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Skateboarders 1, Southbank Centre 0? London Mayor Boris Johnson Says Refurbishment Plans Could Be Scuppered

By Christian Rockafeller on Feb 10, 2014 12:08 PM EST

This could be the year that a skateboarding area defeated a major renovation of one of the world's leading arts centers. The story so far...London's Southbank Centre has expended a great deal of time and energy on drawing up plans to renovate their premises with the promise of lots of free arts activities for all. Last month, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson essentially said, "Fine, but you're leaving the skatepark alone." Problem.

Because since the skatepark is directly underneath the SBC and was seemingly a vital part of the renovation plans, that is one huge spanner in the works. The scheme's funding and the success of its planning application will depend on the mayor's say-so. And if the skatepark is included, he won't say so.

The mayor's statement was a surprise to some. The skatepark replaced what used to be informally known as Cardboard City--a gathering place for the city's homeless, often sleeping in cardboard boxes. The whole area has had a lot of work and money put into it since then, and the SBC deserves enormous credit for its innovative contributions in that respect. Yet the skatepark, where it has to be said, one can see some pretty fabulous skateboarding, also seems a bit rough and ready.

By contrast, the SBC plans promised, "free art and culture for two million people each year, including educational opportunities for 150,000 young people, while creating nearly 700 new jobs" (quote from the SBC's press release). They also claim that the skateboarders would have merely been moved 120 meters along the riverside "to a bigger, better space." Their current space would have made way for restaurants which essentially would have largely funded the artistic endeavours (the model used for the Royal Festival refurbishment).

So, what now? The center has declared a three-month period of intensive investigation to see if the scheme can be salvaged. Watch this space.

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TagsSouth Bank Centre, Boris Johnson, Royal Festival Hall

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