big Push edit too was a bit surprising; it could have easily been his ender for In Progress.
It’s not just a rail that goes down, along and over – there are also concrete bollards on the landing to thread through. He did it so casually, as Lintell does. As far as the best tricks in Leeds go, it’s the one that gets brought up all the time. Deservedly.
In Progress might be Tom Harrison’s most - and perhaps only - comprehensive video part, but he tackled a few Leeds NBDs along the way. Nosepick on the Man Bank at 2:47 (Sidewalk Magazine, 2011)
Then Tom Harrison’s nosepick at the Man Bank: it should have been impossible to get that far up and come back down. The floor is crap, you couldn’t even push properly on it, the bank itself was awful, so to get the highest point and nosepick it like Tom did…
Tom’s one of those skaters who was good but he wasn’t very prolific. However, what he put out was always solid. Although, he did do a nollie murder flip a Harmony video, which might be the only example of that trick ever committed to film… Anyway, he had so many sponsors over the years but even when he got on Blueprint, you didn’t see footage of him. Anyone else would’ve been going for it because, well, they’re on Blueprint, but Tom was off doing interesting stuff outside of skateboarding. Really, In Progress is kind of his only part.
Josh’s inaugural full-length video for Welcome Skate Store, 2017. Third times a charm for Dale Starkie’s nollie backside flip around the 35:20 mark.
Best trick that you’ve documented on film?
Dale Starkie, nollie backside flip into the same bank. People didn’t skate into the Man Bank that often so when people would claim they had a trick for it, the initial reaction is always, “Here we go…”
Foz kind of went through a stage of owning that spot, it’s probably undisputed, but when Dale nollie backside flipped into it, he did it once for me, then again when Ben Powell was filming, and again a third time – which is what’s in the video. It came quick as well. Granted he’d done it twice before but not how he wanted it to be, so it’s cool he went back the third time.
Getting into this spot is treacherous and involves climbing around a fence that looms over 20 foot drop. There are only two things to skate, really: the wall into the bank, or this other thing which Dean Greensmith unlocked back in the day [more on that in a minute… -ed.].
We must have gone there with the intention of Foz trying it, but he did it so easily. The one he made, he might as well have been doing it off a kerb. So chill. But Foz doesn’t really make a meal of tricks anyway.
Finally, Rikk Field’s backside noseblunt at the same spot. The run up is worse for that part. Dean Greensmith originally opened up that route with a back tail, and to skate it that way you have ride along a wall which is somewhat cobbled – with that drop on the other side – carve in and go up that bank. It was insane.
I think when Shank (James Cruickshank) was helping Ben Raemers film for (the Converse video) Purple, he asked me about spots in Leeds which I thought Ben might like. I sent him this, he asked what’s been done and I told him about Rikk’s noseblunt.
“Oh. No point skating that then. It’s already been shutdown.”
Best skate photo shot in Leeds?
There’s the sequence of Silvester switch 5050ing a rail against a wall, which Brenna went back and skated years later in Reprobrates. There’s one frame where his arms are behind his back, as if he's like, “this is f*cking easy.”
"Paul Silvester torn together in sequence to make you sick with a mighty SWITCH 5050 deep in Leeds." Sidewalk Magazine issue 28, July 1998. Seq: Wig Worland.
Present day, Victor Mptutu’s switch crook on the L-Ledge at Leeds University. Vic’s one of my favourite skaters, he’s a good dude, and the style on it is incredible. It’s an iconic Leeds spot too, Reece [Leung] killed it on the photo, and the shapes…he just looks gangster [laughs]. It’s the type of tricks and photo you’d see on a classic magazine cover.
Best local from back in the day?
I’d say Mike Wright – because he’s the most talented skateboarder I’ve ever laid eyes on – but he’s not from Leeds. He’s a Hebden Bridge lad, so technically he was only ever visiting. Same deal with Silvester – he’s originally from Huddersfield. So Joe Lynskey is the one.
Style-wise, Lynner’s was always my favourite. Watching him skate the hip at Hyde Park, he’d do tricks two feet higher than everyone else, skating a ledge he’d grind two feet longer than anyone else.
Again, he didn’t have too much video output. Well, actually, he had stuff in Things I Don’t Remember, Baghead Flats, and In Progress. He’s just a classic Leeds skater who was always at Hyde. He was so talented and stylish. He still is. He just looks consistently amazing. He was the Leeds skater to me, back then.
Best local skater, present day?
Dale Starkie and Foz.
Foz is self-explanatory. He may not be as prolific as he once was, but he’s still so good..
With Dale, I just know the hard work he puts in. He’s always trying to learn something new. When I first met him, he was the basically the “take me to it and I’ll jump down it” kid, but in the last few years he’s really refined his skating. He’s got a bit of a temper sometimes, but he’s worked on that, so he’s mellower now.
