Harrow Skate Park
Harrow Skate Park or Harrow Solid Surf is one of only two remaining 1970's shotcrete skateparks still operating in the United Kingdom. It is located next to Harrow Leisure Centre in Wealdstone in the London Borough of Harrow, England.
Primarily because of its age and design, it is one of the most noted skateparks in the UK and is favourably compared to other classic seventies skatepark designs such as Marina del Rey (Los Angeles) and "Pipeline" (Upland, California) in the USA.
The skatepark's planning began in 1976 and was it completed and opened to the public in 1978. It was designed by G-Force designer Adrian Rolt and was built by Skate Park Construction, the leading skateboard park construction and design team in the UK at the time. Its pool design was based on the keyhole pool at Skateboard Heaven in Spring Valley, California.
Current features include a concrete half-pipe, the bowl known as the "blue bowl" or "wedding pool", a street section with a concrete bank and a wooden quarter pipe (this section previously included a metal box and metal quarter pipe that had to be removed for safety reasons), the snakerun, and four moguls. The performance bowl was filled in a number of years ago by the council and remains out of action despite attempts to dig it out. The park did have other recent additions such as a mini ramp, but that was destroyed by local vandals. The park operates free of charge and is open from 9:00 am till dusk.
Due to the site's uniqueness, the UK skateboarding and BMX scene use the park as a place to hang out and socialise as well as to ride the ramps. Since the seventies the park has been the starting ground for a number of professional skaters and BMX users such as Steve Douglas. Its significance has been noted by the leading architectural historian Professor Iain Borden who said it was used in the eighties by "the best-known London skaters and 'H-Boyz' (Harrow regulars)". It has been threatened with closure on a number of occasions and was out of action for a few years in the eighties. In 2003 it was reopened after the Council spent £60,000 refurbishing it and its opening celebration was attended by the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority Toby Harris, Baron Harris of Haringey and Harrow East MP and Minister for London Tony McNulty.
Threat of closure
In the year 2007 plans were announced by Harrow council to build over the site as part of a £36m project to rebuild Harrow Leisure Centre, with a new smaller building, leading to storm of protest from users and the international skateboarding community who regarded it as 'irreplaceable'. The plan involved selling the existing site to developers. Although the Council was offering £300,000 to replace the park experts have said it will cost at least £600,000 to replace the park. The world famous skater Tony Hawk stated on the closure "If they feel that the park is truly irreplaceable, then they should keep it...I've never been, but I have seen it in magazines and heard about it through the years." On 6 February 2008 Sport England condemned the Leisure centre plan:
Sport England considers the proposals to be damaging to a wide range of existing sporting interests and they would reduce opportunities for participation in sport and active recreation in the borough." Mr Durrans supported the objections already voiced by various sports groups in the borough, including Harrow and Wealdstone Swimming Club, Harrow Squash Club, Wembley and Harrow Table Tennis League and the Harrow Skatepark Users' Association.
New leisure centre plans abandoned
In October 2008 it was revealed that Harrow Councils plans to demolish the park and build a new leisure centre had been abandoned. The plan was to sell land in and around the site of Harrow Leisure Centre, where the skatepark is based, to fund a new building and skatepark. However, with house prices dropping the council was unable to generate the money it needed to fund the project. A BMX rider at Harrow Skatepark, said:
It's brilliant. I'm just absolutely over the moon. I hope it stays there for another few years and they don't say "we've got a bit of money now, so we can knock it down."
Harrow Councillor Marilyn Ashton has blamed the cancel of regeneration of the leisure centre on the poor condition of the housing market – and the plans may now have to be shelved until the council can raise the money. She said, "I think we could have done with another leisure centre and a brand new assembly hall."
Rio Joseph, Youth development officer of Harrow Skate Park, led the war against the new leisure centre: "Other people agree or disagree with the plans, but it ain't going to happen, not for a long time."
Many skaters and BMX riders, past and present, disagree with Cllr Ashton's plans and believe she does not understand what she and the council would be doing if they knocked down one of only two legendary '70s concrete skateparks left in the UK to this day.
On 31 October 2008, there was a "Harroween" skate jam to celebrate Harrow Skate Park not being demolished. From the Harrow Times, 31 October 2008:
Skate Jam at Harrow Skatepark
By Jack Royston
Skaters are celebrating Halloween with a "jam" at a skatepark recently saved from being bulldozed.
There will be music and drinks as the band of people who campaigned to stop Harrow Council building over Harrow Skatepark, in Christchurch Avenue, come together to celebrate the festival.
The council wanted to build a replacement for Harrow Leisure Centre on the site but had to abandon its plans because of the credit crunch.
The Harroween Skate Jam starts at 4pm and will go on until late, with lights being used to illuminate one of the bowls after it gets dark.
- The City Cultures Reader (Routledge Urban Reader) by Malcolm Miles and Tim Hall (Routledge 2003), page 43.
- Harrow Tourism on the Skate Park
- Iain Borden, Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body, (Berg, 2001) p.70-1
- Iain Borden, Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body, (Berg, 2001) p.124.
- "Bets skatepark reopens" Harrow Times 20 June 2003
- "1970s skate park 'irreplaceable'" Harrow Times
- "New skatepark could cost double" Harrow Times
- "Tony Hawk: 'Keep skatepark'" Harrow Times 30 January 2008
- "Sport England slams leisure project" Harrow Times
- Harrow Times, 2 October 2008, Page 5
- Harrow Skate Park - Photos and details
- Youtube - Harrow Skate Park - Documentary on its history
- H-Boyz website