brit n that: skate skool n all that

November 29, 2012

Ever been to a late-night skate at a mall? Probably not if you don’t live in London-town. AFROPUNK British correspondent and homie, Zinzi lays it down on the awesome Skate Skool takeover event in East London. Oi!


By: Zinzi Minott, AFROPUNK British correspondent

all photos by Jay Bernard

“If you go down to the woods tonight you’re sure to get a surprise”

When you arrive at Stratford station, east London you are struck by the gargantuan Westfield shopping centre to your right. All neon lights, heaving plastic bags, food halls and a good 25 minute walk and wait to the nearest goddamn toilet. It’s panic attack inducing for your humble thriftier. #Justsaying. 


Across the road is Westfield’s predecessor, a poor dishevelled younger brother, draped in hand-me-down shop front, full of £-shops, banks and suboptimal coffee. In fact, it’s safe to presume that the existence of the shopping centre rest on it operating as a sheltered shortcut to better places. Well, at least that is what I thought until recently when I happened short cutting after hours from one interesting place to another. 

Lo’ and bloody behold what I stumbled into was a slick collection of Afropunkers skating, bmx-in’, blading. It’s a beautiful safe haven of crusin’ swag. And they know it. They cut through my friends and I as if we were translucent obstacles, causing us to spin in frantic circles and chuck out gold coins outta our heads, further confirming their ninja status! *Ding ding ding.

I was in awe. 

Once I started to chill out a little bit, regained my motor functions and thus the capacity to take in my surroundings I was bowled over by the scale of what I was seeing. 

To the far right  “The Newbies” skating in a small alcove like “class room” also known as the fire escape. Rather a funny site; all padded up as if they could fall further than the ground and at the one mile an hour speed limit they had imposed I doubt much damage would have ensued regardless. Nevertheless they were hella cute persevering to glide in a straight line. Feet turned in and shaky legged being encouraged by their more experienced teachers the scene was reminiscent of a new born deer being coaxed to stand by their devoted mothers. 

To my far left you had those cool motherfuckers who just, do, it, SO well! They arrived like a pack, all wearing street artist Shepard Fairey’s popular “OBEY” hoodies. Hoods up. Obviously. They slinked into the left hand side of the shopping centre making it look like a glib and rather enticing smokers corner on wheels. All gossip and ego (rightfully so).

Pria, one of the skaters I hollered at told me when she skates “she feels “really cool, like everyone wants to be you. You feel free. Headphones on and you own the world”. Real talk, that’s is how she looks. Hats off. 

In the middle was where seniors did the do. Skating badass and backwards and at hair raising gobsmacking speeds. Weaving in and out of the last dregs of the capitalist customers as they transformed the shopping centre into their very own free skate skool.  

What is so beautiful about Skate Skool aside from what it teaches it students to do physically is that there is a visible sense of community and family. Some of the elder skaters are in there 50’s and as Nadia tells me, “have been part of the movement since Leytonstone, an old skate club from back in the day. They were part of the movement when it started”. 

Watching them you see the sharing of skills is really valued. All you have to do is “ask if you wanna learn [a new trick] and they’ll teach you.”

Aaron spoke to me about the newbies in “class 101” to the far right, “newbies go over to the right to stay outta the way, get trained and are welcomed when they are ready. Anyone can come and learn. That is what happened to me, I thought I couldn’t skate like that, but learnt.”

Like any good community there is recognition that it takes a community to raise a child and raise they do! Newbies graduate to centre stage in as little as 3 months Myles tells me. It is easy to see how these guys progress so quickly. They are hella passionate some skating every day and are avid street skaters. Others preferring not to take to the streets come regularly to skate skool and are dedicated to honing their technicality using shop windows as mirrors.  Repetition is the only way, and yes it frigging hurts Tyrese was telling me, “yeah you fall, if it is not your day, you fall. If it is your day you don’t fall at all” but he rides it out because he is “addicted to it.”

There are also the Jam Skaters, they mix dance and skating, working out routines that’s show a mastering of dynamic physicality, rhythm and skating technicality. They are fuckin’ awesome. 

There are only a handful of female skaters as one might begrudgingly expect.  Whilst at times the women told me they feel cool about that as they have any army of brothers, they was a distinct recognition that sometimes it was a little overbearing. Especially when the testosterone levels were on a sharp incline and they get “too hands on, that puts me off and made me not come fore a few weeks” When I asked her would she go to a women’s skate skool she replied “yeah then no one would be smacking my bum and I wouldn’t have to worry about what I wear.” She felt that the women skaters needed space and was thinking about making that space a reality by the end of our convo. Watch that space coz Female AfroPunk Skate Skool maybe just around the corner!


I’m down…but I am not wearing those fucking kneepads. 

C u next time…British time