Skatepark graffiti is a positive sign

AN £80,000 project to provide a skatepark at Ely s St John s Road has sparked bitter opposition from residents amid claims that the new facility has attracted anti-social behaviour. They claimed their objections to the new park were justified when the ska

AN £80,000 project to provide a skatepark at Ely's St John's Road has sparked bitter opposition from residents amid claims that the new facility has attracted anti-social behaviour. They claimed their objections to the new park were justified when the skatepark was plastered with 'graffiti' recently.

But LESLEY INNES talks to one of the original skatepark campaigners who says the graffiti should be "applauded" as it is the skaters' way of accepting the new skate ramps.

ELY piano teacher Freya Smith hardly fits the image of a typical street skater.

But eight years ago at the age of 17 she campaigned to get the youngsters of Ely their own skate park.

Freya, now 25, was a keen skater and street hockey player and was interviewed on radio giving her support to the project.

Now her 14-year-old brother is using the park in Ely's St John's Road that Freya fought so hard to get.

Most Read

But she is disappointed that some residents seem to be bitterly opposed to the new facility and believe that graffiti on the skate ramps is just sheer vandalism.

"This graffiti should be applauded," said Freya, of Lynn Road. "It means the skate park is successful.

The kids are using it and have taken ownership of it. This is their way of showing that they have accepted it and it has been put in the right place.

"Graffiti is becoming more recognised as an art form and there are world-class graffiti artists. The graffiti on the skate park is very juvenile but it should be left there.

If you give the park to the kids you give it to them to use as they see fit. If they start beating it up with sledgehammers that's a different matter.

"But this graffiti is very positive. It means the project has been successful and it should be seen more as an art form."

At a time when politicians are working to lessen the divide between young and old nationally in an attempt to solve anti-social behaviour problems, Freya believes the reaction from some St John's Road residents is typical of this problem.

She has urged householders to encourage the young skaters, perhaps organising a competition so they can show off their skills.

"Skating and BMX riding channels these kids' energies," she said. "It is really positive. It helps to combat child obesity, gets them out in the fresh air and gives them a positive focus.

"This reaction to the skate park highlights the divide between the youth culture and the adults. Part of the problem is that adults don't understand the young and they see everything as negative in the youth culture.

"My brother is the white track suit, cap-wearing teenager but he is sensible. These kids learn by their mistakes and learn what is not acceptable.

They visit other skate parks, teach each other skills and work out set routines. They make videos of themselves skating to show to their mates."

Freya, who studied music at university before returning to Ely to teach piano at the Octagon Studios, would like to see a skate hockey team launched in the city.

She added: "I wouldn't have missed my skate hockey sessions for anything. They were such fun and I want to give this to my brother and his mates.

"More and more houses and being built in Ely, the area is becoming incredibly urbanised and the youngsters have nowhere to go."


# Graffiti has existed at least since the days of ancient civilisations such as ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.

# French soldiers carved their names on monuments during the Napoleonic campaign of Egypt in the 1790s and there is evidence of

Chinese graffiti on the great wall of China.

# Modern graffiti has its own culture, complete with its own unique style and slang.

# Due to the increasing enforcement of anti-graffiti laws, the writing of modern graffiti is on the decline.