The Hackney Bumps was an underused London skatepark first built in 1986. It was rough, there was junk and broken glass all around and the drains were clogged with leaves so there would be massive puddles. Recently a few skaters took it into their own hands to fix this… Watch above Hold Tight Henry’s Bumps & Grind documentary, read the interviews below with locals Esther Sayers and Kyle Wilson, and most importantly, please donate to Hackney Bumps GoFundMe so that the bumps refurbishment can be completed and be enjoyed by all in the years to come.
Interviews by Greg King
Esther Sayers Interview
The story of how you started skateboarding isn’t very typical.. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Esther Sayers: What d’y mean?!! Erm, OK. So, I’d learned to ski late (aged 38) and loved it. Returning home to Hackney after a ski trip once I took my kids to Victoria Park on an early spring Saturday afternoon. We’d bought my son his first board that morning and we met his cousin there, my daughter had got a board from someone, don’t remember where. I sat on the bench with the other parents and watched. We were there for hours. At the end of the day once it had quietened out I asked for a go. I was incredibly tentative but managed going down the flat bank first try. I loved the feeling. It was like skiing/riding but without snow – inner city concrete mountains. In a few weeks for my birthday my family bought me (cringe) a longboard. It was brilliant to start on because balance was easy and big wheels meant I could ride on any surface.
You learned to skate at Hackney Bumps skatepark didn’t you? Why was that?
With the bumps just down the road, five minutes away, it was perfect. I needed somewhere close so no travel time. I work full time and have a family, I’m time poor. I wanted to skate everyday so maximising time spent skating was important. Skateparks are public spaces and they are coded as such. The youthful, male, cool image of skateboarding did not suit a 47-year-old mother of three who was shaky and rubbish at it. I needed spaces that were empty to literally find my feet tentatively and privately. I’d either go to Vicky at 7am or to the bumps. I’d started skate school at house of vans and was learning to kickturn. I needed soft ramps. The bumps was perfect to practise. Most important part of learning to skateboard is time on the board, repeating the same thing over and over. At the bumps there was no pressure from a load of others waiting for a turn. Even if there were people there it was a nice scene and enough space to skate alongside one another. Every time I went I would be joined by a group of ids who all wanted a go on my board. I did a lot of impromptu lessons down there. I think excitement about the bumps ad skateboarding started to grow at that time. I only found out later that you and Nick were going there too and encouraging kids. Crazy that our paths never crossed then.
The best line I had was from a 4-year-old girl who climbed up the fence in the play park to watch me before exclaiming ‘I didn’t know mummies could do that!’ – she does now!
I’ve met a few other girl skaters down there quietly practicing too. It’s a friendly, community space and that really matters.
If The Bumps had been revamped when you started – new smooth resurfaced bumps and also contemporary skatepark ramps/obstacles – how do you think that might have changed your experience?
Tricky, on the one hand it might have been off putting for me if it were busier. I benefitted from the fact that I rode a cruiser after the long board (a Zflex) and so the rough surface kept others away but was fine for me. However, as soon as I was ‘proper’ skateboarding – with a lolly stick board and a kick tail to learn to kick turn I would have liked it smoother. A mini quarter down there and a ramp or a small kicker would have transformed my learning. A long mani pad to learn to drop off would’ve made a difference to the speed of my learning too. I’ve been held back from learning quite a lot of new tricks because the only places I can are Barking (a car drive and an entrance fee to get in) or Charlton also a car ride. Clissold and Vicky are great for bowls but they don’t have small quarter ramps or any of that stuff. Walthamstow is too busy.
What do you think are the obstacles/barriers to starting skating when you’re older?
Feeling silly, an outsider, skate obstacles that are too high, too difficult, too challenging. I take less risks physically than someone younger might. Falling takes longer to recover from so my progress is gradual, incremental. Heroic skateparks with macho big bowls were no use to me (bloody love Vicky bowl now though, as you know!) but not then. Soft transitions, cruising, carving, simply learning to ride – bumps was perfect for this. I’ve always thought it a generous and innately feminine space because of the generosity of it’s form. It’s like some in Malmö I’ve recently discovered that feel like you are literally skating across a giant body.
As an active member of the Hackney Bumps group what do you think we can do to help older and/or less active people overcome these obstacles and encourage them to use the skatepark?
Being there, us being friendly, encouraging parents and carers to have a go – offering lessons and encouragement – the loan of skate and safety equipment. Building a culture of acceptance. Skate culture is good at doing this but actively encouraging is going one stage further. Lessons dedicated to adults. Supporting kids to teach their adults. Teaching adults to teach their kids would be a great way to encourage. Give them the skills to support their kids in the early stages by getting them to feel what it is like. I reckon a lot would get into it that way.
