North Berwick can rightly claim many great things for itself, but a cool, cutting-edge place for the youth of today was never among them. Then came the demise of Proquip Sports, successor to Ben Sayers, and the end of over a hundred years of crafting golf equipment in the town. The 1970-era factory on Tantallon Road lay empty while developers scratched their collective heads over what to do with a building so near its sell-by date.
Local developer Zest Capital Management acquired the property and, deciding that the midst of financial uncertainty was not the time for its commercial development, was open to an approach from local third sector entrepreneur Adrian Girling who, having opened a pilot facility for young people at Phantassie in East Linton, was keen to find larger premises for a more ambitious project. A deal was struck and Uprising, the most ambitious youth project East Lothian—let alone North Berwick—has ever seen, was launched.
Despite a wheen of dedication and persistence, Adrian did not find it easy. From sourcing a ton of timber and an acre of plywood to cajoling the local Planning Dept and nervous neighbours into supporting the whole thing, all the problems of breaking fresh ground with fresh ideas could have derailed growing enthusiasm of local young people, musicians and skaters to make the thing work. Just building the skatepark itself took teams of volunteers months to design, build the frames and smooth all the interlocking curves and surfaces. Getting rehearsal studios equipped was a separate headache.
After a year, the place opened on July 23rd, received the seal of approval from the skateboard fraternity within a month and held its first big event this last weekend. Now I would not know how to grind a rail, grab air or even wear a baseball cap backwards but I had a great time for the couple of hours I was up there. Not only were there a pile of young (and not so young) people enjoying themselves but the skill, balance and sheer audacity on display was a show in itself.
Most impressive for me was how they behaved with one another. There were ten-year-olds gaining respect and twenty-year-olds demonstrating it. Because everyone just piles in, collisions and interference may be rare but do happen. Yet everyone was taking it with good humour, snagging errant boards, applauding cool moves by tapping the front truck on the floor as they waited their turn. All that said, the air was electric because everyone seemed to be pushing their own personal envelope of what was possible.
Talking to Alex who runs Route One skate store on Cockburn Street and whose wildly tattooed arms contrast with his quiet voice and friendly manner, Uprising is a real asset to the whole county and not just to North Berwick. Even if it’s not the most accessible place, a facility like this is more than enough to bring skaters from all over, including Edinburgh. I hope he’s right because Uprising seems a godsend for our youth and not one that council or school or church, however well intentioned, could create—a cool place to hang, to get an adrenalin rush and not get grief from some vigilante grandad.