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FOCUS: Ramping it up down the nave

FOCUS: Ramping it up down the nave

Friday 28 April 2023

FOCUS: Ramping it up down the nave

Friday 28 April 2023

Local skateboarders and creatives are hoping to turn a St. Ouen landmark into an indoor skatepark and arts space for the wellbeing of the whole island community – young and old.

'Skate Space' is a project to transform the 320sqm old Methodist Chapel in St. Ouen, which has been used as storage since the 1970s, with indoor skateboard ramps in the hope of bringing the historic building back into daily use.

Skate Space was formed in order to oversee the conversion of the disused chapel, a project which not only wants to provide a ‘Plan B’ for skateboarders when it rains, but also nurture creativity by running film and photography workshops.

"We have to team up and take action"

“The deeper purpose of the Skate Space movement is to encourage interested islanders to take a practical role in creating the kind of spaces we’d like to see ourselves and our kids hanging out in,” local photographer Natale Mayer, who is part of the team, explained.  

“We think we have the power to create change, but we have to team up, and take action. Skate Space aims to facilitate this.”

Natalie’s own interest in skateboarding came from her work as she started her career photographing snowboarding professionally for magazines and brands.

“Skateboarding is kind of the ‘gateway drug’ into snowboarding for British people, so there was a big cross over and I spent a lot of time at skateparks,” she said.

A "nurturing" space

Her experience led her to see the many benefits of the activity, inspiring her to help ensure many can get the opportunity to enjoy them.

“I would like to create a space where we can nurture both the sport, and creative talents which are so often a backdrop to skating, and of course also surfing which also ties in really closely,” Natalie said.

“The interest young people have in these sports can be used as an amazing immersive vehicle, for teaching all sorts of skills. I wish to create an environment where we can really maximise on these benefits, and create something fun and cool that will inspire all users to live our best lives.”

As the team behind the community project prepares to submit their planning application later this month, Natalie explained how the project was inspired by the campaign for an outdoor skatepark in the island.

"It was impossible not to give it my best shot"

“It became obvious how much positive enthusiasm we have for skateboard culture on the island,” Natalie said. “It was also clear that this new skatepark will attract a lot of new users, who will then be short of a place to be, on rainy days! Hence, I started to hunt around for any potential indoor options which could keep everyone active and thriving when our outdoor park is rained off, and also bring in some of the more creative cultural elements of skateboarding.

"When the offer of creating something in the old Methodist Chapel became available, it was impossible not to give it my best shot.”

“The inspiration is all the skateboarders that are at the park day in and day out, learning tricks, helping each other, making little films, shooting photos, and generally keeping themselves active, healthy and creative,” she added.

"This is a community project"

Skate Space has been driving the project, along with “massive current help” from Skateboarding Architect, Tom Macaviney from Axis Mason.

As Natalie explained, “everyone that envisages themselves using and benefiting from the space” is also invited to get involved.

“This is a community project and it will take the positive enthusiasm of a motivated

The team hopes to install “a room full of ramps to skate on” inside the building, with the structures being completely removable in the future as they won’t alter the original fabric of the building.

“Growing from that, we will run film and photography workshops, and foster a kind of informal mentorship programme where people with skills can pass those skills onto kids that are passionate about this culture,” Natalie explained. “Onwards, the users can use that passion to develop all sorts of other skills and talents.”

The goal of the space is to create a space where anyone who is keen to be a part of “the interesting and diverse creative culture” is welcome, in order “meet young people’s interests wherever they lie”, as Natalie explained.

"Fragmented community ties are a huge problem"

“It is from their passions that they will find their motivation to do well, and they can then thrive off this carefully nurtured know-how later in life. For example… the skills I was motivated to learn whilst photographing the world of professional snowboarding through my 20s (aka travelling and shooting photographs of my mates, which ended up being published) transferred into becoming a successful wedding photographer whilst raising my children in Jersey a bit later on.”

She continued: “On a deeper level, I think a lot about mental health and what kind of conditions we need so that we can can thrive as humans,” she continued.

“Fragmented community ties are a huge problem, and this issue seems to get bigger all the time. We need to nurture our young people, and find ways to facilitate them being together and being collaborative. This space aims to provide a contribution to that huge island need.”

"It's a puzzle"

The team will be submitting a Planning Application by mid-April and is calling for islanders to voice their support as they seek to secure permission.

As for funding, Natalie said some conversations have already started.

“We hope to collaborate with the Government, our ‘arms-length bodies’ which are funded by the Government, the local grant guardians, as well as local business and private entities,” she said. “It’s a puzzle, and if many different entities help with a piece of it, then we think is enough money on this to achieve what is needed.”

Natalie hopes the project will be successful, not only for the benefit of local skateboarders and creatives but also so that it can inspire other people to “get their own projects moving”.

“It’s frustrating to hear that young people don’t have places to go, whilst also knowing there are huge spaces sitting empty,” she said.

“Exactly how are we ‘putting children first’ if we continue to allow this to happen? Having worked on this project for a year, I understand a lot of the mechanics of why new and innovative ideas are difficult to achieve in Jersey.

"But, if this project is successful, then I hope we can show others what is possible and inspire the community to take action on improving our island.”

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