It has been a year since Nottingham’s first ‘skateboard friendly space’ opened for public use back in December 2022. Located under the Nottingham Station Tram viaduct and adjacent to the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery, the skate spot has since become a heaven to an alternative sports community and young creatives. In conversation with Chris Lawton from Skate Nottingham, this article will serve as a brief retrospective of the project and its wider successes.
“The Tramline spot has become a ‘go-to’ location for skaters throughout the city because of its proximity to public transport and its location. The space being outside of Nottingham College means it draws in young skaters of all abilities”- Ben H, President of the Skate Society at The University of Nottingham.
“Designing the space was a long journey. A big thing about skateboarding is its ability to expose those from less privileged backgrounds to find out about life-changing professions, whether that be architecture, civil/structural engineering, or design and the more creative and cultural disciplines. So, we were really committed to the idea of involving young people in the design at an early stage. Two big collaborative design projects, and a digital design initiative amid COVID-19, exposed skaters of all ages to a lot of inspiring people within the industry. In the end, we had more than 200 people directly contributing design ideas to the project. We worked really closely with Tong park, a Norwegian Company, who gave up a lot of time to help us with the landscape architecture and the fabrication of the steel forms”.
With a minimalist selection of ‘Angular steel forms’ that serve to be a more natural urban feature, the space was conceived to blend in with its metropolitan setting- this demands creativity from the skaters that use it. Designed with other ‘skate-friendly spaces’ in mind such as projects in Bordeaux, France and Malmö, Sweden; the Tramline spot is more akin to a subterranean plaza than a standard suburban skatepark development. This planning decision was made by Skate Nottingham to integrate skateboarding into city life and bring the culture closer than the fringes it has previously occupied. All the evidence suggests it has worked. If you show up on a weekday evening, you can see the space filled with teenagers and young adults who would usually stand jaded among a rabble of children on scooters at a more typical skatepark. With Skate Nottingham’scrowdfunding campaign raising a massive £16,810, the conception and construction of The Tramline Spot is a testament to the community planning and fundraising efforts behind the project. It is as a blueprint for future developments aimed towards giving young people a constructive outlet, reaching those who aren’t interested in typical team sports.
“BEFORE THE TRAM SPOT, THERE WASN’T MANY EASY ACCESS POINTS IN NOTTINGHAM TO JUST VIBE OUT AND SKATE FOR A COUPLE HOURS WITHOUT DRIVING OR A LONG JOURNEY ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT” – BAX (A STUDENT BASED IN NOTTINGHAM)
The fiercely competitive graffiti tag walls and the ambient light fittings placed on the underside of the viaduct show that this project was not a slap-dash affair. DIY skate spots often spring up without planning permission and disintegrate as quickly as they arrive. Regular group meetings such as The Curb Club and Women, Girls and Marginalised Genders sessions are helping to ensure the space is being used by an inclusive range of people within the wider Nottingham community.
“Skate Nottingham is still a grassroots, DIY organisation and has no formal funding from the city council. A lot of what we do is made possible thanks to activism and campaigning to activate an important space within the city. The council do support us to deliver, we’re very committed to supporting the space”- alongside Skate Nottingham’s regular Eduskate program of workshops between December 2022 and the official opening event in April 2023 engaged more than 400 people at the new development.
The Tram spot is a watershed project for urban planning in the city, demonstrating the value of developing and nurturing an inner-city alternative cultural/sporting space. “There is nothing else like this in the UK, a city that has created a space for young people in a central thoroughfare. It shows a great deal of care and it normally only happens in Britain by accident: in Nottingham, we have done it deliberately. It can be a way that Nottingham can sell itself to the world and sell a positive message to the city in general. Nottingham has had a really tough time, with the collapse of The Broadmarsh Shopping Centre and the bankruptcy of Nottingham Castle, (the success of the Tramline spot) is a strong good news story that can hopefully inspire those who care about the city.”
Featured image courtesy of Skate Nottingham .Permission to use granted to Impact.
In article image 1 and 2 courtesy of Ross Williams. No changes were made to this image.
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