Grumpy’s Pizza in Farsley. Personally, I’m not a big fan of pizza, but here it’s stone baked right in front of you. If I had to choose where to go for lunch right now, I’d be at Grumpy’s with a pint and some freshly made pizza.
The Kirkstall Bridge Inn. It’s local, it has a banging beer garden by the river, it’s just a nice vibe overall.
Best local business?
As far as skate shops go in Leeds, I guess we started with Wisdom and Exit, and they were in similar places in town, by the Corn Exchange. Well, Exit was inside it, and Wisdom was in a building facing the back of it. Leon [Walton] worked in Exit and we’d go in as kids and be blown away by the product. I didn’t go to Wisdom much, but as a kid I always heard this rumour that if you kickflipped the Playhouse 10, and you had the footage to prove it, Wisdom would give you a free board. That went around for years, but I don’t know if it was true.
Unfortunately, both of them closed and Leeds didn’t have a skater owned shop for a while. Then in 2010, Tom Brown and Sam Barratt opened Welcome in the basement of Crash Records. And ten years later, they’ve got a shop in Thornton’s Arcade which is the size of a department store [laughs]. Tom’s always talking about wanting to do the best and trying to push the scene. The shop’s not just about pushing the riders, it’s about everyone, and that’s what I love about it.
I don’t really know how I fell in with them. My friend Liam Hobson got sponsored by the shop when it originally opened. We’d put out a little Harrogate video that he had the first part in, and I think Tom Harrison saw it and suggested him to Tom Brown. Through his connection to the shop, I started going in and eventually just started filming their boys. It’s been, like, seven years now. I don’t even “work” for them, I just help out as much as possible because I’m stoked on what my friends are doing.
Best local business, aside from Welcome?
Hyde Park Book Club. Good food, good coffee, good beers, they’ve got a nice little flower shop, and they put on gigs. And it’s right next to Hyde Park skatepark. Plus the people who run it are lovely. It’d be a dope place to put on a premiere.
Best local slang?
‘While’ – as in “I’ll be skating Hyde, four-while-six.”
Before I moved to Yorkshire, I’d never heard this. Even living in Harrogate for a few years, no-one says it over there, but that said, Harrogate isn’t really Yorkshire, is it? It’s Poshville.
Then I move to Leeds and start hearing people say things like, “I’m working nine-while-five.”
“While” is definitely rooted in Leeds, or West Yorkshire.
Best local celebrity?
He moved away when he was around five years old, but Vic Reeves was born in Leeds, and I’m a huge fan of his work. Vic and Bob are my two favourite people.
The cover of Gang Of Four’s Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time, featuring the city’s town hall (and a title with as fitting description for the city’s public transport as could be).
Best Leeds affiliated or homegrown band?
Gang of Four. It’s the obvious answer but it’s got to go to Gang Of Four. No else one comes close.
New Balance Numeric’s U.K. jaunt in 2015, Quids In, saw them head over here and promptly head up t’north. Jordan Trahan plays in traffic and weaves into local folklore at 1:21.
Best trick done by a passing pro?
Jordan Trahan’s ollie at the bottom of Briggate. I’d never even heard someone claim it. It’s that gnarly. The spot was skated as pad, or you’d ollie up then skate down the three set. Then the New Balance team came over for a day and he ollied off the top of it, over a fence, and into the road, which is basically means you land on the edge of a roundabout.
Also, Tom Knox’s fakie ollie followed by a switch flip down the stairs at the original Playhouse, because I can’t think of anyone else who hit more than one of those staircases in a row with more than ollies. Knox did fakie ollie – no push – then switch flip, and that’s insane. People used to try switch flip the ten as an ender.
It was in an Emerica Big Push edit, and tricks that were in those videos sometimes get forgotten, but that’s a heavy clip. Leeds used to be a bit of a hot spot for tours back in the day. I guess because people wanted to come and jump down the Playhouse 10 [laughs].
In retrospect, this feels like something of a precursor to Tom’s Eleventh Hour and Atlantic Drift enders. Tom puts ten and ten together for the Emerica UK Big Push back in 2012.
Best thing about living in Leeds?
It’s very easy going, a good size, there are lots of great independent businesses, and it’s only an hour or two away from Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Nottingham.
You’re so close to both the city and countryside, so you can escape the busyness by going 10 minutes down the road too. Something I really enjoy about living here is that you’re never far off from big pieces of nature like Ilkley Moore of Otley Chevin. I don’t think you have that balance between city and landscape quite as much with other cities.
The skate scene has had such a boom, in more recent years especially. There are so many different crews all doing something, filming their own videos but then on a really hot summer’s day, all those crews will converge at Hyde Park and they all get along. On the whole, it’s just a solid scene and it’s growing. Even though it’s not the best city for spots, the amount of skaters is blowing up.