On Monday, Skate Parlour – Leciester’s brand new indoor skatepark – opened its doors for the first time, filling the huge hole left in the local scene when Boardroom/Broom sadly shut up shop back in 2018.
Owned and operated by Yusra Alageli and Lily Clawson-Chan from Mama Skate CIC, the park not only provides Leicester with a much needed indoor facility, it is also striving to support marginalised groups within the local skate scene, whilst bringing together different factions of the city’s creative communities.
On Sunday afternoon, Rob Whiston managed to grab a pre-opening session at the park with an assortment of Midlands dwelling heads from the Karma Skateboards and Supertoxic Urethane crews (along with a couple of obligatory stowaways). Have a scroll through to see what went down, and read our interview with Yusra to find out about how this amazing new park came into being.
Skate Parlour deserves both applauding and supporting, so be sure to book yourself a session at your nearest convenience!
Can you tell us a bit about both of your backgrounds in skateboarding please? When and how did you first set foot on a board, how did you both meet?
Our background in skateboarding stems from visiting Boardroom, where Lily's daughter Tiger started having skate lessons. The kids loved it and became regulars at the skate school. I stood on a board for a laugh and thought, “hey! This is alright” (laughs). Both of us became pretty hooked, and all of us would go down to the skatepark whenever we could. Lily and I are very close friends from school, so the excitement and passion was constantly bounced back and forth between us.
Marcus Palmer, kickflip into the quarter.
Before we discuss Skate Parlour, we should probably get some info on MaMa Skate CIC. Can you tell us about the work MaMa Skate CIC does, what inspired you to establish the community, and how things have evolved since 2018?
MaMa Skate CIC is a non-profit organisation created by us. We began providing free skateboarding lessons and skate related art workshops, constantly striving to support the skateboarding community after the beloved Boardroom skatepark closed down in 2018. There was a noticeable lull in the Leicester skate scene, and we wanted to bring this back to life. We created the @skateleicester page on instagram to hype up local skaters, share edits, and announce comps, events, and support local brands. Mama Skate clinics and workshops became more frequent, and we collaborated with fellow skaters to integrate different groups into Go Skateboarding Day.
Moving on to Skate Parlour itself – when did the idea to open an indoor skatepark come about? Do you remember the conversation where it was first discussed?
Despite only skating for a month or so beforehand, Boardroom’s closure came as a shock to us, and was very upsetting. The whole community was taken aback by it, and Leicester skateboarding really suffered a loss. We spoke to the owners, as did many others, and we learned that there were many great difficulties (to maintaining an indoor park) and soon after, many skateparks around the UK closed their doors for business too. We knew something had to change. Skateparks needed to become community projects that were supported not only by locals, but also by governing and funding bodies, just like leisure centres and public parks. We started a petition, but this proved to be difficult; we were met with a lot of scepticism, especially being novices, and not having much street cred in the skateboard community.
Jess Russell, backside smith.
How did things progress from those first conversations, to the point where you were actually looking into potential properties? What steps did you have to undertake to get the ball rolling?
It started with trying to revive Boardroom, but the landlord was having none of it, and used the opportunity to change the site to a future property development. We then immediately started looking at other properties. We were filled with optimism, and just took things as they came. We of course emailed the mayor and local MPs, Sport England, National Lottery, everyone we could to set the wheels in motion to acquire potential funding, or even a building from the Leicester City Council. If we were opening a skatepark in Leicester, we didn't want it to open in piles of debt, or be running at a deficit.
Henry Fox, mayday.
I can imagine a city such as Leicester has an abundance of properties that would lend themselves well to an indoor skatepark; what were the main factors that you were looking out for when choosing the ideal location?
There were four criteria that the property had to meet, and we discovered this as we went along - size, location, price, and a willing agent/landlord; that was always the deal breaker. Despite the abundance of properties, not only is Leicester becoming increasingly expensive, but we were also speaking to an agent that wouldn’t even pass on our interest to a landlord; that was holding us back. As two young women looking to open a skatepark, we weren't getting very far. Little did they know, we already run three other successful businesses between us, but they never asked.
James Woodley, backside tailslide.
When was the lease signed for the building you’re now in, and how soon after did you get to work on designing, then building, the park?
