The politics of Southbank

Nick Jensen, backside flip by Sam Ashley


Words by Joe Coward.

Public support for the Long Live Southbank (LLSB) campaign has garnered greater pace with the Mayor of London’s recent expression of his succour to the skateboarders who use the undercroft area of the site. ‘…redevelopment should not be at the detriment of the skatepark. which should be retained in its current position.’ He called Southbank: ‘…the epicentre of UK skateboarding…part of the cultural fabric of London.’

The Southbank Centre (SBC) said they were ‘…surprised by the mayors unexpected statement.’ Demonstrating that they expected support from the mayor, who is usually all for pushing building and development. Going against what may be perceived to be his normal agenda, shows that the mayor can see the greater picture of Southbank. Skateboarding at the site must be retained; if there is to be belief in the cultural integrity of politicians. Kate Hoey, (Labour) MP for Brixton, Clapham North, Kennington, Stockwell, Vauxhall and Waterloo stated: “Mayor’s view on retaining Skate Board in undercroft must mean SBC need to change plans.” Seeing a Labour and a Conservative politician agree on something is a rarity, heightening the importance that Southbank holds for Londoners and its skateboarders.

The LLSB have compiled a list of their correspondence in the form of letters with the SBC online, accompanied by an interesting list of ‘lame claims’, that really demonstrate the contrived nature of the SBC’s conduct:

Perhaps one of the most poignant statements on the page is: ‘As an organisation which receives 47% of its income from public funds, and which announced to a huge fanfare that its Festival Wing aim is to provide for “2 million” more visitors, and to open “the first poetry and literature centre of major scale” and opportunities for “150,000 – 250,000″ young people, we find it extraordinary that the South Bank Centre stated to us that their “archive is closed to public enquiry”, and after 3 months of trying to secure a visit to the archives – with no joy – we were told by them that they have “disposed of the need for any further correspondence between Southbank Centre and (Long Live Southbank)”. The breakdown in communication seems to be pinpointed on the SBC, who look to be struggling to hold their heads high as public favour seems to be swaying further towards the skaters and LLSB.

LLSB have also shown that the survey war between them and the SBC has not been conducted entirely fairly (or maybe even legally) with an investigation on ampp3d

Here’s LLSB/Henry Edwards Wood’s amazing video demonstrating the importance of Southbank:

And their latest video with the deliverance of signatures and support for the  LLSB to Lambeth Council, also featuring some shredding getting down at SB.

SBC have been challenged in the past by their conjoined neighbour the National Theatre, for their proposed designs of redevelopment. Nicholas Hytner said in last year: ‘A new building in line with Waterloo bridge and topped with a restaurant and roof garden, will drive a physical wedge between the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre, which will damage the public’s perception of a unified arts quarter, he argues, even though it is operated by three organisations (NT, SBC and the British Film Institute).’ Hytner’s argument helps to demonstrate the separation that the SBC is trying to award itself, away from neighbours and inhabitants that it had previously got along well with. There is still hope for the bully in the playground to get a scolding and pipe down.


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