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How to enrich your local community: Hackney Bumps
Earlier this year we teamed up with the Hackney Bumps Community Group to release a limited-edition product collaboration to raise money for the regeneration of the historic skatepark.
Hackney Bumps is a shining example of what can be achieved at a grassroots level by a few people and a lot of hard work. This sentiment is at the very heart of the Dickies brand. For nearly 100 years, we’ve stood alongside generations of proud workers, equipping them with tough, durable workwear that has enabled them to shape their community and the world.
We caught up with a few of Hackney Bumps’ key players: Nick Tombs, Daryl Nobbs and Esther Sayers to see how they enriched their local community via grassroots action. Read on to be inspired!
Not heard about the Hackney Bumps Community Group yet? Scroll down to the bottom for a quick summary of all the good work they’ve been doing.
First of all, congratulations on what you’ve achieved so far, it’s very inspiring! Please tell us who you are and a bit about yourself.
Nick Tombs: I live near the bumps, but hadn't heard of it until I moved to the area about 4 years ago and a friend told me it was round the corner. I Work in TV & film lighting with Greg (King) and am learning concrete from Daryl (Nobbs). I skate when I have time around work and Bumps stuff.
Daryl Nobbs: So I’m a skateboarder of about twenty years and I have been involved in skatepark construction for about ten of those years. I helped to set up Betongpark over in Scandinavia some years ago. We are a design and build company working with spaces for skateboarding, and I’m now running the company over here in the UK. I like riding fast and drinking beers with my friends!
Esther Sayers: I am an academic at Goldsmiths, a researcher into arts and learning and a skateboarder - something which is both my absolute passion and a rich area for research into forms of cultural participation and learning.
How did you first become involved in the Hackney Bumps regeneration project?
NT: Me and Greg were sat at the Bumps nearly two years ago saying someone should really sort this out, he said 'I guess it'll have to be us then' that was how it started. I remember that I was weirdly 100% sure right then that we would do it, even though we had never really worked with concrete, let alone renovated a skatepark. We set up the Instagram, started reaching out to people who followed us, talking to locals and it started really moving from there.
DN: When life led me back to the UK a couple of years by total chance I ended up in sunny Homerton (right around the corner from the bumps – in London terms). Like so many others I actually had no idea the bumps even existed, despite having spent years skating all over London prior to moving abroad. By chance, I stumbled across the place on t’internet when Greg and Nick first set up the Instagram page trying to get the place fixed up. I hadn’t met either of them before, or indeed most of the wonderful people who have come together to make this happen. By a weird stroke of fate Nick and a bunch of the now homies had actually taken a road trip all over Norway a little while before and skated a ton of Betongpark parks, which was kind of a trip. To be honest, a lot of the project has felt like that, as if it was written in the stars. It really did take the most perfect storm of peculiar world events and the exact right people in the right place at the right time to make this happen. If Nick and Greg and ALL of the amazing who have become people involved in the project hadn’t been so damn motivated to attempt the impossible if society didn’t grind to a halt like never before due to a global pandemic, and if Nick hadn’t been one of only about ten people in the UK who had ridden our skateparks in a land far far away… Well if nothing else they probably wouldn’t have blindly trusted me to drop a ton of cash and drive concrete trucks into a public park in the middle of London haha.
ES: I live close by, I have three kids (15, 13, 11) and we all learned to skate at the same time. The bumps is a perfect place to learn to push around and practice kickturns so a couple of years ago when I was first learning I skated the bumps every dry day. Usually, on my own and sometimes with my kids. You rarely saw anyone else down there back then.
What motivated you to become involved in a grassroots project like Hackney Bumps?
NT: We would go to the skatepark, which is Hackney Council's responsibility, and see how few people used it, how fewer skaters had even heard of it, how bad condition it was in, how dangerous the surface was for people that did use it and we saw that it wouldn't be too many more winters before it got so knackered that it would probably be torn down and replaced by whatever the Council decided to spend loads of taxpayer money on to replace it. So that was what motivated us to start doing the work ourselves.
DN: I don’t understand the question, haha. I’m a firm believer in not sitting around waiting for things to happen. If you want something amazing to happen in your community get up off your ass and make it happen, that’s the same for anything in life. For me, my skills are the technical knowledge and experience, so that’s what I brought to the table. But that is such a tiny part of the beast. What makes these things possible, and Hackney bumps so successfully is everyone coming together with what they have. Their different skills, their time, and also their hard-earned cash! We have such a huge demographic of incredible people all doing their bit and playing their roles to the max. We share, we learn, and we grow. DIY’ers across the world are a socialist revolution!
ES: I’d often be down there skating and thinking how it needed renovating. The surface was hard work and really gnarly if you fell, it would grate your skin. There was often a pool of water caused by leaves and blocked drains and my skate session would always begin by going round picking up broken glass and other debris. It needed some TLC but I knew as a full-time worker and mother of three I didn’t have the time to mobilise a renovation fundraiser. Then I met Nick and Greg and they were doing it, building a fire under it and that was perfect. I had time to contribute but not to lead and I wanted to as a local, as a parent, as a researcher into cultural participation – just as a decent human. The work needed to be done and I wanted to help.
What would you say is the most rewarding part of being involved in the Hackney Bumps?
NT: There have been so many amazing things that have come out of the Bumps project! I feel totally blessed to have been a part of it all and I can't imagine what life would have been like the last few years without it. Seeing the Bumps come alive again, being used more and more and the community that has grown down there has been the most rewarding thing. I've met so many ace people doing this it's unreal and have a group of close friends now that I would never have met if it wasn't for skating and Hackney Bumps.
