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Those Bloody Kids: the Dave Apomah interview

Tomorrow afternoon, the proactive northeastern rulers behind Shred The North will be unveiling their first ever book, Those Bloody Kids: A Look Back at Skateboarding on Tyneside.

Contained within the attentively compiled pages is a wealth of photography and an abundance of tales, all of which chart the evolution of skateboarding on Tyneside, from its emergence in the late 1970s, right through to the present day. The list of contributors to the project is far too long to include here, but it’s safe to say that almost every northeastern head of note from the last five generations has played their part in making this gargantuan task a reality, least of all Dave Apomah, Michael Jeffries and Andrew Linaker.

Ahead of tomorrow's release, we managed to put some questions to Dave, delving into the background and production of Those Bloody Kids. Have a read below to find out more about the project, enjoy some previews of the book itself, and get yourself over to the launch at the Baltic in Gateshead and acquire yourself a copy whilst you can!

Up The Toon!

So then Dave, before we dive into the soon to be released Those Bloody Kids book, can you kindly introduce yourself?

Dave Apomah here. 43 year old skate rat with a thing for failing spectacularly at skateboarding since 1999, and I have no reason to stop any time soon. I like to make things happen for no other reason than it might be a rad idea, and other people might benefit… I’m not one for solo sessions. My first memory of a banging regional skate event was way back in 2000 when Steve ‘Bingo’ Binks brought the éS team to Rkade Skatepark in Redcar. That was a pretty monumental occurance in the scene timeline. The rest is history.

Could you please explain a little about Shred The North, and the role it plays in the northeastern scene?

At #ShredTheNorth, we try to shine a light on, AND keep the wheels spinning for #NorthEastSkateboarding. Basically we are skate nerds and spend way too much time thinking of cool ways to grow the scene. Since we started in the winter of 2014, this has taken the form of countless jams, social events (movie nights, art galleries, music shows, quiz nights, etc), road trips (domestic and international), northeast intercity events and a few skate focused workshops. In the last few years we’ve been working more on bringing skateboarding to northeast schools and youth groups, as well as providing consultancy on regional skateboard strategy and skatepark projects.

1970s - the Pea Town crew.

The 1980s.

1980s - the Longbenton mini ramp.

So the existence of Those Bloody Kids was announced at the start of September, but where did initial idea for a book covering the evolution of the Tyneside scene come from? When did the first conversations relating to the creation of the book take place?

Mike Jeffries started this all off by interviewing a select few within the Newcastle scene,following on from a previous project to map skateable landmarks in Newcastle, and initially wanted a medium to showcase his work. After amassing a small collection of stories, he approached Andrew Linaker and myself with the idea of a book, way back in February 2023. We agreed, and after some period of inactivity and discussion, it was decided that for the eventual book to have more legitimacy and relevance it had to be equally weighted with content from across the decades. That's when Linaker turned into 'Skate Poirot' and dug out a tonne more people for the book.

1980s - Mike O'Brien at Five Bridges.

Who has been the core crew at the centre of the project, and what roles have they each played?

Mike Jeffries, Associate Professor at Northumbria University in Newcastle, kicked off and funded the project.

OG Toon skater turned graphic designer extraordinaire, Andrew Linaker, did an amazing job not only organising what was already there, but putting in a lot of blood sweat and tears to collate the content for the 80s and 90s. A lot of entries were made possible due to his insistence that there should be more balance across the decades with regards to viewpoints on the evolution of the scene.

My role in this project was very minimal apart from using Shred The North as the vehicle through which this collection of stories could be published. At times, also balancing the drive for an academically focused body of work with a more skateboard-literature centered approach. It was very important to ensure we didn't lose more than was necessary in retelling the stories recounted to us, in a manner that was more indicative of skateboard culture.

1980s - Peter Warmington - backside 5050 at the Yellow Banks.

The list of people who have contributed to the book is pretty exhaustive. Out of everyone who’s contributed, who surprised you the most? Either with their stories or the materials they’ve kept hold of…

Mike O’Brien has kept hold of some of the earliest sessions of Five Bridges and Yellow Banks in the late 70s and early 80s - these are spots that are still skated now - along with many photos of long lost ramps featuring locals and visiting pros.

