Serious stupidity at work here - Great work Manchester Council - Urbis skate stopped. So as of yesterday, fences went up around the main podium ledges outside Urbis so that the council can pursue an almost unbelievably culturally myopic approach to 'controlling' skateboarding in one of the city's most active plaza spaces. At a point in time when cities like London, Milton Keynes and Nottingham (to name just a few) are embracing and celebrating the contribution of skateboard culture to the lives of their cities, Manchester, a globally celebrated city of culture, have decided to adopt one of the most retrogressive and down right stupid positions imaginable.
Since its completion in 2002 as part of the redevelopment of Exchange Square, Urbis (formerly the 'Museum of the City') has been a lively plaza space in the very centre of Manchester playing host to the city's thriving skate/BMX and street sports scene which has seamlessly intermingled with the hordes of shoppers, tourists and office workers crossing the square on a daily basis.
As of yesterday however, Manchester City Council have decided to fence the space off, cut into the granite ledges and add the always aesthetically disgusting defensive architecture concept AKA 'skate stoppers' to the ledges, along with erecting over 15 signs warning all and sundry that, not only will street sports no longer be tolerated in the space, but that anyone caught using the space around Urbis for such prescribed activities will now be liable for a £500 fine.
Let's just pause for a second and put this idiotic move into a wider context. In London, the City itself and the venerable Southbank Centre/Hayward Gallery have worked alongside the Long Live Southbank campaign to acknowledge and celebrate skateboarding, BMX etc on one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in western Europe. In Milton Keynes, the city council and the UK Heritage Fund have just hosted a 6-month exhibition and local museum celebrating the skateboard culture of their city. In nearby Nottingham, local pressure group Skate Nottingham are currently working alongside their city council to fund and redesign currently redundant space to foster their own skateboard scene in acknowledgement of the positive contributions that said culture has made to the city as a whole.
Which leads us nicely onto Manchester's approach to the same culture. That's Manchester, the celebrated home of the Hacienda, of Factory Records, of globally famous musicians, film makers, designers and a city with one of the most influential skateboard scenes in the UK. How have Manchester City Council approached skateboarding culture in their city? Yep, that's correct - they've decided to ban it. Unbelievable. Tony Wilson must be turning in his grave, honestly.
There's a lot to be said and done about this and this little blog post is only intended as the first step to draw attention to how utterly short-sighted and self-defeating this latest move is. All I will say for now is this: when Urbis turns into Piccadilly Gardens Mark 2, filled with hordes of stumbling spice zombies as a result of the urban cleansing of those who used to occupy and use the space in a positive manner - I'm going to be the very first person to say "I told you so..."
Shame on you Manchester City Council. Everybody who reads this needs to contact their local MP and write a letter/email explaining why this attempt to kill off living street culture in the supposed capital of the 'Northern Powerhouse' is so bloody stupid. Get on it. Now. Link to complain is above. Make sure that you point out that all the damage to the floor is due to massive lorries driving through the space to set up Christmas markets as well - before they try laying that at skateboarding's door too.