• rye0016

Keep pushing to inclusivity

By Ryan Evans

A funky, vibrant, and vocal intersex artist is on a mission to bring inclusivity to London’s skateboard scene. How, you ask? By building their own skatepark from scratch.

‘Keep Growing’ is the first physical installment set out by not-for-profit skate and art organization ‘Keep Pushing’. The new skatepark will be a permanent location to teach local kids, teens, and adults how to skate or to improve their current skills.

Rae and their crew

“It was my dream and now it’s my baby,” says 37-year-old project owner and manager, Rae Smith.

Owner and project leader Smith is a local queer intersex artist and skateboarder who for five years has taught their skills across London under the ‘Keep Pushing’ brand.

“I’m not a professional, I just know how to teach and transferred those skills over to skateboarding whist teaching myself, I’ve only been skating for five years,” says Smith.

“We’re also going to use the space for art classes, spray painting workshops, t-shirt screen printing days and more.”

Money from donations

Building the halfpipe

The build began to take physical form at the end of February, when, after months of crowd funding Smith reached their goal of £4,000 in donations. That means they are “mid-way completed with hopefully the first build of the permanent park and artistic space”.

The goal is to make a space that is both LGBTQ+ and gender inclusive.

“When travelling around different parts of London for each lesson it was exhausting and I became really tired, and the skateparks I was teaching in didn’t have a safe enough space for queer and trans people to properly skate there, it was predominantly overrun with cis-het men,” says Smith.

"I felt threatened and concerned for my students, so a secure place to do all this that I want to do can be in one place now."

The project secured a 6x12 meter plot of land on the grounds of Tottenham’s local community garden, ‘Grow Tottenham’.

It is a perfect location just a moment’s wander from the bass-heavy house music emanating from the recently re-opened bar, ‘The Cause’.

Gang of four

Merchandise stickers

The music. The sun. The beer. It’s enough to overwhelm your senses after a year indoors, but even the hard and strenuous work of the build didn’t deter Smith and their gang of four volunteers, who came to help out on a recent gorgeous day.

“Today we’re building both half-pipe ramps, one easy flatpack and one from scratch, which is super hard to do,” says Smith.

For this difficult procedure, Smith accrued the gang of four skaters and friends, from the area, all of whom have previous experience with skating and ramp building. Donations went to fund the materials and skilled labour necessary to lay the concrete foundations, fit the wooden posts, and attach the clear plastic corrugated roof.

With a total of 40 volunteers on the project to date, Smith has not been short of helping hands from skilled and passionate local creatives who want to improve their community space.

Volunteer Josh Harris put to good use his previous experience of building both flatpack ramps and ramps from scratch. “I’ve only been a part of the project for a couple days now, Rae dropped me a message asking for help and I think it’s a really good cause, so I wanted to help out,” he said.

Simon Doherty, who spent the past hour rigorously re-treating the wood posts commented: “I didn’t have anything planned today and Josh said I should come do some lifting and labouring for this skatepark and so yeah, this is my first day volunteering, I think it’s a really interesting project.

“With how you can see the area being redeveloped so rapidly that there is gonna be something other than fancy flats so I think this is keeping the artistic element to the area that it could quite easily lose through the gentrification redevelopment,” said the 30-year-old.

Smith is thrilled that so many people are giving their time and energy to help build this dream project – particularly on such a muggy day.

Nearby is Maciek Wojciechowski, 40, the resident photographer at Grow Tottenham. He volunteered after Rae found put a “shout out” on social media for someone to document the build.

“Maciek responded and has been instrumental to the entire project ever since. He’s taken all the screen-printing photos, all our screen-printed t-shirts, loads of photos of volunteers and stuff,” says Smith.

“He’s our main photographer for the project now. And now here for therapy and friendship,” they laugh as everyone sits down for a short break.

“It’s difficult work on a day like this,” said Smith as they sipped on a Lidl brand beer in the hot sun.