A group are looking to turn an unused space into a new indoor skate and cultural hub.
Following the incredible response to the new skatepark at Quennevais, it seems that the powers that be have begun to understand the positive impact that boardsports have for young people. Fuelled by that momentum, a group of islanders, frustrated by the lack of indoor spaces for young people, are undertaking an ambitious project to convert a cavernous disused chapel in St Ouen, into an undercover skatepark and culture hub.
The mission is to create a friendly place for all ages to skateboard, join art, film and photography workshops, find mentors aligned with their interests, and generally feel connected and supported in a fun and healthy environment. We went to see what’s happening out west…
This seems quite ambitious! Tell us more.
We have an amazing offer on the table from the Methodist Guardians of this old chapel. The building has been largely empty for 40 years, and they had struggled to find a user group who could put love back in. As soon as I saw the space, I knew what an incredible opportunity this could be. The success of the new outdoor skatepark has bought so many more people to this activity, and we would like to create a space where this creative culture can thrive on the rainy days and dark winter evenings when the outdoor skatepark isn’t usable.
How much work will be done to this historical building?
The beauty of the project is that we don’t need to do anything to the fabric of the building. The wooden ramps for the skateboard area will just slot in. There are aspects that need some repair and improvements, but overall the building is in fantastic shape. One of the bigger dreams of the project is to involve artists, and create a monumental floor to ceiling mural. A kind of skateboard Sistine Chapel- we could turn it into something jaw-dropping, and will give the project international recognition. We have a specific ‘mural team’ working on making this part a reality.
Why is this space not in use already?
The guardians have had a few offers and ideas for what to put in here over the years, but no project seems to have come off the ground. I can now vouch for why that might be – the process of doing a Change of Use planning application is quite huge. The building’s official use is currently listed as ‘storage’. I’ve been working on changing this matter for a year. Thirty five onsite meetings, and 491 emails later, and I’m confident we’ve assessed everything we can in order to make this simple change a reality. I hope our application will be in Planning by the time this goes to print, and from there, we hope the Planner and community will agree that we have found a perfect new use for this space.
What exactly are you creating?
It’s incredibly simple on the surface. Just some ramps, in an empty room! But the deeper aims of the project are to create an indoor space that helps an already thriving community maintain connection, and inspires a sense of pride in all those that use it. Somewhere where you can gather with a group of friends and feel welcome, and know that your presence there isn’t dependent on spending money. We just don’t have many spaces like that, which seems an awful shame as we know that a solid community connection is one of the foundational elements to positive mental health. It’s all very well finding ways to support when mental health starts to fail, but this project aims to focus on what keeps people happy, and put investment into that. That’s the aim. I like thinking about the root causes of our issues, and how to solve things on that level.
Who is making this happen?
We have a charity called Skate Space that is leading the charge on this project. Tom Macaviney, an architect at Axis Mason has done a huge amount of work, and we have had support from Government and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, who appreciate our aims and know we are working hard to provide something that is much needed. As we get more into the practicalities of the project (there has been a lot of paperwork so far), we are looking for support from local industry – building firms, suppliers, handy people of all kinds are invited to come forward and get involved. Something that’s really fundamental is that this is a community-led project, and we are open to anyone who wants to hop in and help. It will be fun! It’s not just the final product that will feel good to be a part of, the whole process of making this thing a reality will be quite a special experience, for anyone that wants to be a part of it.
How do we get involved?
Drop an email to Skate Space if you want to share your thoughts and add some energy to this project… email@example.com . By the time this magazine lands on the stands, we hope our Planning Application will be live, and ready for public support. It’s super-important that all the positive people stand up and be counted at this stage – sometimes negativity can suffocate positive projects, and we are determined to not let that happen as we know how much this is wanted and needed!