Billy Bragg Is A Knob, Ignore Him And Help Save The Southbank Undercroft

undercroftThe Southbank Undercroft is one of the few remaining authentic spaces left in Central London.  Whilst the rest of the South Bank of the Thames evolved into a combination of over-priced restaurants and boring middle class arts venues, the Southbank Undercroft became colonised by skate boarders, BMX riders and graffiti writers.

The austere concrete landscape became known as the birth place of skate boarding in the UK and has remained a non-commercial and much loved free space that now attracts people from all over the world and is even popular with tourists.  In a city that is increasingly merely a playground for the rich and super-rich, it is one rare example of people managing to hold onto a small space and making it available to everyone.  No-one is charged to use the Southbank Undercroft, no-one makes money from the space, and graffiti, not advertising covers the concrete walls.

And so, predictably, the South Bank Centre, a middle class arts venue, wishes to close the space down and turn it into shops and restaurants.  This is part of a pattern which has taken place across London and began a long time ago on the South Bank.  From Brixton to Borough to Hackney, previously working class areas have faced relentless gentrification as property prices soar and local people are forced out.  The Southbank Undercroft is the last remaining space on the central London part of the river that these bastards haven’t taken from us, and now they want that as well.

The Tarquins and Jemimas who move in, often attracted by the ‘edginess’ of the local area, soon take over and attempt to mould the environment to their own needs.  Well loved local boozers become gastropubs where the previous locals can no longer afford to drink.  Greasy spoons and chip shops turn into latte-slurping hellholes, full of chinless hipsters braying into their smart phones about property prices.

A thin line of gentrification now runs along the length of the South Bank from Greenwich to Waterloo.  Behind the newly-built luxury flats over-looking the Thames lie working class areas like Deptford and Bermondsey, cut off from the river by the expensive new developments.  Probably not more than a few hundred yuppy twats have seized the best piece of South London for themselves whilst behind them the locals are socially cleansed from the city with benefit cuts and rent hikes.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at Waterloo where the rich sip cocktails on the river before catching the latest play or performance at the South Bank Centre.  Of course they pretend that they want everyone to enjoy their new found territory and so self-indulgent arts projects – which they run – serve to assuage their nagging guilt at stealing London from the poor.  After all, the locals, with their funny ways of speaking, dangerous ethnicities and strange customs are quite entertaining, as long as you don’t get too close.

And for the arty do gooders at the South Bank Centre, the skaters in the Undercroft are too close for comfort and are now to be sacrificed in the name of making more money for the liberal arts scene.

One of the people mobilising the toxic alliance of corporate greed and art school wankers against the Undercroft skate-boarders is former socialist Billy Bragg.  For those reading under the age of 35, Bragg used to be a pop star who enjoyed mild success in the 80s and then retired to a mansion to spend more time with his money.  These days his public appearances are confined to acting as a token fake leftie on BBC politics programmes, or spewing out pieces toadying up to the the Queen for the Daily Mail.

Today he’s appeared on The Guardian website to complain about the pesky kids who refuse to do what he tells them to and abandon their campaign to save the Southbank Undercroft.  And predictably for an ego-ridden former pop star, it’s all me, me, me.  Where will the performers for my annual busking charity wankfest rehearse complains Bragg?  What about the poor homeless people we make do the gardening for no pay he whinges, or the entrepreneurs, won’t someone please think of the entrepreneurs.

It’s not Starbucks moving into the space claims Bragg, but pop-up shops, the latest trust fund monstrosities that litter the capital flogging over-priced yuppy tat to the gullible.  Well pop up shops, and just a couple of restaurants, but come on kids, where are the middle classes supposed to eat?

Bragg lives in a Dorset mansion, yet still has the gall to claim that the Skateboarders have “set out to put themselves above everyone else in the South Bank community”.  Perhaps most contemptible of all, he uses the threat of austerity – and what does this millionaire know about  austerity – in an attempt to make the skate boarders feel guilty for fighting for the space that no-one even fucking wanted until someone worked out how some money could be made from it.

The skate boarders can’t just ring up a mate in The Guardian and proceed to trash Billy Bragg in the national press the way he is doing to them.  Instead they have had to resort to the real work of petitions, weekly stalls and online organising to save the space they developed and deserve.  They should have  everyone’s support who wants to live in a city that belongs to all it’s residents, not just chinless tossers like Boris Johnson, or liberal fucking do-gooders like Billy Bragg.