I've also been overwhelmed at times by the level of support we've been shown by so many people within the skateboarding community, the local community, who run skate businesses or social enterprises, artists, designers, builders, all the homies who have actually turned up and got shit done and everyone who has given money to the cause along the way. It's meant so much to me that people are so into this thing! Seeing how many people turned up to the screening to watch the documentary also blew me away.
Jordan Thackeray's crazy bs disaster on the fence after we just made our first quarter was ridiculously sick.
DN: The people and the energy, without a doubt. Of course the physical landscape has changed so much – to be frank, it was a dump down there before – but the resulting effect of that change is what really resonates. A community has grown out of that place, a new, unique, diverse and wonderful community. It couldn’t feel further from just another London skatepark. Again I think it goes back to that perfect storm – Hackney bumps was just what so many people needed in such a difficult time. When the world shut down, and life just seemed nothing but doom and gloom, this crazy weird little flower started to blossom in a forgotten about little park between a couple of estates in east London. As the park got gradually smoother, and new builds kept popping up, more and more amazing people would be there to see what’s up and lend a hand. I have met so many incredible people through that place and made so many genuine friendships, can’t help but feel blessed!
ES: The vibe of togetherness, the Bumps crew have become like family. We have taken care of each other through lockdown. We’ve struggled together against the council we have shared the elation of achievement. But mostly we have revitalised this place so that hundreds and hundreds more people are coming down to enjoy it. The absolute best part for me is seeing local families and the skateboard community enjoying the bumps together.
What are the main challenges you’ve encountered and how did you overcome them?
NT: Our biggest challenge has definitely been dealing with Hackney Council.
DN: The park is about 1200m2 and it was polished by two little 4 inch grinders!? 3 times over! That is an INSANE amount of man-hours, hundreds upon hundreds. I cannot possibly ever give enough props to all the people who spent back-breaking days working on that. I’d also like to note here that I personally only polished about 2m2 of that when we tested the technique out. It’s embarrassing. I have literally removed more concrete for new builds than what I have polished haha. It’s all a challenge, and that’s the fun.
ES: There are two main challenges for me. One is time as I don’t have enough of it to help as much as I’d like. I’d love to be here grinding concrete and building the ramps.
Another problem has been the Hackney Council who have proved to be difficult to work with and not as supportive as we’d hoped. We feel that they are looking at the Borough too broadly, rather than focussing on grass roots projects which have an extremely positive impact on A lot of local people.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking of starting their own grassroots project?
NT: If you've got a good idea for a project it will get support eventually. It might be tough to get it off the ground but if you work hard people will see that you're serious and they will get behind it. Definitely get a big crew of people to help out as well.
DN: Just get out and do it, it’s the best thing you will ever do. Try to be mindful and respectful of your surroundings. Look at the project through other people's eyes, not just selfishly as a skater – that’s one I have to remind myself of sometimes, haha. Most importantly just do it and have fun. Enjoy the process, not just the end result.
ES: Bring the whole community along with you. This is really important because these are shared public spaces. Everyone on wheels has a right to be there. Bringing everyone along means you’ll get more support, people feel it is for them but most importantly it means new spaces have an egalitarian and democratic vibe running through them – that’s the spirit of skateboarding in my view.
What’s next for you?
NT: I'm working on the new Cann Hall park being built by Daryl in Leyton then we're planning to build at the Bumps again in the spring. Hopefully this year we'll get the extension done as well. We have got private funding agreed for it and Hackney Council have seen our plans. Let's see if they want to help us….
DN: We have a bunch of new elements planned within the park, which we can hopefully get to work on in the spring. We also have big plans to try and open out the entire front side of the park into a re-landscaped meeting point. We hope that by reimagining the grotty, worn-out asphalt and fences out front we can create a bunch more terrain to ride, as well as create a really nice fluid area for the whole community to enjoy. Personally, I am about to go and start building the new park in Leytonstone, we have a few more community projects in the pipeline, as well as 1000000 more Betongpark projects!
ES: I am working on City Mill Skate, along with my friend and fellow skateboarder Sam Griffin.
City Mill Skate is a creative consultation to determine the design of skateable obstacles at UCL East on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. Commissioned by UCL Culture, it is inclusive placemaking and active cultural engagement; aimed at involving skateboarders, wheelchair skaters (WMCX), BMX riders and rollerskaters to envision the kinds of architecture that they would like to skate in the future. We’ve asked our research group to make designs for ‘skate dots’, we will use those ideas to build some life-sized objects and we’ll invite people to skate and evaluate them.
Find out more about the Hackney Bumps here:
Hackney Bumps was built in 1986, it’s unusual design is no longer seen in modern skatepark builds. Over the decades it fell into disuse mainly because of its rough surface.
In 2020 Covid-19 struck, leaving Hackney Bumps Community Group founders Nick Tombs and Greg King unable to work. It was at this point that King and Tombs decided that they couldn’t wait indefinitely for council funding. After seeking advice from skatepark designer, Daryl Nobbs, they began polishing the park with two hand grinders putting in five-hour shifts, five days a week. Word quickly spread, and a team of volunteers joined them.
Following the completion of the first round of polishing, Nobbs drew upon his professional park building background to install several DIY skate obstacles.
The Hackney Bumps Community Group has always championed community and inclusiveness since its inception; this has led to a very diverse scene and significant local support. Much of this support was established through the free skate lessons they provide, which have quickly become oversubscribed.
With no governmental support, the project was initially self-funded, they are currently trying to raise £30,000 via crowdfunding to pay for materials and a much needed second and third polish to protect it.
Their website can be found here, and you can donate to their GoFundMe here.
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