Rave Skateboards ‘Family & Friends’
Words by Ben Powell
Photography by Clémént le Gall
Like skateboarding, ‘rave culture’, (not that it really presented itself as such back in the wellies, whistles and £30 gurner era) emerged at a historical moment where the economic and social backdrop was, to put it simply, pretty fucking grim. Unless you’d spent your youth laughing at paupers on your family’s estate before being chauffeured to Oxbridge to fuck pigs, eat Fortnum & Mason hampers and study PPE with a view to pointing derisively at the poor in a professional capacity later in life, that period of time was not exactly conducive to deep personal happiness for the vast majority of people in the UK.
Margaret Thatcher‘s 1987 statement that, ‘There is no such thing as society’ summed up the prevailing mood. Times were hard and jobs were scarce but, if you were prepared to sniff your own body weight in twat powder and run across the corpses of your fellow countrymen, then you could get rich and quick. You just needed to have absolutely no empathy or social conscience, (and possibly the benefits of wealthier than average parents) and you were set.
For the rest of us, those outside of that charmed circle — shabby sub-cultural escape routes were the only glimmers of hope in that frantic, overpaid, coked up circle jerk. Skateboarding was one such escape route, raving was another.
These days ‘rave culture’ comes with its own subdivisions, its own uniforms and its own superstars. Raving back in the early days was far from the shimmering, idealised catwalk of narcissism that it is today. In the gloomy late 80s/early 90s — the rave scene was a shambolic, opportunistic, Vicks Vapour infused ‘fuck you’ to the 10% of the country who were rich enough to enjoy themselves formally.
Ironically, despite the timeless 90s Droors ‘Ravers Suck’ t-shirt, at the point in time when people were driving up and down the M62 at 2am and picking up flyers in Service Station bogs with directions to huge illegal parties — ravers and skaters were a lot closer to each other than either would’ve probably cared to admit.
Both were laughed at by almost everyone else in society. Both were dressed like scarecrows who had covered themselves in glue and fallen over in a charity shop.
And, perhaps most significantly, both were on a quest for adrenaline-fuelled community that had absolutely nothing to do with making money.
Post-industrial decay is fertile soil for mischief and the north of England had more than enough abandoned factories, half built trading estates and unused A-roads to provide cover for the weekly impromptu parties whose venues were arranged through word of mouth.
It’s important to remember that this was happening pre-mobile-phones and that these raves would genuinely come about via an existing network of people keen to get saucer-eyed after a week of soul-destroying graft at B&Q.
If you knew how to find out where they were, you would. If you didn’t, you’d find yourself sharing a cup of Burger King tea between five and 1am waiting for somebody in a grossly inappropriate Avanti ski jacket to stumble into Birch Services and tell you where it was happening.
I was lucky enough to attend more than a few of these events, as I’m an old cunt. But, as there’s neither space nor time to go into too much depth — I’ll regale you with just two memories of them.
Please remember that these are raves as God intended: No egos. No celebrities on the bill. No dress code. No rules. Just pure and simple drug-fuelled escape hatches from late 80s/early 90s working class drudgery, providing a tiny window of hope for everyone present before inexorably strapping the McDonald’s costume back on for Monday morning’s shift and dreaming of the next weekend.
Case study number one: somehow, someone had slipped a farmer on the outskirts of Bradford enough crispy tenners for him to agree to allow a bunch of idiots dressed for a week in Magaluf to drive three transit vans into one of his unused pig sheds and release the Spirit of Christmas Paggered.
Flyers left on tables at service stations up and down the M62 motorway confirmed the venue around 1am on the Saturday. Those lying in wait nursing tepid coffees and the stomach-bothering upswell of a £30 Dove chomped in the bogs half an hour earlier, were buzzing in every sense of the word.
The assembled masses crammed themselves into the pleasure chariots waiting in the carpark, (generally Fiestas, Fiat Pandas and other steeds affordable for the wage slaves) and headed en masse through the driving rain towards a metal shed stinking of pig shit.
