SERIES PT. 3
"Manchester - A better class of skateboarder, Tony"
photography by Jim Craven & Sean Lomax
words. Phil Evans / www.formatperspective.com
I recently had the pleasure of viewing a documentary about 80s/90s Indie label Creation Records called "Upside Down" (the film has been out for 4 years, I'm really on the cutting edge here). The documentary chronicles the rise and fall of the label as they successfully produce and release many hit albums from mainly previously unrecognized talent (The Jesus & Mary Chain, Oasis, Primal Scream, etc.) all under the helm of an ambitious drug-fuelled Scotsman named Alan McGee.
The documentary was inspiring in the way the label took on the big guys and won (for a while anyway) despite being run under chaotic drug-heavy conditions. Alan McGee is naturally a great documentary subject, he knows how to spin a yarn and due to his loose attitude to all things chemical in his hey day, he was often the centre of a lot of banter/controversy/memorable quotes. One particular standout moment occurs when McGee finds himself relocated to Manchester in pursuit of the then thriving Acid House scene. When queried (by Factory record boss Tony Wilson) in a TV interview as to why he moved from London to Manchester he casually replies, "A better class of drug, Tony".
There, now I've mentioned the word 'drug' four times so I've firmly established what was to be an unexpected running-theme for the duration of the filming for Joe Gavin's episode of The Panoramic Series. The episode was not based on drugs, it was more like drugs were very eager to cameo in the episode. We tackled the filming in the traditional way - Joe skated (really really well) and I filmed (not as well as Joe skated). However, narcotics just seemed to want to get in on the picture.
I come from a small Irish town with lots of drug-related problems, so it was not like I was not used to seeing plenty of not-so-subtle wheeling and dealing, but I've never had a dealer stop his car on the opposite side of a busy street just so he could give us his business card complete with his mobile number. "Have a cake, but need a flake?" Not today. Apparently this is a pretty regular occurrence in Manchester - proven by another business card received from "Charlie Green", could be an upstanding local business man though, perhaps my judgement has been too clouded by Alan McGee? Apparently not - a large pack of roaming skateboarders making their way around a city seems to be a prime business opportunity for these fellas and they're not afraid to try to exploit the gap in the market. From a BMW with tinted windows asking us for a light and then trying to flog their best 'Mango Cush mate' or some sketchy plaid-short wrap around shades wearing dealer who was prepared to put his wholesale goods on the line in exchange for seeing tricks he's seen in Tony Hawk's Playstation outings.
Drugs were out to get us! Run! Skate! Yeah! No! Maybe for you? Not for me, drugs have never been my scene, but it was our good taxable friend alcohol that would provide far less original encounters as we went from spot to spot. Previous Panoramic Series subject Phil Zwijsen has warned me that on his last ten visits to Manchester it "rained every time", pretty good odds for filming. The rain did not fall hard on this humdrum town, in fact it didn't even fall, nor did it collect in clouds. It was truly scorchio, and much like my old homestead, when the sun decides to grace the tarmac for more than two consecutive days people need to keep themselves cool the only way they know how, by drinking their weight in beer. So as we pushed our way through a series of rad raspy spots we were greeted by more than a few sunburnt citizens offering their wayward judgement and uninvited session participation. And I loved it!
switch fs 180 wallride
switch fs 180 ollie
Since I moved from Ireland to Sweden last year I have missed this type of engagement that is somewhat unique to inner-city skateboarding. Skating is much more accepted in Malmö and people don't really fuck with you in Sweden as they do in Ireland, which usually means that your Saturday street skate is a little less adventurous (and probably more productive). Well, I was happy to find that people still fuck with you in Manchester, a lot, so much so that plenty of these misguided candid quotes ended up in the final edit of this episode. Engaging with head-cases when you street skate is all part of the adventure and it usually leads to some good tales at the end of the day, which is usually why I don't get amped off watching indoor park edits. Maybe they'll start hiring extras on The Berrics to interfere with the skating to make it a bit more 'street'? They should get them drunk first if they do.
Joe and Josephine Public's general lack of acceptance for the wooden steed (sober or not) has also fostered a really tight skate scene in Manchester. If everyone is living through the same struggle then it forces people to unite, which really reminded me of the years when I started skating and you would nod to a fella you seen on the train wearing DCs. The locals were friendly, everyone fed off the banter with not an ego in sight! Especially Joe, if I was Joe I would have a really big head, he's too good! I didn't know Joe Gavin before I made this episode and I'm very stoked I know him now, undeniable skills and as humble as they come and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to document his ninja pop steez in the letter box frame. If you feel like visiting one the friendliest skate scenes around with more than a few interesting spots then make Manchester a destination, just leave some room in your wallet for some business cards and don't forget the sun cream.