The Undercroft

Fifty years ago, the Festival of Britain gave birth to London’s iconic Southbank Centre. Underneath the large brutalist structure, named ‘Queen Elizabeth Hall’, resided a docile hollow space, filled with concrete banks, stairs and ledges that served no real purpose. The architecture mirrored the brutalist building above, and this concrete wonder was the beginning of the space known to this day as ‘The Undercroft’.

Adopted by skaters of the twentieth century, the space contained everything that skateboarders wanted all within one place. The Undercroft has since become a landmark and a home for them in London. The space was not purpose built for the skaters and that is part of its attraction for them, as it was seen as a found spot in the city, which means that it was down to the skateboarder’s imaginations to use the space in creative ways which serve all the needs of the modern street riders and their style in the 21st century, as well as the style of those from past generations.

Over the past forty years, The Undercroft has received major changes. From the space being downsized in 2003 to make storage space for Southbank’s arts Centre, to the outside railing built in 2010 to separate the skaters from the public. These changes were put in place in order to slowly push the skaters out. However, the skaters fought back and in 2013 the space was saved from being just another row of shops and restaurants, like the ones that currently surround it. This shows the passion that the skaters have towards the space and its historic value to them.

When shooting the images in the book, I only shot from inside the croft on the ‘skate park’ side of the barrier as the Southbank Centre would see it. This is because the book is an exploration of the space from an inside perspective, as opposed to how everyday commuters and tourists may see it.

The book looks at the details of the space, from the dents in the concrete tiles to the generation that skate there today, showing the history of the space and those who go there now fifty years after its creation. The book contains statements from the skaters that currently inhabit the space, describing what the undercroft means to them not only as a place to skate, but also as a home.