A Brief History of Cambridge Skateboarding

When the first lockdown hit, creative projects were few and far between, with access to stories hard to come by. Having spent the first-week playing virtual quizzes with friends and drinking beers in the garden to pass the time, I needed a new project to get stuck into, so I got my old skateboard photos out of the loft that I shot as a teenager growing up in Cambridge. 

The intention was to put together a collection of photos and post them to friends who were also reminiscing about old times. Before doing so I put a call out for any other photos from that era and the response was incredible. Long-time friend Joe Lewis felt an instant connection to the project and it became a collaboration, teaming up and dividing into different eras and generations. We attempted to get our hands on as many photos taken of the Cambridge skate scene over the span of 50 years and the concept for the complete Cambridge Skateboarding book was born. 

As the second lockdown approached, we spent that winter tracking down the photos asking people to go into their lofts to pull out negatives, and for later generations to dust off old hard drives. What was gathered completely blew us away. Unearthing stories we had no idea existed, from a scene we thought we knew inside out. One thread led us to the next, as new characters and locations were revealed. With the help of newspaper archives, we eventually managed to piece together the full history of the scene from its birth in the 70’s right up to today. 

For first-time authors, the entire process was a learning curve. For myself personally, the most enjoyable aspect of the project had a lot of similarities to building a documentary film – following leads and making contact with people from all walks of life and hearing their stories. One thing each conversation had in common was the initial reactions of contributors, starting the conversation bewildered and confused at the idea, and finishing the conversation by saying how much they have enjoyed reminiscing about “the best years of their life.” 

This attitude helped motivate us to pursue the project and, once the research was done, it was all about bringing the book to life in the most visually interesting way. We called an old Cambridge friend and book designing powerhouse, Rory McCartney, who pieced the book together. Without Rory, the finished article would simply not have been possible. 

The launch was held at Hot Numbers cafe on Saturday 16th July. It was a unique moment for Cambridge Skateboarding and had the feel of a school reunion but only with people you really wanted to see. Generations crossing over and exchanging stories with friends reunited, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in 40 years. It was a hugely satisfying occasion that felt like a celebration of a passion project that was years in the making. 

The whole process was ultimately rewarding but also challenging. Writing a book was strangely always one of two life ambitions (alongside a hole in one in golf) so I am pleased to have achieved that goal. But now we are out of lockdown I think I will be sticking to films. 

Sim Higginson – Senior Creative (and unlikely Author)

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