Utilising skateboarding to bring the city centre back to life

Skateboarding is a huge sport, with more than 500,000 participants in England, it has more people active than rounders, squash and triathlon put together. In less than a year it will make its debut at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, propelling it to a whole new status and inspiring a new generation to become involved with this activity.

Sheffield has a long history for being a key location in the UK for skateboarders and has created some of the biggest names in skateboarding over the years. In 2019 there are over 1,000 people actively participating in skateboarding in Sheffield, ranging from ages 4 to 40.

The recent Tilt Jam Event took place at Site Square (opposite Site Gallery) in the cultural industries quarter, to show how underused areas of the city can be utilised by different community groups to bring these areas back to life, by making them accessible for different groups and creating vibrancy in otherwise quiet areas.

Chris Lawton of Nottingham University cited that “A growing body of evidence shows that skateboarding can help attract investment, reclaim public spaces and create resilient communities.”

The event used existing architecture and installed temporary smooth surfaces to make the area usable for skateboarders. Throughout the weekend there was free skateboard lessons for children, skate competitions and was backed by Skateboard GB rider Alex Hallford, who attended the event to show his support for shared public space. Over 300 people attended over the weekend and had the backing from BBC Radio Sheffield, Sheffield Outdoor City and the Sheffield Telegraph.

By marginally improving existing spaces, making them more accessible and engaging with community groups it can create immediate vibrancy and self-policing to a once desolate area of the city.

Michael Barker, an architect, advocates soft-edged spaces such as Site Square “seamlessly integrated into the life of a city” (as opposed to the “hard edges” of traditional skateparks), to help address the loss of the urban common areas. By looking at how we can integrate a range of activities (including skateboarding) into public spaces, we can encourage outdoor fitness for younger people and participation which can build social communities.

The way the public view skateboarding is changing; rather than a hindrance for city we should be looking towards this sport as an asset to develop our centre.


  • Tilt Jam Event was formed through a collaboration between Site Gallery’s City of Ideas project and Skateboard England.
  • The sculptural intervention reinvented the square as a skateable area, intersecting temporary skateable infrastructure with the existing urban space.
  • Photos: Nick J Morfitt & Sam Eckers
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