Looking back at it now, I have no idea how in hell the police seemed to initially have no clue about what was going on. If I saw 500 cheap motors pull up and spew out enough tracksuits to fill a Sports Direct distribution centre then I’d have a good idea what was going on but hey, it was 1990 — the plod were still sipping warm John Smiths and listening to John Denver.
The pig shed filled up. The transits parked at the front housed the generators, turntables and laser projectors and within ten minutes this foul, shit encrusted space was transformed into a DIY precursor of Manumission: only minus the beach, the paid Instagram influencers and the glamour.
The odour of pig shit was palpable but with that many people chasing the E rush via Vicks Vapour inhalers, it soon disappeared into a miasma that smelled more like a doctor’s waiting room on flu shot day than either a nightclub or a farm.
In retrospect, I’m filled with a sense of creeping shame as to just how ridiculous that scene was via the self-conscious spectacles of 2019 and a world where everything is documented and shared instantaneously. Would I be stoked for there to be pictures of me dancing around with a Vicks inhaler up my left nostril and a garage forecourt purchased glow stick in my hand? No, obviously. Thank God that Social Media didn’t exist…
At the time though — it felt exactly like freedom, which, in a naive, sportswear clad kind of way I guess it was.
I have little recollection of what music was played, nor of who was playing it through tinny speakers in a disused pig shed but none of that mattered. What I can remember with utter clarity was the all-pervasive atmosphere of joy and community that bounced off the walls until long after the sun rose.
I’ll tell you one thing though, even now, as an arthritic nigh 50 year old, as soon as I hear the opening piano sample to Frankie Knuckles ‘Your Love’, (complete with the deliberate [?] missed note at ten seconds in), I can still smell that sour, burning sensation of porky poo particles deep inside my nose.
Case study in organic working class resistance number two: remember how skateparks used to be back in the early days? Abandoned warehouses occupied and converted semi-legally into the antecedents of today’s ‘extreme sports centres’ operated with scant regard for health or for safety and a business mantra that went little further than, ‘well it’s better than it being full of smackheads isn’t it?’
I was lucky enough to spend a few years in a forgotten city that had one such establishment. Amusingly built inside the carapace of what was once the local ‘Unemployment Skills Centre’, (whatever the hell that means — ‘effectively avoiding wage slavery whilst signing on’ I suppose), this skatepark was marked with the fluorescent paw print of dubious legality from the outset. When a skateboarding facility’s official name is ‘Rehab Unit-E’ you better believe that a synthesis between kickflips and bright orange speed the texture of toothpaste is on the agenda.
Time has moved on and people change and it’s undeniable that the skateboard community will be forever grateful for this place but – to say that certain people within the loosely defined ownership structure of said skatepark might’ve had their hands in various pies is to put it very mildly. Stories of bin bags full of pills being buried in the carpark and staff being paid in soapbar were rife — as were whispers of simultaneous all-nighters combining skateboarding and its glow stick waving illegitimate siblings taking place every weekend after last orders had been called.
I can confirm that the second part of that statement is absolute truth due to having attended more than one of such boundary-shifting weekenders in a semi-professional capacity.
Try to imagine a huge warehouse on the outskirts of a total shithole. Somewhere so far removed from ‘normal’ life that the authorities either didn’t care to oversee it, or didn’t even know it was there, (one of the many benefits of paying zero tax I guess). Now imagine you and your mates have access to the keys of said facility as a result of free labour and being 20% less of an irresponsible bellend than anyone else in the immediate vicinity. Are you with me so far? Good.
Now extend your suspension of disbelief and imagine this: it’s 1993 and it’s midnight on a dismal, freezing cold November Saturday night. You and your mates are pretending that you’re Kareem (Campbell) on the DL: whether you are Kareem or not doesn’t matter as literally nobody gives one single fuck about skateboarding aside from those doing it at this point. We’re all dressed like rollerbladers will be in five years and just as you ride away from that pre-mob mob-kickflip over the driveway, the front doors are flung open and hordes of drunk, possibly drugged up maniacs run into the skatepark.
