Skate Nottingham tell us about their new exhibition and redefining the urban landscape through skateboarding

Photos: Tom Quigley
Interview: Richard Minkley
Friday 17 May 2024
reading time: min, words

With its knack for redefining how the urban landscape is used, skateboarding has always had its place in counterculture, making it a natural topic for zines over the years. We spoke to Tom Quigley and Chris Lawton of Skate Nottingham, who are putting the city on the map as a skateboarding hub, about creativity, community and making international connections through skateboarding.

Skatenottingham Phototomquigley Leftlion 08 Small Web

You have an exhibition coming up at Backlit Gallery and part of it will showcase some skateboarding zines. How do zines fit into skateboarding culture?

Chris: Skateboarding is a very visual culture and heavily zine based. It's super DIY with the whole spirit of punk and zine making. Because we are each documenting our scene, we can share and connect that internationally. We have friends in Finland, in Tampere. We had Leo Valls, a professional skateboarder from Bordeaux, come to Nottingham a few weeks ago. We're connecting to each other through our visual output which means skaters in Nottingham are suddenly being connected to the whole world of visual arts. So that’s what we're kinda doing and what Tom has been doing for years with his amazing images. We're making Nottingham look damn cool. By connecting that to Nottingham’s wider city identity and then projecting that internationally, people from all over the world come to Nottingham to skate.

So how do you go from people doing tricks on skateboards to having this bigger sense of community?

Chris: Zines have always been really important. Skateboarding has always had your glossy magazines. You've got that podium of, ‘If I'm good at skateboarding, I want that photographer to take a picture of me’, or ‘If I'm good at taking photos, I wanna take photos of that skater and get it in that magazine’. But below that, I can document my hometown scene. When you create a zine, you're not actually aiming to make anyone happy other than your friends.

Tom: When you take up football, I would imagine you don't spend time taking photos of your mates playing football. Whereas with skateboarding, it’s inextricably linked from the beginning. As soon as I picked up a skateboard at fifteen, I picked up a camera. What I did was buy the glossy high street skate mags, especially in the 90's and 00's. You would tear out pages as a kid and plaster your walls with your favourite skate photos. Like, ‘That trick’s amazing, I want that on my wall.’ It leads to people like me and a bunch of others around the country, who shoot photos, film, publish magazines. That's the point of me wanting to document stuff, so that it lasts.

So zines are kind of, filling that gap where glossy magazines used to be?

Chris: So right now there's kids who are probably using pretty archaic technology, photocopying zines, that sort of thing, even though they've got Instagram and TikTok.

Tom: I was gonna say, not as much as you'd like, because there's a weird flux with the Instagram generation who just do stuff digitally and it's a shame when those just go on online. But then there are people who almost combat the digital age by trying to keep print alive.

Skateboarding as a hobby attracts quite creative people; musicians, artists, photographers, filmmakers. There's always going to be creativity bubbling away.

From reading your website, as well as passionate skaters you also sound a bit like politicians, advocating for skaters. Is that how you see yourself too?

Chris Lawton: Some people say that to me as a bit of an insult, sure, but we’re really purposeful about this. Malmö in southern Sweden is the world's most famous skate friendly city and their figurehead Gustav Eden called skateboarding 'identity forming'. Doing this for a few years of your life forever informs your identity. At the time we founded Skate Nottingham, young kids were still getting chucked in police cars for skateboarding. That was deeply wrong. At the same time we saw what Malmö were doing, and they became first and foremost in the city's regeneration. We thought we could do this in Nottingham. We could make the city better for skateboarders, but skateboarding could also make Nottingham better too.

Tom: That’s when we started campaigning for the Tram Line Stop, the skate spot by the Broadmarsh tram lines. Getting kids in and asking them, ‘Well how would you like to skate? How would you design a space? If that dead space by broadmarsh was to become a skate spot, how would you want that to look?’

Chris: That kind of impetus that makes people like Tom create zines is precisely the same impetus that makes a skate organisation like Skate Nottingham bring young people into the urban planning arena. And kinda smash the doors down and say, ‘You guys, when you put on a public consultation, no one under the age of 42 is going to turn up. No one who isn't white is going to turn up, and you're going to come up with the same ideas’. We looked at Malmö - they're as much dirty toerags as we are, but we also have professional experiences which allow us to talk like adults. I've been thrown in the back of a police car. It’s horrible. But I've also worked in various government agencies. We get fed up with how things are being done by formal institutions. We started thinking, well maybe we can do it a bit better.

There's a sense the skating community produced you and what you're doing, not the other way around. What is it in the skating community that produces urban designers and architects and photographers and even skater politicians?

Tom: I guess skateboarding as a hobby attracts quite creative people; musicians, artists, photographers, filmmakers. There's always going to be creativity bubbling away. With what we've been doing for, what seven or eight years, we take inspiration from the cities that are ahead of us, like the Malmös and the Bordeauxs and skaters and people that live there, and put Nottingham on the map.

Is that what comes across in zines do you think? And in your event at the Backlit Gallery?

Chris: Yeah, and it's fun. Fun, happiness, smiling faces. At the end of the day, you can do this yourself - you don’t have to be good at it, you can just do it. Like, ‘This guy did it, he's rubbish at it. Look at that video, it's a shambles, but he's done it.’ It's going into the world and creating stuff and doing stuff together. Making connections with other places, getting people into Nottingham. Zines show young people all of these things, and people that have any kind of barrier that they be together, they can do cool fun stuff, that has meaning.

Catch Skate Nottingham’s exhibition featuring photography, design & illustration at Backlit’s Project Gallery from Friday 31 May - Thursday 6 June. For more information head to

Skatenottingham Phototomquigley Leftlion 12 Richholland Helenalong Leovalls Small Web

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