The Domino’s Urban Riders Games – I get asked a lot why we put on events at the ATBShop Warehouse, when they so obviously fail to make any money?
My reply: ”Sometimes it’s not about the money.” – Cliché?
Stuart and I both own and manage ATBShop and ATBShop Skate Warehouse. We haven’t any biological children but owning a unique business like ATB’ makes us feel like we do. A lot of things happen at the warehouse for the kids where parents comment, “You’ll never be a millionaires”. But in a way we feel richer in our lives for these gestures. I know it’s cheesy, and a little bit of sick has probably just come up in your mouth reading this, but we’ve always been like it.
I met a group of youths – or as I like to call them “Lost boys” who were living in a hedge. Yes, you just read that correctly a hedge. It was only last year (2015) that I some how discovered that these three youths were living in a hedge by the side of a busy Swindon Road. Bruce Street Bridges seemed to be the “Bain” of every Swindon driver’s life as the road works destroyed Swindon’s transport network, but to these three young people Bruce Street Bridges was home. They had zero money, no parents or family to fall back on, just a tent and some extreme sports equipment. One was a skater, one was a scooter rider and the other a BMX rider. It’s important to know these are not bad kids, just people who have found themselves in a bad situation.
It was so cold when I discovered them. When I say cold, I actually mean freezing; One day the temp’ fell below zero. They felt failed and betrayed by everyone and were barley keeping a job down between them. Huddled round an open fire made from pallets from the industrial estate they told me, the local council had offered little help. It was hard for the council, as Swindon has a severe homeless problem and housing was and is still short. Being young fit males made them nearly invisible on the long list of emergency housing for Swindon.
The youngest who wasn’t even 18 would have been chucked into some youth housing, but his loyalty to his other new found brothers made him want to stay living in the third would country conditions that was a Swindon ditch. I kid you not, their home looked worst than a Syrian refugee camp. At least at a refugee camp they would have had members of the red cross piecing back their life back together, not a crazy woman from ATBShop and a few kind people from Street Games – An organisation set up to help underprivileged youths in sport. We were far from qualified for this role.
These three lads 12 months on with a little help have a new life but the bottom line was that the “Oasis Skate Park” became a sanctuary to them and their friends when they all had nothing to do and no where to go.
For people not familiar with Swindon’s terrible but iconic landmark – “The Oasis Skate Park” is a metal skate park in dilapidation, built at the back of Swindon’s famous “Oasis Sports Centre”. Sadly this haven where no one judges your back ground – just your tricks and riding style is set to be taken away from these youths and other fellow riders in a recent set of plans from developers. The new owners of the site plan to replace the skate park with a grassy seating area.
For some of you wondering why we would ever want to save such a rubbish part of Swindon, then I ask you where will these young people go? Its more than just a hang out, it’s a second home and a place to exercise and socialise without bothering anyone but fellow riders. When these kids had nothing, the skate park offered them everything. It’s been this way for 30 years.
Stuart and I with a massive team including our generous sponsor Domino’s Swindon, put on a huge event annually to show case this “urban raw talent” that has evolved from such free spaces as the Oasis. This event is about showing Swindon what these spaces can achieve and whose life’s they will be effecting if they are removed.
They funny thing is when I started the Change.org campaign to protect this site for further generation, most were happy to sign but there were some very ill educated people who said level it who were in fact riders themselves. I hope they read this and see why I, and so many others feel so passionate about this site.
Financially the Oasis skate park is competition for ATBShop Skate Warehouse but for me personally it’s so much more.
Friday the 8th of April 2016 marks the second years of the Urban Rider Games or as it’s now known now – The Domino’s Urban Rider Games.
As they say “Actions Speak Loader Than Words.” And yes they do. This Friday we shall show Swindon there is a need to keep these places alive and funded, that there is a particular need to keep this space active for all to enjoy, rich or poor.
Without this space those kids wouldn’t have the friends they have and wouldn’t have found their new way to a better life. Two will be competing this Friday in the Games and we wish them the best of lucky.
Lets just hope the council wake up and save this special space and improve it for future generations.