Regenerating Dean Lane Skatepark: LOCALS ONLY

Ella looks ahead to the new area of the revered skatepark opening this year, while having a look back at its history

Built into a hill in the late 70s, Dean Lane Skatepark, or ‘The Deaner’ as the skatepark is lovingly referred to by its regulars, lies atop the pit shaft of The Dean Lane Colliery in Southville which closed in 1906. In the 1820s there were over a dozen mines in Bedminster alone, their proximity making for easy access to the city’s commercial harbour.

This hallowed concrete playground for skaters, built proudly on this slice of Bedminster’s working-class heritage forty years ago, has birthed a grassroots subculture all of its own. Since the park’s creation a community has become firmly grounded in its buffed masonry – visualised by the large ‘LOCALS ONLY’ caution spray-painted across it. It is this tight community who have self-funded a new £12,000 project after decades of mostly DIY modifications: unused parts of Dame Emily Park, where the skate park is situated, are now to be regenerated into a flat practice area for learner skaters.

The last large-scale refurbishment in 1999, when older features were squared off and made conducive with evolving skating style, heralded what those in the know call Dean Lane Hardcore. You may recognise the yellow DLH acronym from its eye-catching insignia which is strewn all over the city. It represents a sprawling crew of ardent skaters bound by their shared passion and locality. Members of the cross-generational group span various creative mediums including streetwear, music, videography and graffiti, all of which are best demonstrated at their annual Dean Lane Hardcore Funday, a celebration of skateboarding and punk music, now in its twenty-first year.

The proposed changes, funded via GoFundMe, look to build an additional section of the park where the derelict (and importantly flat) basketball court sits. These changes will be particularly welcomed as part of Dean Lane Skatepark’s appeal lies in its eroded idiosyncrasies and severe transitions, making it comparably hard to skate. This, paired with an anarchic volume of talented skaters, can make it an intimidating spot for newbies. The funds raised will go towards retarmacking the space and building reinforced skateable blocks, ledges and rails – a sanctuary for skaters of all abilities to warm up and practice.

Thrasher Magazine’s one-off documentary ‘”Nothing Meaner” The Story of Dean Lane Skatepark’ came out last year, immortalising The Deaner even further. I spoke to Dan Higginson, the film’s producer who also set up the campaign which raised funds for the development. “Off of the back of the energy that came from the film it seemed like there must have been a way for the audience to give more than just likes or views,” he said. “I was blown away by the support”. The council are now finalising the designs to be built “realistically next summer, but hopefully in the spring.”

Dean Lane has seen many notable skaters roll through over the years, drawn by its gnarly reputation, most recently Alex Hallford and Jordan Thackery of Team GB. Skateboarding will be included in the Olympics for the very first time in 2024. Planned renovations should be complete in time for any newly inspired learners to practice in a safe environment, allowing The Deaner to continue serving the community which has nurtured it for over 40 years.

Find out more about the regeneration of Dean Lane Skatepark here.

Cover photo by Tom Sparey

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