St Paul’s – London’s Skateboarding Directory
A Certain Person by Light Asylum, the great fire of London and tourists. What do all these have in common? Well, they’ve all assisted in the orchestration of perhaps London’s most iconic street spot in distinctive ways. The Great Fire of London in 1666 caused the need for the rebuilding of the cathedral. This rebuilding led to the eventual existence of the ten stair outside the front doors of the large kirk and the ledges on the southern side of the cathedral. The “high dome of Paul’s”, as William Blake writes in his poem “Holy Thursday”, can be seen in the background of many clips and videos. This article is one that I hope gives an additional insight into the sprawling skate spot and its history.
St Paul’s is a deceivingly gritty skate spot. The spot is unlike most of London’s in the sense that other spots often don’t effectively catfish their gnarly nature to the same extent. Moreover, St Paul’s is normally teeming with tourists, newly wedded couples who want an everlasting photo with the late 17th century cathedral, City of London police officers and many other characters who are generally seen as an annoyance or hindrance to the craft of skateboarding. These hindering articles give the spot additional character; they make landing a trick on the ledges or stairs there that much more satiating.
St Paul’s is a versatile spot. It encompasses stairs, ledges and a slappy-able curb across the road to make it the arguable “second Mecca” of skateboarding in London (after Southbank of course). The best showcase of this wonderful location is in my (and many of my friends') opinion Jacob Harris’ “Atlantic Drift – St Paul’s”. Reputable mentions for brilliant showcasing of the vast spot that shouldn’t go unrecognised include “Palasonic” (especially Lucien Clarke’s Nollie Flip ender), Nike SB’s “Trust Fall”, UK skaters’ Instagram stories ranging from Korhan Gayle to Helena Long and many more (I’m sure I have missed out loads of great videos and photos but I don’t want to create a ceaseless list). However, I think what makes the “Atlantic Drift” video so compelling is its exclusivity to the spot. The transgressive nature of the video (in the sense that the skaters, most notably Mike Arnold, approach the spot in unique ways) accompanied with Jake’s sublime filming and Tom Knox’s pure talent makes it such a good showcase of not only St Paul’s, but also the mentality of skaters in London. Differing approaches are a necessity when it comes to being a successful skater in the capital. The music in the video (mentioned in the first line) is also banging!
(Right) St Paul's Festival Gardens, the skate spot on the south side of Christopher Wren's Cathedral
St Paul’s slappy and accompanying statue curbs are moderately new revelations. Recently, some clips of the Palace guys skating the statue were released. The talented Conor Charleson and Zach Riley have made more people aware of the capabilities of skating the slappy curb. Jamie Platt’s flat ground clip at St Paul’s was also quite astounding. The thing about St Paul’s is that it’s a spot that appeals to everyone. There is something there for all skaters, beginners to pros, you can’t get bored there. I previously mentioned the gritty nature of the spot, I think that this shapes those who skate there often; the grittiness makes one constantly alert.
To round of this overtly brief summary of St Paul’s as a skate spot, I think it is important to note why I chose this spot to be the first one I write about in this series of articles discussing spots and parks around my city. St Paul’s is the closest thing we have to a plaza in London. I think that it is also an aesthetically pleasing spot, especially in Summer. Its natural beauty (with its well-kept shrubbery and grass) accompanied with the ornate fountain near the curved ledge makes it a fun spot to skate in the Summer months. It is a tranquil “sore thumb” of sorts sticking out at the edge of London’s bustling financial district. The spot also possesses a “chill factor”. Whilst it is a place where one can session whatever they want on the various obstacles at the spot, it is also a place where you can have a few beers and chill. This is what makes St Paul’s such an enjoyable spot. Skating as a craft is all about balance. At the end of a long session it’s good to unwind and St Paul’s definitely allows for this to happen.
Jake Harris' "Atlantic Drift - St Paul's"
Palace Skateboards' classic "Palasonic"
Nike SB's "Trust Fall"