Some things are only cool for a short period of time. The band Saxon, for example. They were cool in 1981. Then suddenly they weren’t cool at all! Unlike Saxon, skateboarding started cool and remained cool. Which is strange because on paper skateboarding and Saxon have a lot in common (anti-authoritarian ethos, mainly male following etc).
The sport’s enduring credibility explains why Somerset House is dedicating a whole exhibition to its impact on British culture. No Comply (which will be free to check out) focuses on the subculture’s huge influence in the UK, featuring photography, film, fashion, design and archive objects, as well as fantastic stories from the skateboarding community.
Contributors to this truly righteous-sounding exhibition include (deep breath) the Brixton’s Baddest skate shop, scene photographers Reece Leung, Wig Worland, Lee Sharp and Jenna Selby, the architectural historian Iain Borden, someone called ‘Louis Vuitton’, pro skater Lucy Adams, cinematographer Winston Whitter and loads more besides.
The bit focusing on ‘DIY culture’ sounds particularly good. ‘No Comply’ will have a whole chunk looking at the significance of print culture (that old thing!) in helping define the UK’s skate scene. Early issues of trend-setting titles like Alpine Sports, Read and Destroy and Skateboard! will be available to flick through. There will also be newer publications that ‘embody the creative and rebellious spirit of skateboarding’, like Confusion Magazine, Over Ply Wood and of course my personal favourite, Dogpiss.
Great stuff. Hopefully at some point soon Saxon will inexplicably come back into fashion and Somerset House will be forced to dedicate its entire East Wing to a retrospective about British heavy metal in the 1980s. Until then, this exciting and dynamic, in-depth examination of British skateboard culture will have to suffice.
‘No Comply: Skate Culture and Community’ runs Jul 19-Sep 19 in Somerset House's East Wing. Free.
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