Coming through Stratford City shopping centre around 9 pm last night, I saw a small group of skaters – boards, roller and in-line – exploiting the smooth floors for their tricks and weaves.
I’d been tipped off about the spectacle by Eleanor Fawcett at OPLC, who regularly walks through the mall in the evenings. She tells me there can be as many as 20 skaters on some nights: male and female, different ages, and a culturally diverse crowd too (reflecting this part of East London).
Apparently the route through the mall is a 24-hour public right of way. The site security seems relaxed about its nocturnal uses. This may be all to the good. It is certainly Eleanor’s view that they make the place feel safer for her, as someone who often has no choice but to come through the mall late at night on her way home.
Much as I love this example of flexible use, I can’t quite see it catching on in a shopping mall near you – unless like this one, your mall has to stay open 24/7 and is thinking creatively about how to animate the space. I am not holding my breath for evening slalom runs in the nearby Westfield mega-mall. But park and public space managers can surely learn some lessons from the Stratford skate scene about what creates social safety. Here’s hoping the OPLC itself – my most recent client, as it happens – takes some inspiration from the playful use of public space that unfolds on its doorstep most evenings, in its plans for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
It is usually the absence of people rather than the presence of that makes places ‘no go’. It is good to hear of a group of young people being viewed in a positive light too; sometimes being young and in a group appears enough to warrant demonisation.
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Love to see creative uses of open space! Hopefully the wheel lovers take care of the space so they can keep using it.
A dual benefit! It’s a perfectly usable space for skateboarders (even if there’s provision for their skating elsewhere, this space is warm (enough), light and dry when it isn’t outside) – and yes, their presence does provide a safer thoroughfare for other users. More, please!
I think that some of these malls that have empty spaces should create skate parks for activities like this, kind of like how in the old malls ice rinks were popular.
All – thanks for the comments – clearly some agreement with my views, and Eleanor’s (by the way, she told me that on some evenings she feels that seeing the skaters is “the highlight of my day”).
I’m also very pleased to see that this post was picked up by the people at the Project for Public Spaces. I’m a fan of their work, and would love to see them do more around children and young people’s perspectives and needs.
can older skaters ues it to
Kev – my impression is there’s no age bar. It seems a friendly scene.
i still roller skate im in my 50 i may be out of place
@ Kev Not too far from where I live there’s mall with a skate park, and I see guys in their 50’s skating ( on inline skates, roller skates, and skateboards) there.
ok thanks i live in e2
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Hi there im one of the roller skaters from stratford mall, I’ve seen all the feed back from you guys just want to say thank younfor taking the time to write this, appreciate that it’s viewed in a positive light.
Tim, I am interested in skating in the dry for free! how often is it on and from what time?
Hi Steve – I haven’t been through the mall for a while, so I don’t know if it’s still happening. When it was, it seemed to be a spontaneous thing that emerged around 9-10 pm. The colleague who put me onto the sessions implied that it happened most nights.
We’ve recently been told that skating will no longer be permitted in the mall at night. Even though the mall staff doesn’t have a problem with it, there seem to have been a complain about the skaters, so anyone on wheels is now being fined for using the empty space.
This is a real shame, especially since many skating spots are dead ends (so pedestrian-free after shops opening hours).
Mat – thanks for letting me know. Is there any appetite for resisting the ban? If so, let me know either here or by contacting me.
I walked through the center last night at 1.00 in the morning and it was pumping :) It’s been a few years since I was skating but it was awesome to see the guys in action.
Good to hear that Morton – thanks for the information.
Walked through the mall last night and it was busy with skaters! Spoke to a young lad who was 11 yrs old and he said he was there with older family and they all look out for each other. Very soon while speaking to him a girl came over. It was nice they were there and it does make you feel safer walking through, their presence does not cause any problems that I could see.
Thanks for the update. Good to hear!
Of course there are problems, they should have a proper space without disturbing the neighboors.. the noise is terrible, these guys are going to screeming and do tricks and the square that is not nice
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I know this has been posted a couple of years ago but I went through there recently and it was the most surreal experience! There were (no exaggeration) hundreds of people ages 6-30 skating/biking/roller blading! They seem to of split the shopping centre into sections and each ‘activity’ had it’s own area. Amazing to see people of such diversity having such a good and healthy time!
yeah very nice when those teenagers smoke weed make a mess everywhere piles of rubbish on the floor and it seems security and police are not interested. i think it should be right time and place for teenagers to skate not 1 in the morning smoking weed inside the shopping mall. and I have seen very small children with no carers around in the middle of the night!! are they crazy? this place needs to shut for the night!! those teenagers should be at home with their parents doing their homework and not smoking weed and showing bad example to other kids!!!! and i did not feel very safe passing the shopping centre that night it was awful mess, smell, noise!!!
Iike someone said we will not be able to skate in the shopping mall soon at it happened. They have banned the place from skating and shutting it down in the night times. What a shame i have just started roller skating and thought will join them and found out that we are no longer able to skate in there… if anyone knows any other places where the rollerz family gathers drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org thanks
I guess the space is too small to skateboard.. Skateboard is a sport for open space well perhaps there must be a reason why it is indoor right Nathan Smith?