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Tram Line Spot opening jam

Josh Mayson, switch frontside heelflip for the lens of Harry Deane. Photo: Tom Quigley.

Tram Line Spot Opening Jam, Sunday 2nd August

Skate Nottingham, Supereight and DC Shoes

Text by Chris Lawton - Photography by various artists.

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, the city of Nottingham had some incredible accidental street spots – Broadmarsh Banks and Old Market Square particularly. Through the 2000s these were either demolished or diminished by enforcement. The 2010s saw a new generation of both skaters and spots, with Sneinton Market being the game-changer. But enforcement and lack of other good facilities still held things back in a city that had always been home to a very large number of skateboarders. Skate Nottingham was founded as a non-profit in summer 2017 with the triple inspirations of Malmö, Long Live Southbank and Girl Skate UK, following a couple of years of more informally getting skateparks built, organising film nights and advocating for street skateboarding.

Eduardo Martins, noseslide. Photo: Tom Quigley.

By autumn 2019, the City Council invited Skate Nottingham to start working with their landscape architects, Townsend, on proposals for a ‘skate friendly’ public space close to the footprint of Broady Banks, very much in the vein of the mixed-use public realm found in Nordic cities like Malmö, Copenhagen and Tampere. A huge 3-year effort followed, including workshops, a 6-month design project over Instagram during the depths of Covid, and loads of design-build-and-shred pop-ups and legal DIY projects. Through 2021 it became clear that the spot was actually going to happen and, after several false starts due to small things like the financial collapse of the owners of the adjoining shopping centre, in summer 2022 we started fundraising, working closely with Betongpark to ensure that the overall space was skateable and to refine the designs of the corten steel installations.  A combination of Skateboard GB, Sport England and 236 individual Crowdfunder donors kindly came to our aid to ensure there was sufficient cash in the bank to pay for everything, hopefully an indication of the big, good things skateboarding can do when a lot of other things in Britain appear to be crumbling around us.

Andrew Holt - frontside wallride. Photo: Joe Walchester.

In the autumn, Betong’s weld-master Ewen Bower got to work, and by December we were unloading lorries, installing the steel forms and fitting out the space, including preparing all the skateable ledges surrounding the space, ready for a ‘soft’ opening on 17th December.

Craig Smedley - frontside bluntslide. Photo: Joe Walchester.

With funding from The National Lottery, Tom Quigley spent the next three months putting together a photo exhibition capturing the Road to Tram Line Spot and local online skate shop and major DC shoes account Supereight offered to support and co-organise an ‘official’ opening jam on Sunday 2nd April to really do the space justice, with the vocal talents of one Benjamin Luke Powell consistently reminding visitors of what a crazy achievement the whole thing is.

Photos: Ben Powell.

Sunday 2nd April came around, with more than 100 skaters rocking up from Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Leicester - and the DC team from much further afield (including Derry and Brighton). Large numbers of regular folk dropped by to check out the action, meaning that there were up to 200 people clustered around the space at its busiest – enjoying the first sunny day in weeks.

Photos: Ben Powell.

The night before we’d welcomed our mate Tom Critchley, Research and Development Manager at NGO Concrete Jungle Foundation (who deliver skatepark and youth development projects in Jamaica, Peru and Morocco), to screen and talk about Jago Stock’s film Freedom to Flourish, about the youth development programming at Freedom Skatepark, Bull Bay near Kingston, Jamaica. Tom’s talk enabled us to spell out just how awesome it is that disadvantaged young people in Nottingham are benefitting from Edu-Skate, exactly the same innovative life-skills programme delivered to young people at the skatepark in Jamaica, as part of a worldwide network of seven non-profits.

This was followed by a screening of Leo Valls’ Skate Urbanism film for DC, on the results of Leo and his friends’ activism, spot design and community organising for the city of Bordeaux.  One of Derry’s finest, Joe Hill, came all the way to Notts to skate with his teammates and also hang out with us, skating with our weekly Edu-Skate session attendees on the Friday (meaning young people from inner-city Notts estates witnessed a Mach 10 hardflip lengthways over a grind box) and then hitting Sneinton Market on the Saturday.

Harrison Woolgar - backside lipslide. Photo: Joe Walchester.