The campaign to save the Southbank Undercroft can be found on twitter @Long_Live_SB and facebook at:

For more ways to help visit the website at:

Please help spread the word about the campaign to save the Southbank Undercroft, even if for no other reason than pissing off Billy Bragg.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

120 responses to “Billy Bragg Is A Knob, Ignore Him And Help Save The Southbank Undercroft

  1. art is just some middle class past time..yes of course it is ”obviously’ the skateboarders in waterloo leave their crapped out broken boards all over the place around there….it doesnt bother me….you can find their boards littered around the bridge sometimes..,,so?…

    why shouldnt the two co exist…

  2. Pity, I always had a lot of time for his politics in the past. Sadly he’s just become another establishment working class hero who wouldn’t recognise genuine culture if it smacked him in the face.

  3. Jumping on a ramp just because you can
    The site was badly designed in the first place.
    And as a working class lad, why the fuck can’t I also want to go to the Haywood or St Giles or any other venue without passing through a shit hole.

    Liberal do-gooders?
    Does that mean you prefer tyrannical do-baddery?
    grow up cupcake.

  4. What Bragg has become is well known.
    Every fucking year the bloke seems to be at the Glastonbury festival, trying to hog the limelight, but even the BBC are sick of his constant appearances, so he doesn’t get on TV any more.
    We folks local to that festival wonder how he manages to get into the site, while we cannot get even a sniff at a ticket. (!)

  5. He was asked for an anti-workfare song. Never even bothered to reply.

    • Of course I didn’t reply. Workfare gets people off of their lazy arses and makes them earn the dole money they recieve. There are plenty of jobs out there if you look. Peace.

      • Can you get me a job Billy? Pretty please? I could be CJ’s vinyl carrier monkey. Will work for min wage, even less if that pleases you..

      • ‘peace’ 🙂

        that was funny, but don’t eh on this thread

      • Billy Bragg troll and Arch bish troll from a few days ago seem very very alike. Let us all pray Billy/arch bish troll sees the errors of your ways and repent in the name of the workfare. Amen.

      • Shame on you Mr Bragg.
        According to the TUC there are over 6M unemployed. Look at the government’s website for yourself and see how many proper jobs there are. It certainly isn’t 6M.
        Get off your privileged arse and return to what you once purported to be.
        These days the ‘bard of Basildon’ should be barred from Basildon.
        Sell out socialists might as well just be honest with themselves and join the tories…

      • This guy isn’t Billy Bragg – just some dickhead trying to cause trouble.

  6. I agree with this article and its sentiments, but Billy Bragg is not a knob. He is wrong on this occasion though.

  7. @chibipaul – sometimes real creativity is a bit messy and untidy, but still real nonetheless and as such, its valuable, Examples of this sort of thing are rare indeed and this is a very special such example. Yes, the place was badly designed, a real 1960’s concrete hell hole to be frank, but generations of kids have found a use for it and they’ve built a vibrant, living community down there. Does raw, unorganised social interaction really offend you that much?

  8. I’m working class and quite enjoy walking along the SouthBank..although I think it has more to do with the landscape, river, buzz etc than the shops and the other stuff I can’t afford. I say, leave the skateboarders in peace..I’ve signed the petition..must say..a good few of the skateboarders I met down there were middle class too..And have you seen the price of those fancy skateboards? As for Billy Bragg..he was ok back in the day..but urgently needs to retire now!

  9. I can see your point on wanting to preserve the skateboarding site and community, something which I also support. However, your attack to Bragg is set on unfair grounds. The whole argument of “what does a mansion owner know about austerity” screams of the age-old communistic blind spite for anyone who’s better off than the average. I agree that the site should be preserved for the skateboarders; I agree that London is becoming a rich-man’s playground. But you need to pick your targets. Bragg is proposing a project that would benefit the community and state school kids. No franchises, no grastropubs, none of any of the plights you deceptively mention in your article.

