Dulwich DIY skateboarders jam

VIDEO: Grove DIY skateboarders ramp up charity effort and fight to save ‘vital’ Dulwich park

Rachel Steinberg
19 August 2020

Dulwich skateboarders rolled in more than £1,200 for charity through a fundraising campaign and jam originally intended as a final farewell to their beloved DIY venue.

A petition to save the skate park, which was formed in the car park of the former Grove Tavern during lockdown, has garnered more than 2,900 signatures.

Organisers said the community still faces an uncertain future, but they wanted to use their newfound spotlight to make a difference.

Alex was one of the first people to start skateboarding at the site, which has sat disused since the pub closed following a 2012 fire.

The 28-year-old, who has become a de-facto spokesperson for the Grove DIY, said: “If we are having more attention to us let’s flip that. Let’s get every single bit of attention we can get and let’s spin it to help.

“We know there are way more important things going on on the planet than our little skate spot.

“We thought, why not [raise money]? It’s so easy to do if you just put a bit of effort into it. It’s just about being positive.”

So last Saturday’s goodbye jam – an event where skaters of all ages could win prizes based on skill or sheer determination – quickly transformed into a philanthropic rally supported by brands including Vans and Red Bull.

Dulwich skateboarders charity jam
SIGNED: Over 2900 people have supported the petition.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, Impact Lebanon and the Ben Raemers foundation, a mental health charity formed in honour of the late British professional skateboarder.

The car park sits on land that is owned by the Dulwich Estate and leased to the Stonegate Pub Company. The skateboarders are hoping to work with them – and the ward’s councillors – to remain in the space until it is re-developed.

Alex said: “Ultimately it’s [the estate’s] land, they can do what they want with it, but we’re just trying to put together an alternative image, just for the time being if nothing else.

“We know it’s transient. We know it’s not going to last forever.”

HAPPY PLACE: Skateboarders say the park is vital to the community.

He said the group received an email from a Dulwich Estate representative in late July asking them to stop using the site.

But Alex was feeling cautiously optimistic after Dulwich Wood councillor Andy Simmons offered on Sunday to meet with the group.  

They are in the process of arranging an appointment.

A Dulwich Estate spokesperson said: “Although we are supportive of community projects, the current use of the land as a skate park does not have the permission of the leaseholder. 

“We understand a conversation about this site is ongoing between Stonegate and local councillors. We hope it can produce a positive outcome for the temporary skate park.

“However in the longer term the land will be redeveloped. Discussions for mixed use development are also ongoing.”

The Grove DIY was formed in March by a small group of friends who cleared the car park of rubbish before building obstacles and ramps.

It’s since ballooned through word-of-mouth into a welcoming community of over 30 skateboarders from all backgrounds and skill levels.

Notices around the park remind skaters of what Alex said were universally agreed-upon guidelines including no drug use, keeping the site litter-free and sticking to a self-imposed 8pm curfew to avoid conflict with neighbours.

Comments about the project from residents on the East Dulwich Forum were overwhelmingly positive.

One person said: “These lads cleaned up a derelict wasteland and turned it into something positive. There’s some good community spirit at The Grove DIY.

“It’s a good thing. [It] will be a shame to have it destroyed only to turn back into a wasteland.”

Alex hoped to galvanise residents’ support into a longer-term future for the Grove.

He said: “This is a special place, I think, considering we’ve built it from nothing. In an ideal world it will continue and we can keep raising money for charity.”

South West Londoner contacted the Stonegate Pub Company and the Dulwich Wood councillors for comment on this story but did not receive a reply.

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