The Stoke-on-Trent Association of Skateboarders is a non-profit, voluntary association, formed by local skateboarders of experience. The aim of the SAS is to improve our links with the local authorities regards anything to do with skateboarding and its facilities.

The SAS was formed due to some funding we received from Youth Up Front (a division of SRB5), to help with the building of a skatepark in the area. As we needed an organisation name, we went for the Stoke-on-Trent Association of Skateboarders- SAS!! 

The whole thing started with my frustration at the Watery Lane, Longton skate facility that was built back in 2001. It was hailed, at the time of building etc., as a huge skate park that had included the opinions of the local skate community etc. On it’s completion, I felt so disappointed and let down, when visiting it for the first time as the area was so badly designed, unskateable and badly located. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one! I wrote to the council explaining my disappointment and why I felt money had been wasted. The answer I received from the council was so negative it made me think that maybe it was about time to try and sort something out for the area and at least try to get the wheels in motion to get Stoke a decent skate park.

My first action was to do a petition. I asked Drew at Dazed (was then called Gravity Daze in Piccadilly, Hanley) if he would help by using the shop to run the petition in. He agreed to this and we set it up. We got over 600 signatures in the space of a few weeks; supporting the idea that Stoke needed a skate facility of worth. During this time, as luck would have it, we made a contact in Andy Edwards from Hanley Park. He approached Drew about setting some kind of skate demo in Piccadilly, Hanley (outside the shop) as part of a street party/festival the park was organising in the summer of 2001. The day was an amazing success; with the best turnout Andy Edwards had seen for an event of it’s kind. Mr. Edwards had donated money, through the park, to get some obstacles built and with the weather staying good all day, it was a great success.

On the back of that day, we met up with Andy Edwards asking for his advice and help on how we could go further with our petition. He put it forward to the council and the project had now got off the ground! We also, during our meeting, planned on how we could do more skate days like the one in Piccadilly. It was then the idea for the first Stoked skate festival was born. We planned to hold the festival in Hanley Park on Sunday 2nd September 2001. Although marred by constant wet weather, the turnout was amazing (over 600 skaters), proving to the council that Stoke had got a strong skate scene and the need for a park was very important. We got some great coverage for our cause too, with Radio Stoke and the Sentinel reporting on the day!

We next set up a meeting with Donna from Youth Up Front. Here Morph had applied for some YUF funding to help get our project off the ground financially. We put our case forward and by this time, through doing an extensive survey, we had the firm idea and the general opinion of the local skaters, that our skate park should be a street orientated park/spot. Banks, stairs, rails and ledges should be made in concrete in a designated area to give the street skaters a place to meet and skate together without the hassle that comes with street skating! Donna was very impressed with our idea and our passionate approach! She made the funds available to us but also got us a meeting with the head of SRB5, Youssif.

We met with Youssif and he too was very impressed with our idea. He gave us his support and got us set up with a meeting with Andy Heaward from Stoke-on-Trent City Council. He had been put in control of the skate park project. This particular meeting went well. We put our ideas to Mr. Heaward and slowly he came round to our unconventional way of looking at skatepark building. We urged him to think bigger and brave and to try and break away from what is normally provided in terms of skate facilities.

To support our argument/idea, we were armed with the results of our survey/questionnaire. It was agreed that Hanley Park could be a good site for such a venture as the park was to undergo a big face-lift and the skate park project could be part of it.

After this particular meeting, we had got underway with a second Stoked skate fest at Hanley Park to further our campaign and show to the council that the scene in Stoke was worthy of a good facility. This was planned for Sunday 26th May 2002. Youssif advised us to use the funds from YUF to get the fest really kicking and so we asked the people at Hanley Park to build us some more obstacles to skate. The day of the fest was a real let down with the weather as it rained constantly, all day. However, the amount of skaters that showed were very good and the skating was still on fire. It was ridiculous, everybody soaked to the skin but skating all day!

After the disappointment of that particular fest we didn’t want to stop doing them but needed to think how we could solve the weather problem? We then contacted the people at Fenton Manor where, Drew, and myself put forward the idea of holding regular skate jams in their sports halls, using the obstacles we had accrued from the fests. They were extremely supportive from the start and we set about getting dates organised. The first jam took place on Sunday 21st July 2002 and was an amazing success. Again a great turnout, great skating and a great vibe. We again had good coverage from the local media and it pushed our cause further under the nose of the council! The jams have now been growing in strength and numbers each time and now we are at a stage where more obstacles have been made by raising money through your admission price! We are also raising cash towards the skatepark project. In December 2002 we had an almost 500 skaters turn up to skate the day.