    He invited you to open a dialogue on the matter, and if you indeed did not attend then you’re just screaming at the wind. Find a way to put your concerns across in an eloquent way, and confront the issue as a civilised human. This “mansion owner” is not a banker, not a politician, not a fat cat developer. He wants to create a project that would add to the community, all according to his proposal. If you have concerns that this is not the case, then present them, and find a middle ground that can satisfy both your needs. Throwing tantrums and screaming NO NO NO will get you nowhere, and will only make you appear as an angry teenager that everyone in the right mind will ignore.

    Best of luck with your campaign, and I hope the existing skating community will be able to coexist with the struggling musicians. The two worlds are much closer than you might think.

    • It’s not my campaign, I just wrote about it. There are plenty of ways Bragg can help young working class musicians without destroying the one last tiny authentic piece of space, which is not managed by overpaid liberals who think it is their job to tell us what art and culture we should have in our city. The restaurants and pop up shops which replace the Undercroft are unlikely to help young working class musicians much, for Bragg to attempt to pit one group of working class kids against another for his own ends is contemptible.

  10. the werkin klarce…lopl and when there are no jobs..

  11. This is off topic but there are similarities after a fashion – – perhaps the UK should be renamed ” Sercoland” a bland, featureless landscape.

    • scarlett Johnson

      I always thought him a knob and his soft SWP politics a easy way out. He does not do himself favours with comments such as displayed in this post, however, only a month ago, he did match the EDL’s rejected funds to Help for Heroes. He is actually a working class lad who did good. Comparing him to a loud mouth mad man, who entice youngsters into prison, whilst he lounges away in pubs…well that is insulting to the rest of us. The loud mouth mad man, by the way, is a privately educated son of a butler…

  12. Reblogged this on THE VENUS ENVY and commented:
    Fuck gentrification and the erasure of the poor from Central London.

  13. what DOES a mansion owner know about austerity

    “One of the big problems for performers on the South Bank is the lack of a decent rehearsal space. I’ve drawn 500+ musicians to my Big Busk rehearsals, yet we’ve been forced to squeeze into the QEH foyer, the space above the undercroft and even in the Royal Festival Hall itself. These spaces are barely practical for buskers – for serious musicians they are simply unworkable.”



    ‘Billy Bragg’s Skate Park & Farmers Market’

  14. what DOES a mansion owner know about austerity

    Is this Bob Roberts or Frank Turner?

  15. Bragg is now the enemy. The millionaire wanker, friend of the well heeled, can fuck right off and take his shit, fakey, Glastonbury-friendly, protest music with him.
    from an old 80’s Brit street skater,
    -skate to destroy
    -skate to create

    • My sons a skater and he loves this. The youth must have somewhere to go where they do not get robbed blind for god sake. Where they can hang out for FREE. What good will the coffee shops and bistros do for them. They can not take the boys skate park, No.

      Yuk! Billy Bragg from the 80’s. Cringe worthy tripe. Hated his stuff, it was rank. Please tell me the man’s not still singing and wingeing his borring ol shit. The man never had it then and I am sure he has not improved.

    • oh dear, you are an embassment to skaters

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  17. is the undercroft where cardboard city used to be ?,if so it should be left as a memorial to those who died and suffered there ,just saying ,:)

  18. Mr. Chewie, you are incorrect in saying the skateboarders won’t enter a dialogue – there has been plenty of this, all after the South Bank Centre had released their plans, not before as is good planning policy. The outcome of this was that the South Bank Centre were effectively put in a position where the onus was on them to re-think. Then they responded by delaying the planning application and trying to persuade concert goers to support their plans, via appeals to subscribers, flyers on seats and apparently engaging supporters who get paid for performing there like Billy Bragg.

    The idea of entering the dialogue suggested by Billy Bragg, dialogue where re-location is the topic of discussion, would be akin to asking a Trade Union to the table to discuss how to word the redundancy letters…

    Johnny, I must take issue with you over the remark you made about going to the South Bank Centre to see a play – the National Theatre is not part of the South Bank Centre and has not gone down the commercial outlets funding path. They are also objecting to the plans, using some very sound arguments, as are English Heritage by the way.

