Skatepark gets heritage status

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Published: Wednesday 29th October 2014 by The News Editor

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A skatepark dating back to the sport’s 1970s peak has become a protected heritage site in recognition of its cultural importance.

With its half-pipe, moguls and special skating pool, the Rom skatepark in Hornchurch, east London, is a far cry from the majority of listed buildings.

But as it became the first facility of its kind in Europe and only the second in the world to achieve listed status, heritage bosses said the elaborate 1978 concrete construction was an important example of youth culture in the UK.

It has been granted Grade II status, meaning it is nationally important and of special interest, by the Department for Culture Media and Sport on the advice of English Heritage.

Heritage Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The Rom was built in the late seventies for the very first skateboarders and is as popular now as it was then.

“Its listing at Grade II is testament to its design and also highlights how the UK’s unique heritage reflects all parts of our culture and history.

“I hope the protection provided by this listing ensures the pool, moguls and snake run can be enjoyed for years to come.”

Built and designed by Adrian Rolt and G-Force, the leading skatepark designers of the period, the Rom follows the Bro Bowl in Tampa, Florida, in achieving listed status.

The Tampa park was added to the USA’s National Register of Historic Places in October last year.

Roger Bowdler, designation director at English Heritage, said: “Skateboarding is more than a sport: it has become a world-wide cult.

“The Rom is the finest example in England to this aspect of youth culture, and we are delighted its special interest will be protected for future generations through listing.

“It gives the whole idea of heritage an extra twist.”

The Rom, which occupies 8,000 square metres, features a series of bowls and hollows and was among a rash of skateparks built as a skateboarding craze swept Britain in the 1970s.

Many were later demolished as the sport’s popularity declined.

It is a rare survivor and has become one of the most influential sites in British skateboarding culture, English Heritage said.

Made from seamless pressurised concrete, it is closely based on Californian skateparks.

These were themselves inspired by the urban spaces – including oval and kidney-shaped swimming pools belong to the Los Angeles elite – colonised by pioneer skaters.

The listing coincides with the publication of English Heritage’s Played in London – a book charting the spaces, buildings and sports that have shaped London’s cultural and urban landscape for over two millennia.

Author Simon Inglis said: “When most of us think of sporting heritage we conjure up images of Victorian cricket pavilions, of old football shirts or of Edwardian swimming baths.

“But skateboarding has now been part of the nation’s recreational life for over 35 years, since it arrived in Britain from California at the height of the 1970s. Some of the pioneers are now grandparents, passing on their skills and enthusiasm to the next generation.

“Lots of people thought that like Chopper bikes and Space Hoppers the fad would soon pass, but as we can see in London alone, where there are at least 75 skateparks currently in use, skateboarding is still as cool as ever, and has received a real boost thanks to the growing number of BMX bikers, who now shares the facilities at most skateparks.”

He added that researchers ” honed in on” the Rom because of the six or seven survivors from the 1970s, it retains more of its original features than any other site.

“I really hope that ‘the Rom’ will now become a place of pilgrimage for young skateboarders wanting to learn more about the sport’s early days, and have a brilliant time while doing so,” Mr Inglis said.

Published: Wednesday 29th October 2014 by The News Editor

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