The jams were extremely popular with the skaters from Stoke-on-Trent and surrounding areas such as Stafford, Leek, Congleton and as far as Crewe, Stockport and Manchester. The average age of the skaters was 15 the youngest at around 8 and the eldest being at 39! In all the time we have been holding the jams, the skaters have been exceptionally well behaved- just chillin’ and skating together and giving each other props and respect- how it should be!!

On the back of more very positive meetings, the council suggested that our ideas, for a ‘street orientated park’, would be suitable as part of the redevelopment plans for Central Forest Park. We were happy and extremely excited to be a part of this project as it will be a very exciting one for the city and it’s younger generation. We felt that if the park were to be built to our ‘street theme’, then its originality will put the city on the map regards skateboarding in the UK; which has a huge following. We wanted this project to put our city up there with the likes of Livingston/Scotland, Sheffield, Radlands/Northampton etc. We would like to hold competitions, demos and invite teams to tour etc.!! All this can be now made possible and we already have the interest and support of most of the leading distributors of skateboard equipment etc who organise tours for the UK and US teams throughout the year!

The STOKED skate jams found a new venue in the summer of 2003, due to the floor at Fenton being re-surfaced and the authorities a little worried it would get spoiled! We moved to Dimensions, Burslem on Sunday 21st September 2003. This particular event was filmed and footage was used for a report, in a national skateboard video magazine called UKVM.

In August 2003 we were succesful in inviting the Eastpak ‘Transition Tour’ to come and do their first date of the tour/demo in Hanley city centre. A midi-ramp was assembled in Piccadilly and sessioned all day by a BMX pro team and pro skaters. The tour was arranged to help cities to promote their on-going skatepark projects. The Eastpak crew felt ours was a worthy cause and so came to support us! The day was a great success, attracting around 300-400 skaters and BMXers, throughout the day. Also attracting the eye of the general public in the town!

On this day we held a petition to see what the reaction was from not only the skaters but also the general public. The reaction was all-positive. We collected over 300 signatures throughout the day, all supporting our ideas.

Early in 2004, issue #2 of UKVM was released and more top footage was included featuring a STOKED jam from Sunday 18th January 2004.

During the summer of 2004, Congleton and Alsager councils hired the SAS to set up skate jams, in their areas, using the STOKED jams kit/set up. These were also extremely successful events. All the cash raised was put into SAS funds, so going back into local skateboarding projects, such as the plaza opening event and for the future up-keep of it.

In August 2004, the SAS received a grant from ‘Awards For All’, a lottery based funding source, for the sum of £4,495.00! This will be used towards skate orientated obstacles on the pathways of CFP and also to fund an opening event, when STOKEPLAZA , at CFP, is built. Also, it will be used for training ‘key members’ of the SAS in useful skills, helping to run the association more professionally and smoothly. So far ‘key members’ of the SAS have attended courses on ‘Child Protection/Policies’, ‘Event Organising’/ ‘Risk Assessment’ and also ‘key members’ have been ‘CRB checked’.

Unfortunately, the STOKED jams came to an end at Dimensions (due to another floor being installed- again!) and the last one was held on Sunday 20th February 2005. So the SAS are looking for an alternative venue, as to hold jams during the winter months.

The building work at CFP started early in 2005 and the ‘skatepaths’ were started around the end of February 2005. These spots add to the originality of the ‘plaza’ ideal and be a great spot for the skaters of Stoke to meet up and skate. They also act as a ‘bleed off’ when the plaza is busy or just a change of sceenery!

On Friday 28th October 2005, the ‘official opening’ of STOKEPLAZA was held. The doors are now open for all the world to come and skate it- a proud moment for all involved!

And so, that brings us up to now! The SAS plans to be the force behind getting events organised, now that STOKEPLAZA is completed. We have built up a lot of contacts in the skate industry in the past couple of years and feel we can take the project further than just getting it built. Also it will be our concern to assist the council in keeping the skatepark maintained, useable and secure for it’s users.

Any companies, teams etc wanting to put on ‘unofficial’ or ‘official’ events, demo’s or skate sessions at STOKEPLAZA– please contact mark@sketchyskateboarding.co.uk

Keep tuning in to Sketchy News and the SAS section for further advances on all our projects and please keep up your support and never give up skating!!! You are never too old– believe me, I know!!!!!!