Interview – Rom Boys: Forty Years of Rad

Rom Boys: 40 Years of Rad will be screened at the opening night of The Romford Film Festival on 24th June and is available on digital download here: 

DIRECTOR Matt Harris & PHOTOGRAPHER ‘Monkeyglove Matt’

Q&A Matt Harris – Director

How did the documentary come about?
Around six years ago I was looking for a place to take my daughter on her scooter one sunny summer afternoon when I remembered Rom from my childhood and wondered if it was still open. On arriving I noticed the place was full of older guys in their forties and fifties and very few kids.  On talking to them I realised they were all great characters and then someone said the park was heritage listed. I did a bit of research, was advised to speak with Professor Iain Borden from UCL (University City of London), who is the world’s leading historian on skateparks and skateboarding, and the rest as they say is history.

What were your biggest challenges?
Finding the story. I was shooting and interviewing people for around three years not really knowing what the narrative was going to be, then the fire happened and everything kind of fell into place in terms of a structure; you know a proper beginning, middle and end.

Why is the story important?
Rom is the only ‘proper’ skatepark in the world that has a heritage listing. Think about that, it’s in the UK, NOT California, widely considered the birthplace of skateboarding. That’s pretty incredible if you think about it. As such English Heritage recognises its importance (it has recently been placed on the “Heritage at Risk” register) and so this story goes some way to telling people that heritage isn’t just about castles and cathedrals, it can also be about community spaces that hold a wide appeal to a certain sub-culture that people may be unfamiliar with.

What did you like most about making the documentary?
Meeting and making friends throughout the whole process. Spencer was the first person who spoke to me at Rom when I first visited with Emma and we’re now both directors of the CIC trying to get Rom back on its feet, also I go for breakfast most Sunday’s now with Dion. Getting to interview Lance Mountain in LA with Adam Wittaker was a real highlight – and of course not forgetting The London Police, where Chaz came to the premiere in Paris on what ended up being a very crazy night!

Q&A ‘Monkeyglove Matt’ – Photographer

When did you start skating and what does skating mean to you?
’86. Had breaks over the years but started back up in 1999 and have not stopped since. No plans to stop. 49 this year. Skating to me is escapism a freedom that you just can’t buy.

When and why was the park built?
Summer of ’78. It was the boom of skateboarding introduced to the UK from the USA.

What is special about its architecture?
The architecture is unique and considering how long ago it was built it still provides a challenge to riders today. Adrian Rolt from G-force (designed the park), a skatepark design company, who were the market leaders in the late seventies. It’s challenging because its rough, steep and deep.

Why is the park important socially & culturally?
It’s important in lots of ways as a cultural home of skateboarding & BMX. So many people have walked through that door over the years. Friendships have been built here that last a lifetime. The way it has taught people to ride and they have taken that onto other terrain. It stays with you and even if you have never been if you watch the movie you will get the feeling that you should go one day. It does draw you in.

Why would people object to the park or why aren’t there more?
People would object if they thought it would be better suited as a supermarket or a large multi-storey car park I guess but that’s missing the point, it’s not about the money. There are lots of parks now and they are free which has impacted the likes of Rom.

Who uses the park and what is its legacy?
There are some regulars and you get new people finding the place all the time. For skateboarding it’s never been as popular as it is right now a lot of that is down to the Olympics and it’s also seen as a bit cooler these days. Let’s hope it’s here for at least another 40 years for people to come and ride.

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