This is where the real emotional journey began (laughs). We signed our lease in February 2020, then in March, the pandemic came, but at the time we had no idea how long it would last. The size and shape of the unit was much smaller than other parks, and the shape was longitudinal, so we knew straight away we could fall into the trap of having another layout like (Leciester’s) Vicky park. We started sketching different ideas straight away; we asked the skaters what they wanted in the park, and just put some rough ideas down. There was a long gap between getting the unit and starting building. And after receiving a generous donation of ply, me and Lily began preparing for worst-case scenario, which was funding and building the park ourselves. As Christmas 2020 approached, we just went for it. We bought a pre-cut mini from 414 Skateparks, some timber, and started building. We didn't have any of the right tools, which is funny looking back, but we are pretty proud of what we achieved. Eventually, at the end of January, we got our Sport England funding and were able to get the professionals in - 414 and Luke Robinson - to finish the park, by adding new sections and ramps.
Alice Smith, kickflip the hip.
Building a skatepark from the ground up is quite the labour intensive and time consuming operation. What were some of the biggest setbacks you encountered along the way?
There were a few major setbacks. We restarted important funding applications that required us to have the property's keys-in-hand, as well as applying for planning permission. Our planning application took six long months, and our funding took an even longer 12 months to come through. So, nothing was going to happen in lockdown anyway, and we had to keep telling ourselves that to survive the excruciating wait (laughs).
Callum Sidlauskas, backside tailslide.
On the flipside, which aspect of the journey up to now have you personally enjoyed the most?
Planning and building together every day has been amazing. Our bodies are battered, but we've had so many laughs, and gotten even closer as friends. I’m so glad we had each other, and all the awesome people who came to help us over the past year; it's been challenging but wonderful. A special shout out to Luke Robinson who helped us build the park, and dealt with all our questions and emotional rollercoasters (laughs); he’s a true life saver. Having Karma Skateboards and Supertoxic Urethane come down and skate the park felt so good too, then we had all of our open day sessions; it just set us at ease and made us so happy seeing people skate and have fun. This week has just been amazing; lots of love to all the Leicester skateboarding community.
Liam Courtnae - nollie heelflip in.
The aim of the skatepark is to go beyond simply providing an indoor space for people to skate; could you tell us about your broader hopes for the skatepark please? Especially in terms of supporting marginalised groups and bringing together those with creative tendencies…
Between us we represent a few of the marginalised groups in skateboarding - women, ethnic minorities, religious faiths, beginners, parents, so we know we need to create safe spaces for people from all walks of life. There's this huge disparity in skateboarders between men and women, and when you look closer it's even greater between white and BAME groups, then there's LGBTQ too, who in other cities have shown a need for a safe space to skate. Currently, we hold women only and beginners sessions, with a scope to add more sessions when demand grows. We're doing our best to create a relationship with the local communities here in Leicester, so that the skateboarding scene reflects the notoriously diverse population we have here in terms of ethnic minority groups. A big characteristic of Mama Skate CIC is our collaboration of skateboarding and the arts; we do crafty workshops as often as possible, and hopefully after COVID passes, we can bring in the musicians to have open mic nights and events. Leicester has so much talent, and we're keen to help the scene as much as we can.
Alice Smith, frontside feeble.
You were finally able to open on April 12th, though obviously COVID restrictions put a limit on how much you’re able to do right now. How can people arrange to come visit the park, and what special sessions have you got on the calendar right now?
COVID restrictions have forced us and many other businesses to put online booking and limited numbers at the park in place, but our park is pretty small, so it's working out quite well for us at the moment. People can go to our website www.skateparlour.com where they can book sessions, register, and complete COVID declarations before attending a session. We have a quite a few options available, especially with the recent update on restrictions from Skateboard GB. Our main aim is to focus on skateboarding sessions, so there's over 18's, under 18's, children's beginners, and ladies only. Then we have BMX, scooter, and roller-skates once a week, or on alternate weeks.
James Woodley, backside nosegrind.
How should people keep up to date with what is going on at Skate Parlour?
James Hewett, backside smith.
What are your plans for the rest of 2021?
I think the main thing is making it through this first year of business! We have some exciting things coming up in the summer, and we can't wait to start workshops and hold events. We’re looking forward to seeing old and new faces, and creating memories and at the park!
Skate Parlour proprietors Yusra and Lily.
Skate Parlour Unit 32 Burgess Road Leicester LE2 8QL
Tel: 07921542725 Tel: 07890913706