A few weeks ago I saw a sign on a tree as I skated back from Nursery about a young lad called Jem who’d lost his board. I took a pic and put it on instagram and facebook to see if anyone had seen his board.
As I continued to skate home I thought ‘I’ve probably got enough old bits to make him a skateboard and drop it round’. But by the time I got home and started asking my neighbour and fellow skate dad Rich if he had a board as I had the wheels, a friend of mine Finbar had seen the post and had already taken it upon himself to build Jem a new skateboard and drop it off himself out of the kindness of his ❤..
Safe to say Jem and his folks were stoked and Jem’s mum took it upon herself to write this lovely thankyou note and put if up near to the DIY skatepark that sits under Bristol’s M32 motorway.
Jem’s mum’s thankyou letter is such a lovely response from that I’ve had a load of skateboarder’s welling up on my instagram feed all morning.
I just want to briefly explain why I felt this was important to post. A lot of the time skateboarder’s get a fairly negative press. Take for example the recent escapade of Bristol’s newly developed city centre. Bristol City council inadvertently revamped the city centre into an ideal skate plaza. With heaps of open smooth space and all manner of ledges and gaps to skate. The place then became a hit and the local skateboarders started to use the space to a rather mixed response from the public. We got accused of being no good vandals, unpatriotic and disrespectful, reported to be skating the war memorial when nobody actually did. Some ridiculous comments from an online article saying how we’d better watch out or the local hardnut is gonna take a swing at us when he sees us (hmm patriotism rules right?). Then the City council spent over £20,000 of Bristol taxpayer’s money installing skatestoppers (or defensive architecture). Which are small pieces of metal notched in every few feet. All this while completely disregarding what was a unique use and sharing of a public space. There were even groups of 10-15 yr old skaters taking the time to read the plaques on the war memorials (not skate them) and replacing the bouquets of roses when the wind blew them off. I appreciate that it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but people still skate there all the time and it now seems to be a characteristic of the location, along with dancers, cyclists and whoever else wants to use it.
Take Finbar who brought Jem his new board, he probably never would be who he is without skateboarding. He’s in his early twenties, enjoying life in Bristol as a skateboarder and a sign writer. He’s already appeared in a Vice documentary film I made, talking in an extremely intelligent and thought provoking way about mental health, which given the film’s been watched over 3 million times has undoubtedly contributed to helping untold amounts of people (if you read the comments). You can catch him skating around town often with a beer in towe and I’m sure some narrow minded folk would write him off as some nuisance skateboarder. Little do they know what happiness he brought to a little boy and his mum.
I took a photo of Jem’s little sign on the tree that day on the way home from Nursery because it struck me that he already loved riding his skateboard so much that he was devastated that it had gone. Skateboarding has given me so much and I recognised that little Jem could maybe have skateboarding in his life too as he grows up, hopefully it will bring him a whole heap of friends and happiness too.
I just feel that this lovely exchange should be shared far and wide especially after the negative press we’ve had in our home city of Bristol. I’m not sure why it brings a tear to my eye. Probably because there are a lot of insular mindsets and nasty goings on in today’s world which upset people like me. So when something nice happens its a lovely emotional reminder that there is still a lot of beauty left in this world, you just gotta make it.
Hopefully this spreads some of the love that exists in #skateboarding and hopefully Jem will skate for many years to come 😍.