On the Sunday itself, a prize pot of £1,000 ensured that the rippers ripped.  This was split between a more formal comp around a single ‘zone’ of Tram Line Spot (Betongpark’s steel Pier-7 and high, long ledge across the two-stair), followed by looser cash-for-tricks that ensured everyone who got involved got some, finishing with a classic Kalis-appreciated kicker-to-trashcan challenge.  As Ben hollered a mix of carefully parent-and-child-calibrated encouragement, heavy heaviness went down – with a predictable (given the aesthetics of the space) leaning towards tasteful ledge tech.

Highlights included Josh Mayson’s prolific list of ledge accomplishments, that started with a halfcab noseslide 270 out, followed by the same exited with nollie-flips (kickflip and heelflip versions), and a halfcab noseslide to backtail.  Ollie Lawrence backed up his Frozen in Carbonite-approved fit (light blue denim & Kalis kicks) with a kickflip backtail (out regs and to shove-it) and full length kickflip backside 5.0s.  Joe Hill somehow still had the energy and sufficiently malleable knee cartilage to skate hard throughout the session, with tech on the big ledge and Pier 7 (including the connoisseur’s favourite - Pupecki grinds, out fakie and twisted out to regular plus a variety of other baffling spin and revert attempts).

Ollie Lawrence - flip back tail. Photo: Tom Quigley.

As a fan of the video output of Orwellian World Landscape, I was stoked to see Harrison Woolgar skate in real life, and similarly stoked on the voluminous jean size - making a late-90s survivor like me feel sartorially relevant again after 20 years in the skate fashion wilderness.  Harrison backed up the kit with powerful backlips and backside 5.0 180s on the ledge and halfcab kickflip manuals on the Pier 7, plus courageous few attempts to leap the big, as yet unconquered, gap between two skinny ledges, either aided or hindered by Ben’s wardrobe consultancy (“denim parachutes'' etc.).

Photo: Joe Walchester.

Locals who came and shredded included the ever-consistent and ever-polite Lewis Blower, who skated both the big ledge and the Pier 7 with long nose grinds and nose mannies respectively, Supereight team member and Nottingham local Eduardo Martins (also another sweety pie… pretty much everyone in our city is nice), who styled out an impossibly hard back tail front 180 out, and Derby émigré Lewis Mottishaw, making skateboarding look particularly cool by popping out of a backside bluntslide on the big ledge into Bambi’s little kicker.

Josh Mayson - crooked grind. Photo: Tom Quigley.

On the subject of Nottingham OGs, Bambi hung out, fixed stuff and shredded throughout the weekend and OG’s OG Craig Smedley raised expectations and hopes (or broke hearts) on what is possible on a skateboard in your late 40s, after 30+ years absolutely killing it.  Smed front blunted the Pier 7 more than once (popped out regs and then to fakie, with a few very solid attempts at flipping out thrown in towards the end) and showed those who are half his age how to convincingly pilot a crooked grind on a tall ledge.

Josh Mayson and Joe Hill. Photo: Joe Walchester.

The democratically empowering cash-for-tricks was where the good-est of vibes were had. Skate Nottingham homegirl, chef and skate coach Amy Williams landed a pop-shove-it down the steps, skate coach and reliable grafter (who’d been on site since 10am teaching the kids) Jack Kemplay stuck a front tail on the big ledge, and young dude Dax (we think), referred to supportively as ‘Big Man’ down the mic, battled a slappy 50-50 across and down the steps – finally succeeding to howls from the crowd and deserved free product from Snaddon.

Lewis Blower - frontside 5-0. Photo: Tom Quigley.

The jam ended with a classic kicker-to-can session, dominated by Josh Mayson (switch heels), Ollie Lawrence (a three flip… in Kalis’… equalling one very happy old man with write-up duties) and Joe Hill (so many tricks, including the signature hardflip also stuck down the big three at Sneinton the day before).

With product handed out, hands shaken, fists bumped, and pick-up vans loaded (cheers Pete Brown, you legend)…  and snotty youth’s phones found and thanklessly returned…. it is, as ever, onto the next thing. Tram Line Spot is open every day, 24 hours a day (although please remember it adjoins a residential area, so keep music and voices down, especially after 9pm), and is less than 5 minutes’ walk from Nottingham train station.  And it stays mostly dry when it rains. Hopefully see you there. If you’re interested in how you might achieve something similar in your hometown, visit soon whilst Tom’s exhibition is still up.  It’ll show you two things: how huge the effort was and is, but also that there are a bunch of strategies, that can be deployed all at once, that make success more likely.  Get to it. 

Photo: Joe Walchester.

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