Never more than now have we needed to believe in the importance of community. Whilst political unrest, fear of the unknown and tales of austerity are rolled out constantly in every media format, we need something to cling to. We need hope.
According to psychological studies,the need to belong, refers to a human emotional need to affiliate with and be accepted by members of a group. It is centered on gaining acceptance, attention, and support from members of the group and providing the same in return. All sounds a bit ‘hippie commune’ doesn’t it? Except when you consider the wealth of communities we can belong too.
One community that I have had the pleasure of being affiliated with (albeit loosely) is the skateboard community. Skateboarding attracts the sort of kids who couldn’t relate to team sports, struggled with the mainstream rules that are imposed on them and sometimes just didn’t ‘fit in.’ ‘ Through Mr Bee, I have met some of the most generous souls, Mr Bee being one of them. And this weekend I saw some of this generosity and community building in action down at Sneinton Market in the city.
You might have seen that Mr Bee (aka The Splinter Cell) has been making something this week and you might have also worked out by now what it was. It was delivered to the market place this Saturday afternoon, to Skate Nottingham ,a community organisation. Their mission:
“To campaign for new and improved public skatepark facilities and for the maintenance of existing facilities;
To promote the positive role of skating in Nottingham’s urban development and to increase visits to the city as a skate destination;
To support businesses and creative projects centred around skateboarding and to identify and bid for funding opportunities;
To support skate school and tuition across the area, to help increase capacity to engage young people, parents, and disadvantaged communities.”
Skateboarding is a positive way to engage young people. It’s free from judgement and it gives them direction, it teaches them to take calculated risks and be brave and it demonstrates that with commitment and determination they can achieve. According to Mr Bee, it’s the discovery of the value of happiness over material things, the feeling of pulling off a trick is priceless.
Skate Nottingham are a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) founded and run by lifelong skaters and dedicated to putting skateboarding at the centre of Nottingham’s wider social and cultural development. They rely on funding, which is why little things like the skate ramp that Mr Bee made are so valued. It might not look like much but it took a day and a big pile of materials to build. Skate Nottingham paid for the materials and Mr Bee was more than happy to dedicate his time to support this project.
Once it was in place it gathered interest almost immediately. Often lacking in obstacles to practice their skills on, the skaters of Sneinton Market rolled over eagerly to try it out. It saw plenty of action that afternoon as they attempted to clear it one-by-one in close succession, each young skater eagerly anticipating their turn and celebrating each other’s successes. The ethos of Skate Nottingham is inspire others to skate; alongside a range of projects that try to build on the passions and skills of the Nottingham skate community.
They run free photography workshops for 14-24 year olds, independent skate video nights, and ‘skate & create’ sessions to build movable obstacles, like the ramp, that not only re-vitalise unloved parts of the city, but develop trade, craft and employability skills for the young people involved in each project. Organiser Chris Lawton believes that ‘skateboarding contributes to the life of a city’ and his tireless passion for this project shows. He is seen here filming one of the young skaters performing well on the new ramp, his words of encouragement clearly heard over the trundle of wheels and the clack as they hit the wood.
This particular meet-up was part of the Street Art Block Party organised by Surface Gallery and there was most definitely something going on. Around the lanes there were street artists in full flow and a busy market with independent art, craft, clothing and food and music was provided by a live DJ.
Following recent renovations, Nottingham City Council were awarded a grant from Historic England and raised money via private investors to restore the historical buildings into innovative working spaces that now house some of Nottingham’s best independent creative businesses. Local street artists have provided a bright backdrop to the creative buzz that the new units have brought with them. This is most definitely a community space that the local people have invested in and where people feel like they belong.
As the afternoon came to a close and the ramp was taken to its final resting place at a nearby park, I reflected on the significance of feeling accepted and the effect this has on our well-being. I thought about how the groups that we belong to can buoy us up in periods of uncertainty and personal struggle, and ultimately the power of community.
And as Bee Creative goes from strength to strength another community grows.