London has lost more than 100 youth clubs in the last decade, with £35.5million being removed from council youth services budgets since 2011/12, research conducted by London Youth shows.
As a result of this seemingly rapid decline in London’s youth services, many residents feel the city is losing its sense of community, especially for young people.
Amid this decade of cuts, providing young people with a sense of community falls to those willing to give up their time, experience and often money to fill the space left by London’s once-extensive youth clubs.
Everyone On Boards, an east London-based social enterprise designed to inspire and empower young people and families through skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing, is a clear example of this.
Through organising skate lessons, trips and art exhibitions, Everyone On Boards leverages the uniquely social elements of skate culture to inspire young people.
Everyone on Boards founder Agnieszka Aga Wood explained what the organisation does to give young people a space to be just that, young people.
She said: “I set up Everyone on Boards, as a direct response to community need. I’m trying to create safe spaces for the younger generation.
“I’m not creating a new community, but remember I am firstly a woman and secondly a parent and I realised that there is often a lack of community support for the younger generation who want to get into skating.
“With Everyone On Boards, I’m trying to inspire the younger generation into active living and to enjoy life through outdoor activities.
“But at the same time, you are always trying to promote a culture, and specifically the subculture of skating, and a community ethos.”
The initiative arose in 2020 as a direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of space for young people in Waltham Forest to come together, be active and learn.
This coalesced with east London’s ever-growing art scene to create Everyone On Board’s unique approach to making skateboarding more accessible to young people, especially young girls, while providing a safe space for even the most inexperienced to learn.
Wood added: “If you are a mum in East London and you have a young girl who wants to skate, you often don’t know where to start.
“There is no provision for that. Skateboarding, and skate culture, is a grassroots organism and movement.
“And I found that here in Walthamstow there were just private lessons for skateboarding and I thought there are no places anymore for the kids to go, this has to change.
“Everyone complains about teenagers and anti-social behaviour, but they have nowhere to go. There are no youth clubs.”
Everyone On Boards primarily uses skate lessons, trips and talks to make skating more accessible for young people but art also plays a key role in the initiative.
Over the last six months, the group has hosted several art exhibitions designed to highlight the growing influence of skate culture in east London.
One exhibition, Then and Now, held at Lloyds Park, Walthamstow, looks at the past and future of east London’s skate scene, highlighting, through photography, video and skateboard designs, what makes the movement special.
Wood said: “Filming and photography have always been a key part of skate culture. It’s a way of collecting and highlighting the achievement of the community.
“Our exhibitions act as a beginning of a dialogue to show the community what we are creating.”
Myles Bailey, an east London skater, filmmaker and photographer who collaborated with Everyone On Boards on its latest exhibition, explained what makes the skate community special.
He said: “Skating taught me so much about friendship and community and what friendship really is.
“When I started, if I had a rough day at school, I knew someone would be out skating later that day.
“Skaters have this tiny little cohort that is always just theirs.”
Bailey hailed Everyone On Boards’ work for providing a community for young people in a time of lacklustre government support for youth services in London.
The steady progress being made to make east London’s skate scene more accessible and inclusive to young beginner skaters is clear to see.
We visited Lloyds Park skatepark and found skaters in their 50s as well as those picking up a board for the first time.
One mum who had taken her ten-year-old daughter to a free lesson by Everyone On Boards said: “I’ve definitely noticed a change in recent years.
“Things are getting more open for people new to the community and I think that’s amazing.
“On top of that, places like Lloyds Park becoming more accepting helps make up for some of the struggles a lot of families have finding a place for their kids to be kids.”
Featured image provided by Everyone On Boards