Dave Young (one time world BMX champion) got us in touch with Andy Lincoln. He has kept all his old photographs from the mid 80s through to the early 90s. He was also responsible for building the vert ramp with his dad at the Oval in Washington. This was one of the only indoor facilities at the time, especially in the north of England. It helped to spawn the likes of Paul ‘Rocker’ Robson, Gordon Skrezka, Neil Uwrwin, Alan 'Harry' Cuthbertson and Jimmy Boyes, to name a few.

Andy also got us in touch with David ‘Morph’ Morpeth. He was a name that people had always mentioned from the late 80s and early 90s, but we had never met him. I do remember a photo of him blasting a backside air at the Walker Wheels vert ramp in an issue of Skateboard! Magazine in the late 80s. It was a pleasure to finally meet him, and he didn’t disappoint, with some of the best stories in the book! It’s unfortunate that his time skating was cut short when he started his joinery apprenticeship. He was an incredibly talented vert skater for this time.

He actually still has a couple of handwritten letters from Kevin Bergthold and Randy Janson at Blockhead Skateboards about potential sponsorship. We didn’t have space for these in the book, but you can see these below…

Unfortunately, due to the prevailing use of social media and the internet during the 2010s, a lot of material was already online on blogs, Flikr accounts and Instagram. This made it very difficult to collect unseen media from this era.

David 'Morph' Morpeth's letters from Kevin Bergthold and Randy Janson at Blockhead Skateboards.

Similarly, was there anyone you really wanted to be involved in the book, but couldn’t be?

Sadly, there is not enough of Alan ‘Harry’ Cuthbertson or Gordon Skrezka. We didn’t want to use images that were already seen or well known from magazines, although there are a couple that have been reworked.

We really wanted a section on Jimmy Boyes; although from Durham he has always been synonymous with the Tyneside scene. A segment of him talking about Queens Banks was the goal; a legendary street spot that has been skated since the 70s. That spot has always been associated with Jimmy, and although it was fenced off for a good few years, it has recently been brought back to life by a local BMX squad. It’s great to see him skating there again.

We also chatted with Lee Bryan who lived and skated in Newcastle for a period in the 80s, but there just wasn’t the time or space to follow up on this.

Due to budget, we were limited to the number of pages we could use, this actually increased twice. The finished book is 112 pages.

There are countless more, especially towards the later decades. The problem with a project like this is that the chosen medium (print) can only accommodate so much. Add in time and page number restraints and it became obvious that a line had to be drawn or this project would never see the light of day. Imagine trying to collate four decades worth of skate stories into one book… you’d need a whole library just for that.

Due to the above, it’s worth mentioning at this point that the book is NOT an all encompassing history of northeast skateboarding, but a very tiny subset of its characters through the ages. For every decade, there will be an insane amount of individuals with fascinating stories to add. We’re hoping that this initial volume will spur others on to research, document and ultimately relive the memories they hold dear from their time skateboarding round these parts, whenever that was and whoever that was with. There are many aspects of the scene that could fill a book in their own right, if there are individuals dedicated enough to step up and take on the challenge.

When you start diving into the history of a scene like Tyneside’s, which has been constantly active for generations, you’re bound to unearth some gold, possibly even things that were presumed lost. Are there any stories or photos contained within Those Bloody Kids that you’re particularly pleased have been properly documented, or finally released?

There’s a legendary story of the OG Steve Olson turning up unannounced at the ramp in Walker in 1987. With Melanie Griffith in tow…

It was also cool to get a bit from Jon Robson about making the Bag of Lovely video, featuring early parts from Harry, Gordon Skrezka, Davvy Heron, Matt Potts and Neil Urwin.

1980s - David 'Morph' Morpeth at the Walker Wheels vert ramp.

Even after a project as thorough as Those Bloody Kids, are there any photos that you’re still on the hunt for? The Holy Grail of the northeast…?

Although there is a surviving flyer for the Skate Arena indoor park in Tynemouth from the 70s, there are no actual photos of the place.

David Skrezka said he has a box full of photographs from the early 90s, the Oval era, but they have been misplaced for many years. We really hope they turn up one day.

