With the Worcester skate scene under attack from the authorities, what can young people do without being demonised?
In late 2020, local skateboarders were rendered shocked when an article was discovered, announcing new powers to fine and banish them for ‘anti-social behaviour’. The people of Worcester had been consulted, it declared, and were highly supportive of this new “clamp down” legislation.
After speaking to the skate community, who cover all backgrounds, ages, and abilities, it became clear that not one of them had been approached before these plans went through.
Councillor member Alan Amos was very vocal on what he described as “a growing problem that needs stamping out”. Despite his frustration at the “divisive labelling of people based on irrelevant factors” during the town’s summer protests, he condemned the actions of those skating in the Cathedral Square. The new laws, which are set to be introduced within the first few months of 2021, would allow police to ‘fine these offenders up to £70, or even ban them from the city centre.’
One member of the public expressed her concern at these powers – “What defines ‘dangerous’? I don’t like how vague this advice is.”
Before the area was renovated in 2017, it was a popular spot for skaters and cyclists, with no recorded complaints from the public about hazardous conduct. The sport put money back into the high street economy, through the popular supply shop ‘Two Seasons’ and the independent store ‘Reefs’. Several years after the building of yet another cluster of chain restaurants, these two businesses are gone, and The Council’s Youth Detached Team have been instructed to suggest “other activities as an alternative”. Dines Green skate park, a 44 minute walk from the Elgar statue, is regularly filled with primary and nursery aged children who create an extremely dangerous environment for skaters. Perdiswell, which is a similarly large distance, is again inaccessible for many. Both facilities were made without the input of those who they were designed for, and have been criticised for their poor structuring and lack of funding. With the alternatives to the Cathedral Square undoubtedly inadequate, the community have been left feeling ostracised and unfairly punished.
After a popular social media campaign by the affected group, a council meeting was organised willingly by board members Ann Nicholls and Lynn Denham. It was regarded as a great success by all those involved, and a much-needed line of communication has been established.
“It came as a shock to them when we expressed our anger and frustration at how we are treated by the authorities and the public”, said one attendee, “they had no idea that any of this was happening.”
Within this session, proposals were made for outdoor facilities close to the town centre, and potentially even an indoor park run by older supporters of the local scene. These appeared to be received enthusiastically by the authorities present, who also confirmed that a co-operative conversation between police and skaters would be essential in the re-thinking of this relationship.
The representatives of the community who were present at this consultation have said that they are hopeful for the future of the sport, and “pray that (the council) stick to what they told us”.
“It keeps kids safe away from drugs and crime, gives us an escape from problems at home or with mental illness, and is a genuine career option for so many”.
“creating a negative stigma around it pushes people away – if it was looked down on this much when I first started skating, I would never have taken it up… I would never have the talent and passion and friends that I have now”.
This is a crucial opportunity for change, and the fate of young people is in the precarious hands of the authorities once again.