Push: Connor Stokes
Photography by Matthew Johnson
It seems like you and your crew in Stockton-on-Tees have been constantly shooting photos and working on videos for years now. Do you think you’ve all been subconsciously influenced by (the late, legendary proprietor of Mischief Skatestore) Steven ‘Bingo’ Binks’ relentless work ethic?
We ended up falling into a tight crew after Bing passed, and we really had a fire under our arses to document as much skating as we could. Matt (Johnson) was heavily getting into the filming and photography side of things, and it all just seemed to work out. We were still keeping to the Sunday filming mission rota that Bing had, too; each week we’d leave Stockton by 10am and travel somewhere new.
You’d have been the younger end of the Stockton scene when Mischief was still open; were you aware at the time how well respected Bingo and the shop were, or just how known Stockton was within the UK scene?
I don’t think I knew how well respected Bing was outside of the Teesside area, mainly because I hadn’t travelled too much back then, but every single person within the scene had nothing but good things to say about him. I probably overlooked how known Stockton was within skating too, just because the town is a sh*thole (laughs).
What’s your favourite memory of Bingo, or Mischief?
I’ve got a few good memories. I remember being young, going into the shop and being recognised by Bing, and being given a sticker or some free shoelaces; he’d always make you feel welcomed. He told my grandma that he knew me once, too; she was stoked on that (laughs).
Just after I’d passed my driving test, I was meeting Bing after the shop closed to pick up some shoes, and I did a handbrake turn around him in the carpark; he was laughing his head off at me.
Bridging the gap between Street View and real life by way of a grmiy frontside smith.
So how did young Connor find his way onto a skateboard? Is it also true that you took a disliking to Matt when you first met at Prissick Plaza? What did he do to upset you?
I started skating when I was really young; I must’ve been five or so. I was on a family camping holiday and my dad bought me a really sh*tty complete. He dragged me around the campsite on it, and from there I’ve never left skating alone. I think I upset Matt actually, not the other way around. I used to turn up to Prissick with my headphones in, and skate as fast as I could around the place. Matt had been trying to 180 the seven set for ages, and I did it first go in front of him, not even realising; I was in my own little world.
So you’d have been a regular at Prissick throughout the early years of the plaza, right? Were you present at many of the events and demos, before the place fell into disrepair? How is the park these days?
From when it opened in 2005, I was at plaza religiously on weekends; it was so f*cking good. There was a proper scene, and because everything was so big and proper, it forced you to ‘level up’ pretty quickly. As for demos, I think the biggest one I was at has to be the Flip demo in 2006. I had actually been arrested the weekend before, and because I was still young, I’d been grounded by my parents. I had to literally beg them to let me go: “this is a once in a life event! I need to be there!” (laughs). Fortunately, my mam is pretty understanding with stuff like that, and I got to go. It’s a shame how f*cked the place is now though; it still is such a good place to skate, but it needs some serious TLC to give it a new lease of life.
Can you tell us a bit about yours and Matt’s zine project, Dropped Pin?
Dropped Pin came about because of my Google Maps obsession (laughs). I spend most days at work trawling through towns and villages of the north, looking for anything of interest. It doesn’t even have to be a skate spot, it just somewhere interesting to mooch (laughs). A mate of mine was saying I needed to put something together with all the strange stuff I was finding, so I pitched the idea of doing a zine to Matt. The thinking was that we skated some of the spots I’d found, with some of the other strange screen grabs thrown in. Because Matt is always game to drive to the places I find on Street View, we made it happen.
Where did your love of ‘mooching’ come from? When you’re exploring mines and caves, how pro are you? Do you have plenty of gear and take precautions, or are you just winging it and hoping for the best?
The love of mooching came from when I was a bairn; on a weekend, my mam used to always be taking us up the hills, or to some forests. We would run riot, and just fell in love with it all, I guess. The mine and cave exploring came a little later, after I randomly stumbling across some, and thought, “I’d like to do this more”. Again, like finding spots on Google Maps, I spend a lot of time researching places, and learning the history of them before I visit them. As for taking precautions, I’d say the silliest thing I do is not wear a lid. I know that if you asked some people from the local clubs, they’d probably say I was an idiot, but I never do anything reckless.
5050 up and across like an LSWR S15 class. Know your trains.
Where does your admiration for trains come from?
Again, this is from my mam. We lived next to a level crossing when I was really young, and we used to watch the trains there. We also have quite a few heritage railways nearby, most notably is the NYMR (North Yorkshire Moors Railway), which has a whole range of working steam and diesel locomotives. With me being a mechanical fitter for work, and working on boilers, I’ve got mad appreciation for those old trains, and the whole engineering side of them. Trains are cool (laughs).
Who is your favourite, underrated North East local?
Jimmy Hart, all day, every day.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Loads of people (laughs). My mam and dad, my brother Michael, my girlfriend Holly who has to put up with me, Matt Johnson for listening to my silly ideas and driving me places, all my crew, Ron Calow and the boys at Legacy for keeping me in the freshest gear, Dave from Shred the North for everything he’s done for the scene in recent years. And, of course, skateboarding…
And lastly, what’s wrong with kites?
(Laughing) f*ck kites. I have some irrational fear of the things that comes from a recurring nightmare I had when I was a kid, but they do really freak me out.
Follow Connor - @coneconnor