EDGE LANE BOWL: Benny L brings a relic park back from the dead
I love old concrete parks. Like, I really, really love them. Anything that got built in the boom of skateboarding in the late 70s and made it through the subsequent skatepark destruction when skating fell out of favour should be treasured and celebrated, in my book. I wrote a magazine feature about some lesser known survivors several years ago, which you can check out here.
Anyway, it turns out Ben Lewis is also fond of these kinds of spots, or at least doesn’t want to see his local one go to complete ruin. We saw some evidence of Ben on a mission down at Edge Lane bowl recently so we had to ask him about it. There’s been a pretty incredible transformation… Read on to find out more.
Photos: Ben Lewis & Lee Deebow Sutton
Q&A with Ben Lewis
– What made you want to sort this place out?
In all honesty, I was sat looking at Anfield in the distance before the Champions League final and noticed a big pink flower behind me. I thought if I dig a small channel I could get a nice pic and then just land in all the crap, haha!
It was only when I took a step back and realised how I’d made that rideable I started to see the potential. The kids in the area have fuck all to do and I don’t want my son to grow up with the same, so I just started digging. Before I knew it I had cleaned one small corner and it just kept going each day, small piece by piece as my injuries severely limit what and for how long I can do things at the minute.
– How did it go? How long did it take, who else was involved?
Originally just me. I cleaned out all the bowl area but only into 7 or 8 big piles in about 6 weeks but I couldn’t get it out or do anything else. That’s when Jay Kay and Viv Jenkins happened to see me there and came to have a chat. I’ve known Jay for so many years and he and Viv’s brother Terry Jenkins grew up riding the bowl when it was in its prime in the 80s and wanted to help. Terry managed to do well and got mag covers and all kinds so we both wanted to see it return to glory.
“So many faces, some I hadn’t seen for 20 years, started showing up. It really made me realise how many people were up for this!”
At the same time me and Danny from the @OneMoreTimeCrew were also talking about DIY spots and it ended up being the three of us coming together to try and fix what it had become and work out how to finance and find people willing to help! As it stands we have just patched it and cleaned the entire deck area and that’s been 11 weeks!
– When you started, did you realise how big a project it would be?
Not a clue! Haha, but at the time I wasn’t in a rush until we set a date for the community jam. We really had to go hard to try and get all the major holes and cracks fixed so that it could be ridden/skated/whatever. Having Jay and Viv run the formal aspect of it with the GoFundMe link at the bottom, vans and supplies as well as interviews with local newspapers and their way of pushing the idea. Then that started meeting mine and Danny’s design ideas and implementing them as well as digging out riders from all of the local area and the northwest including @the_hills_crew and so many faces, some I hadn’t seen for 20 years, started showing up. It really made me realise how many people were up for this!
– What was the actual process, what needed to be done?
Aside from digging out 30 years worth of sludge, cans, broken glass, burnt wheelie bins, car parts, axes and mopeds… We had to get all that out, clear the deck, which is huge and resembled a field of sludge, mud, moss and glass, then empty all the holes in the bowl so we could see how much concreting we would actually be working with… That was when we all took a step back and knew we were in for a hard graft, haha.
“Digging out 30 years worth of sludge, cans, broken glass, burnt wheelie bins, car parts, axes and mopeds…”
– How much money was spent on fixing it up? Where did that cash come from?
I think we spent between £400-600 on it before we realised we couldn’t do this by ourselves unless we took our time. When Jay came with the GoFundMe idea it took off so fast with the old school BMXers and skaters who wanted it back too, it just started to snowball and we couldn’t even make mixes quick enough! We had local residents doing one mix, new riders doing another and then us boys doing another just to try and keep up!
– What’s going on with you at the moment? Bed bound? How did you manage to put such a shift in at the bowl?
I do what I can when I can and when I can’t I have to just help out with ideas or I work on the social media aspect of it or film tricks. I am yet to have all visits for a diagnosis but I’ve got severe nerve damage in my left arm and between my T4-T7 vertebrae. Along with a disintegrating kneecap, I need a hearing aid in my left ear, glasses and now missing 4 front teeth, haha! 26 years of throwing yourself down stairs will catch up with you! Oh and just broke 3 ribs since you sent me this when my left leg gave in and I fell into a curb. As far as putting a shift in I may have started cleaning it out but it’s the crews, locals and families that have been putting in heavy shifts to get it done! Everyone should be proud!
“I may have started cleaning it out but it’s the crews, locals and families that have been putting in heavy shifts to get it done”
– Do you know the history of the bowl? How long have you been riding it?
I don’t know much of the history of the bowl apart from what the old school skaters and BMXers tell me. I think it was built around 78/79 and featured a smooth as glass concrete bowl (the one we are now working on) and then four or so more metal literal half pipes with no deck and two or three 12-15 foot quarters just randomly at the bottom of big hills, haha. Was so scary. I first went in 95 I think and was too scared to ride and when I did I’d crash because the place was already falling apart and was like a cheese grater to land on!
– What’s the area like around it? Friendly or sketchy or what?
I would say nothing but friendly. It’s taken a few years from when I was 12 odd and an easy target ya know but all the locals either offer to help nowadays, say how made up they are with what we are doing for the community and how the council let it go to shit! OR give us beers, haha! There is nothing in our area for kids to use apart from a full size concrete football pitch covered in glass, so what else do they have to do to sit and drink and cause shit!
– Now that it’s been cleared up, what do you think the future holds for this place?
We find out in December if the land goes back to the council and if it does that’s when we go in with the petition, Facebook, and Instagram and hopefully we get to keep it and we get to be the ones who continue to repair and rebuild it. If not, we had a great summer! We all learnt how to concrete properly and we are gonna build a DIY somewhere, it would just be a shame to lose the bowl that’s a proper part of Liverpool history for so many!
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