One of the many loosely defined ‘owners’ of the skatepark accompanies this rolling tide of fucked up humans, declaring at top volume, ‘Keep skating lads — we’re just having a little party.’
It’s 1am, we’ve all had a few cans and whatnot so, ‘yeah, why not?’ is the clear and obvious response. The front doors are still wide open and the tide just keeps on lapping — more and more people are arriving in frankly inappropriate footwear and occupying space everywhere in the skatepark.
Suddenly the PA coughs into life, Tronik House’s ‘Up Tempo’ (Google it) kicks in and the innumerable medicated humans not on skateboards start swaying on ledges they can’t see. Weirdly, the interlopers, (many of whom are women) are the sort of people who would be more likely to spit on skateboarders in a different context but, right now, we’re all munted and we’re all in a dirty warehouse because there’s nowhere better to be.
This is the early 90s; everything is still pretty wank on a macrocosmic level.
John Major’s grey overbite is still in charge but right now nobody gives a fuck.
I pause for a second and watch three 30+ year old women with eyes like a brace of coquettish Bambis rubbing up against a pole jam I was involved in building whilst ‘Aceeeeeid, Aceeeeeid’ squelches out of the sound system and wonder, ‘Will it ever get any better than this?’
Truth is, it did and it didn’t but in that moment I resolved to go home and burn my Droors tee — ravers suck yeah, but ravers also don’t give two fucks about being around a bunch of sweaty, distinctly uncool skateboarders in their space, as long as there’s music and good vibes, so, as far as I’m concerned, ravers are all good.
At this point I’m four Peronis deep so I wisely go back and read Arthur’s email again, just to check that I’m on the right track.
First line of the email — ‘Can you write something about Rave skateboards?’ What!? Rave skateboards? I only read as far as ‘Rave’. I have a regular 9-5 job mate. I didn’t pay attention past ‘Rave’…shite. Well it’s too late now, I’ve dropped in, the next wall is approaching, I can see the coping — there’s no way I’m deleting the above. My time is valuable you little French man. Surely there’s a way that I can pass this off as an intro for what you’re looking for… I mean, they decided to name their company after a British led cultural phenomenon predicated on getting wasted and enjoying the company of strangers, so it’s on them, right?
Comment on dit, ‘I fucked up’ en Francais?
Whatever homme, here’s the scoop. You’re currently enjoying the photographic fruits of the filming of Bordeaux-based Rave Skateboards’ most recent visual offering. All of these photos were shot whilst their newest video, Family and Friends was being put together by these garlic-chomping lovelies in various highbrow destinations. These lads have been around for a good few years now. They have a distinctly French approach to skateboarding in so far as they’re less interested in waving their cocks around in front of sets of stairs and more interested in presenting skateboarding as something that you might actually have fun doing, rather than a quick way to sustain serious injury. I’ve spoken to them a few times via email and they’re well and truly sound.
The title ‘Family and friends’ refers to the fact that; a) they all actually like each other and b); all the music used in the related clip has been created by their mates.
We live in a world where mega Pros happily risk kinked handrail death and then equally happily leave their musical accompaniment choices up to some bellend they’ve never met who thinks ‘urban trans-humanist aggro garage’ is ‘lit’, so just be grateful that there are skateboarders out there who still give enough of a shit to actually pick music they like to accompany their output.
The photos you’re looking at were shot in Bordeaux, Paris and Barcelona — all of which are fantastic cities full of brilliant human beings who will probably be your friends if you’re not a total twat. And that, if anything, is the underlying message of this rambling collection of words.
Enjoy these photographs, enjoy the accompanying video clip and then go search for ‘Early 90s Rave Classics’ on YouTube.
The universe will provide if you search in the right place. Bun all wankers.