When We Was Rad:
Skateboard History from UK Vintage Magazine

Gavin Hills on skateboarding in Ireland in 1989

Gavin Hills on Norther Ireland in 1989Only the double act of Vernon-and-Gavin could have handled this for us. Gavin seldom got the chance to address his bigger themes head on in R.a.d, though he was always true to them whenever he could sneak them in. There is nobody else I would have trusted to attempt this — certainly not myself. Sheryl Garratt once wrote of how she would struggle to keep Gavin from quoting William Blake in The Face; on this occasion he managed to get Yeats into R.a.D


by Gavin Hills

“The innocent and the beautiful
Have no enemy but time.”


Someone once mentioned that everything in Ireland is a lot greener. I certainly was — me, along with the rolling hills and sheep-clad fields. To travel to Northern Ireland is to travel through history, and history in this case is a nightmare they are all trying to awake from.

I was green: I assumed I was there to cover a forgotten scene and give it the oxygen of publicity, so to speak. However the fact is that the area’s skaters and their spirit force you to add the context to their scene — for they are the first to point out the shit that’s there for any stranger to step in.

“RAD! Painted curbs!” I shouted as Rab’s car took us from Belfast station to Steve Barrow’s welcoming Antrim home. “Yes, there’s plenty of them round here…” was the reply. And indeed there was — naive I was. Northern Ireland is a mecca for painted curbs. Yet here they do not symbolise street skating fun, they, like the painted lamp-posts, walls, the odd tree trunk and occasional sheep, they symbolise territory.

In Northern Ireland estates, areas and towns shout their alliegances loud: in some places the curbs are red, white and blue, in others they are green, white and gold. In case you don’t get the message, flags will fly and graffiti will inform: Catholic/Protestant, IRA/UVF, Republican/Loyalist, Celtic/Rangers. I did not realise sectarianism had such a physical face. Yet ugliness like beauty is only skin deep, and I was later to learn that most rise above this bigoted facade.

On Saturday I rose with a bowl of Crunchy Nut, dragged Jay and Wurzel out of bed and we all bundled in Rab’s car towards (London)Derry. It must be said that the country-side in these parts is the stuff of ballads and purple prose. Cliches easily roll through hill and bog. The other views are there though, like Wild West style towns with Fort Apache where the police station should be, army check-points on quiet roads, red white and blue sheep — that sort of the thing.

We arrived in Derry in one piece and set about finding a rumoured street comp. Eventually we discovered it in a small park on fourth street. I soon realised that Munster this wasn’t — but enthusiasm and good will seemed readily available even if organisation and sanity were in short supply. The competition got under way and Wurzel and I started to judge the all-comers’ antics over a selection of mini brick banks and small slide bars.

Captions: Fundamental streets of Dublin stuff, Ollie grab from Rosie

Behind the windows at the top of the banks they lecture on the theory of molecular motion, while outside they get practical

All the pictures were taken by Vernon Adams, a.k.a Jay Podesta

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