* A bar?!
So what do you think needs doing to sort out The Bumps skatepark?
Smoother. Sort the cracks. A mini quarter, a curb, a curb height mani, I’d like a small kicker, like really small (20cm) but maybe that’s just me cos I’m a scaredy cat! I’d also like a bigger drop in ramp to build speed. Some of those matal plates that form a gap – I won’t be ollieing the gap anytime soon but I’d like dropping off the side and getting progressively higher. Water fountain. Somewhere to store a brush, a mop, bin bags so we can keep it tidy and skateable. Lights – in the winter it’s already dark when my kids get home from school this is so frustrating as we are all desperate to skate. With some lighting, maybe that goes off before too late, we would be able to skate in the late afternoon and evening. That way winter wouldn’t be so sedentary.
Is there anything else you want to add?
My kids have all gone to Clapton Park Nursery and Rushmore Primary School on Chatsworth Road and I know a lot of families locally – from there and Daubeney and Kingsmead. The buzz that has been created by this refurb project is palpable. The lessons in the summer led to so much more useage of the bumps. Every time I went down in the late summer there were two or three other families already there and using it, often with adults and children skating together. Dads brushing the dust off old boards and getting out there and occasionally some mums too. I think we could really develop that and rather than having parents sitting on the bench and watching get them involved either by physically supporting their kids or rolling themselves – that’s the best kind of support -learning together.
Kyle Wilson Interview
You live really close to Hackney Bumps, did you start skating there?
Kyle Wilson: I started skating around the corner from the bumps, this little flatground spot I found out about from some friends.
Why was that? Was the surface of the skatepark too much of a problem?
Nah when I first started skating it wasn’t so much of an issue, I didn’t know any other skateparks so I didn’t know there were smoother nicer parks that were about. But not many people went to The Bumps.
How long ago did you start skating?
It’s been eight years, and I’ve been living in the Kingsmead Estate 13 years.
So even before you skated you’d see the skatepark?
Yeah because right opposite there’s the adventure playground, and I’d go there loads as a kid, and see people skating the skatepark.
Is that something that got you into skating?
To be honest it was my friends who were my age who go me into it. I grew up skating with people in the Kingsmead, there was probably five of us that started skating, then over time they just kinda fizzled out ’til it was just me..
Ha ha I know that story. So if The Bumps had been revamped when you started, do you think that would have changed the local skate scene?
Ah yeah definitely, it would have helped us improve, more locals would have been interested in skating, we could have had a bit more of a local skate community you know what I mean?
I used to see you when you were a kid, all the time skating at that DIY skatepark in Hackney Wick…
Frontside Gardens! That was the place!
That’s the one. So how come you skated Frontside Gardens all the time?
All my friends skated Frontside, it was nice place to skate and learn. And then Andy [Willis] the guy who ran the place was so safe. Honestly if we can get in touch with Andy, he’d be more than happy to help out with The Bumps. To all us growing up he was like.. you know the older skater bringing everyone up. We’d come there and just be loud annoying kids and he taught us the right way about skateboarding, to skate and be chill, to be cool with people. Ahh it’s been such a long time.
I know, four or five years Frontside has been gone now, and there just aren’t many skateparks in Hackney, you’ve got Victoria Park…
That’s actually Tower Hamlets.
Oh yea, well then just Clisshold Park.
Recently there’s that DIY skatepark underneath the bridge, you been there?
Yeah but that’s there’s a huge chunk of concrete at the bottom of all the ramps.
I know, we were talking about it the other day, they’ve built so much stuff but it’s only really any good for BMXers. From first glance you’re like oh that’s a sick skatepark, but you go over to it and realise you can’t really skate it.
You’re one of the only people I’ve seen skate Hackney Bumps who can really launch off the big bump… What’s the secret to getting the speed?
Oooh ha ha… You just gotta run, jump on, and pump the shit outta that little bump before you hit the big bump. I dunno, It’s rough, but it’s a fun park, growing up in Hackney a lot of the street spots were rough, you can’t really get away from it so I got used to it.
So what do you think needs doing to sort out The Bumps skatepark?
Well the surface needs to be smooth, that’s the main thing that stops people from coming very much. But there’s so much potential, maybe some DIY ramps and obstacles, there’s a lot of space. If it was smooth and had something to keep the flow going, that would be perfect, now it’s just barriers stopping you at the edges.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Yeah, I know so many people who really want to see Hackney Bumps revamped, I feel like we’ve got a lot of support, and we’re at a place where we need proper funding. For ages, literally, it’s been overlooked. Polish it and it’ll be amazing. It’ll be banging. We gotta make it happen G!
Ha ha nice one Kyle!