The glorious teen years. The perfect time to find your place in the world and to find what it is that you want to do. A great time for you to let out your pent up energy, express yourself and quite frankly, live a little. But do we as Muslims have a problem doing this?
Sure, there are a few things that are hard lines that are not meant to be crossed if you truly believe in the tenets of your faith. However, I think I can safely say that I have yet to meet, or even hear about a Muslim youth who hits the skate parks, relishes in spending time skateboarding or honing their skills in professional bike riding. Does this rise from some unsaid urban legend that skate parks are a ‘bad’ place to be seen?
Notoriously subjected to negative stereotypes, no one really wants to approach them and to spend time there. Even mixing with non-Muslims and hearing the thoughts of youth, many people would much rather avoid ‘that kind of scene,’ reinforcing the unspoken social taboo against said leisure spaces. However, maybe it’s the fact that we have never actually visited these places and seen the social cohesion that is built from such communities, the same way we hear about certain countries and are deterred from visiting them purely based on hearsay.
Per chance, on a day reserved for exploring the literature scene in London, I came across one of the most impressive – no, scratch that – the only skate park I had ever seen. On the South bank of the River Thames, tucked within a stones throw of the Southbank Centre, it boasts fine graffiti and improvised spaces for cycling and skate boarding. I had heard of it before, possibly due to the extensive campaigning of the local community and the Long Live Southbank project to prevent it from being turned into the proposed eateries as part of the Southbank Centre’s £120m development.
Many people fought to save this recreational space, with Boris Johnson taking the initiative to join the campaign and talk directly with Lambeth Council to support the local community. He says that the area is “the epicenter of UK skateboarding and is part of the cultural fabric of London. It attracts tourists from across the world and undoubtedly adds to the vibrancy of the area – it helps to make London the great city it is.”
That being said, it really is vibrant and welcoming, with layers of graffiti that bears testament to it being a true home for many for close to four decades. Every pillar, every wall has an untold story, yet to be explored. The ramps are improvised and the granite has been worn smooth by years of wheels softening the hard surfaces. A surprisingly small number of people were out and the boys were wowing the spectators, who were tourists a mere few moments before, with their seamless skill.
Although we usually consider such spaces to be negative, research and the general consensus of the people that visit it suggests that although it is a great place to exercise leisurely and physical activity, it is by all counts a very important social and community space. It invites social cohesion, self-expression and the chance to do something you may truly enjoy. So if you’re local, or you want somewhere to build your skills and strengthen your love of skating in a true urban space, head down to the Southbank Skatepark and share your experiences.
Have you been to this skatepark before, or have a few cents worth on the article? Comment below.