How far back into the history of the scene does Those Bloody Kids go? Obviously there was the boom of the late 1970s, but does the book go any earlier than that? Did skateboarding make its way to the northeast during the 1960s ?

I believe it did, but we didn't have access to those in a position to represent this era. We’re hoping the launch of this book acts as a marker to draw out those who would like to document their unique perspective on this chunk of the timeline (and all others as well).

The 1990s - Gordon Skrezka and Steve Raistrick.

The 1990s - Jon Robson's Bag of Lovely video.

Where did the title Those Bloody Kids come from?

It is a nod/homage to the comic strip featured in Skateboard! Magazine in the 1980s, called Grrr!! It's Those Bloody Kids by Bear Hackenbush. He also did the zine Skate Muties from the 5th Dimension and was the lead singer in the punk band Lunatic Fringe. The title also seemed apt as that was the prevailing reaction to sidewalk surfing youth by Joe Public, a sentiment that echoed throughout the eras.

From scanning the first photo to holding the finished book in your hand, how long has the whole project taken to complete?

About six months after receiving the initial stories from Mike. Linaker’s been working on weekends and even took the odd day off from his day job to push this project through. Absolute legend!

Neil Urwin, ollie at the Civic Centre, c.1993.

So how have you structured the final book, and how did you go about sorting through the wealth of material you no doubt amassed during the project?

The layout, design, book material and general aesthetics were all handled by Andrew Linaker. It’s split roughly into the different decades covered so has a bit of a chronological order to it. We just worked with what we had… and we had A LOT. So we had to stop asking after a certain point. This felt wrong but also necessary to maintain our sanity… Linaker’s in particular.

How happy are you with the finished book? And how did it feel, flicking through it for the first time when it arrived back from the printers?

I’m stoked that it’s done, but having been so close to it and from speaking to Andrew Linaker, there’s definitely a lot we could have done to improve it if we had either more time or a clearer picture from the start of what we wanted to achieve.

2007 - Adairsy and Dan Main. Photos: Jeffro.

If you could go back to the start and change any one thing about the project, what would it be and why?

I would employ a smaller feedback loop and critique the initial approach to documentation via interviews. I feel a handful of stories suffer from being lost in translation due to the way they have been transcribed. The omission of the questions for certain answers means context is lacking. That being said, it’s been a learning experience and will go on to inform how any similar projects are approached in future.

Present day - Alethea Mountford & Girl Skate North East.

Will Creswick, 5050. Photo: 'Blind' Johnny Haynes.

For you, what has been the best part of producing a book such as Those Bloody Kids?

Learning about how to undertake such a project and how best to elicit stories from those willing to share. Also being lucky enough to be part of a potentially continuous documentation of a very rich and continuously evolving scene. We stand on the shoulders of some pretty amazing people, and I’m glad their stories will finally reach the wider skate community and beyond.

When and how can people get hold of Those Bloody Kids?

The book will be available for sale at the launch event on Saturday the 30th of September (that's tomorrow) at the Baltic in Gateshead. Any remaining copies will be available either via DMs or on an online shop somewhere, if we get that sorted in time.

Present day - 'Blind' Johnny Haynes.

Matty Smith, wallie. Photo: Krishna 'Bish' Muthurangu.

Once the book is finally released and the launch on the weekend is over and done with, what’s next for Shred The North and the Tyneside scene? Any more projects or events on the horizon that you can mention at the minute?

We’ll be gearing up for our 10th Annual #TyneTeesSlamJam on Sunday the 19th of November at 4Motion Skatepark in Darlington. It’s a bit mental. We've been running this event for 10 years now but that’s a testament to everyone in (and outside) the scene who has supported our movement for this long. Big love to all the shops, distros and skaters who’ve made it such a success over the years!

Any final words, or people you’d like to thank?

Big thanks to everyone who got involved with this book, and sincere apologies to everyone else who we either couldn't reach out to, or didn't have time/space to include their entries. That being said, there’s no reason why those with stories to tell can't share them in a similar project in future. If we did it, so can you.

How, you ask?

Do cool shit worth documenting, ideally with your skate partners in crime, take more photos, keep the gold off Instagram and get writing. It’s that easy ;)

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