    I don’t do twitter but this almost tempts me –

  19. I couldn’t agree more Johnny, anything that can be sold off will be sold off and sod the locals, money talks. Are they honestly saying there is nowhere else ‘serious musicians’ like himself can rehearse locally? Not one empty office they could use instead? Bragg is a hypocrite of the highest order. Promoting multiculturalism and socialism yet he’s a multi-millionaire living the whitest area in the country (Dorset, not exactly a local is he?). Trying to make the skating kids out to be selfish and greedy for not going along with his big business mates plans. How dare they rebel against us? says the one time rebel. If someone like a Grant Shapps or a Boris type figure wanted to do this it would be transparent as fuck but coz’ it’s good old man of the people Billy Bragg it’s less obvious.

    I Signed the petition and wish them all the best. In the words of Pink Floyd…. Hey wanker, leave them kids alone.

  20. Just a thought Billy but as a local to the Southbank why don’t you pay for buskers to use Alaska St Studios, a five min walk away? I’m sure they could do with the business and it wouldn’t harm your bank balance too much, would it?

  21. Interesting comments to the Guardian article – his intervention has served to draw attention to the skate park issue amongst a lot of people who had never heard of it. It could prove to be a “Ratner” moment, swinging public opinion firmly behind the skaters.

  22. I live minutes away from the south bank. To pretend that the south bank has anything to do with the local community is a friggin lie. There might be one local kid with a temporary stall in the foyer. Perhap’s that is true. I may go and see in a minute. However, rest assured that kid will not keep his stall. Some point soon he will loose his spot his only choice will be to work minimum wage for a cororate fanchise.

    In the rfh there is currently an exhibition celebrating local culture which largely amounts to photos of local ‘characters’ running shops in lower marsh. Of course these shops are all facing closure priced out by the type of corporate franchise that will replace the skateboarders.

    The skateboarders are, contrary to what is said above, mostly working class kids. They do not spend in the franchises. They take up a little space which could squeeze in another couple of restaurants.

    There is an amazing amount of space available in the huge warren that is the sb. For bragg to claim more space is needed for reherasals is just the entitled greed of the privileged. And as reddeviljp points out there are loads of other venues/studios locally for hire if bragg feels he needs more space.

    I applaud the skateboarders for not ‘engaging’. I admire their uncompromising attitidue because they know that any ‘compromise’ is double speak for giving up. These are young people who have totally organised resistance amongst thmselves, opposing a land grab by the privileged arts scene of the south bank. It appears these kids have the sb rattled if they are deploying bragg. These skateboarders deserve our support.

    So bragg has a mansion in dorset does he? Where abouts? Maybe these kids would like to lobby him back.

  23. Reblogged this on Sunderland Echoes and commented:
    Great to see support from outside of the skater community. Well done Johnny Void.

  24. Although I feel the anger of some having their skating area taken away (there are never enough skate parks in this world ESP when I was young) I do feel this article is one sided as much as the other views, I feel that you are attacking people just because they have money, yuppies, art school twats, not really fair statements, unfortunately you fail to realise this city RUNS on the flow of money and what it brings in, 4 Trillion dollars flows through London every day, more than anywhere in the world, more and more people move here and earn more than every year and unfortunately whether you think its fair or not, they will need spaces to live, areas to live and need shops and places to eat, so what if they want nice places? isn’t that the right of someone to demand nice things if they have the money too? And with that means that people will want nicer things in their area, Landlords want more money for property and will always prefer a nicer high class place than a dump or a shithole, however long its been there, instead of attacking people who earn more and want nicer places, have a thought – if you are bringing in more money to an area and want nicer places and shops and property, you will always be given priority over people who don’t as you are putting more money in the Tax pocket and into business’s around that area AND thats what keeps this city going, I feel for the people who will miss this skate park, but unfortunately the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and why this economy is coming out of the worst recession in history, we need more money in this countries pocket to pay for everything, don’t attack people because they have money and are rich as i guaranty you this – If somebody gave everyone a check for £1000000 who lived in a bad area or skated at that park and said “take this and you have to move away or never use this park again” they would skip off into the sunset with not a care in the world, point being don’t attack people because they have money, as you would be the same if you had some….

    • I would like to take issue with your statement, “if somebody gave everyone a check for 1 million who lived in a bad area ……………… they would skip off into the sunset with not a care in the world”.
      Some people cannot be bought no matter what size the cheque and some people who make vast amounts of money, such as the inventor of the Cats eyes in the middle of the road, will not change their lifestyles whatever their wealth.
      Don’t judge everyone by your standards.

    • Undercroft.Pivotal.FestivalWing.

      Is your dad’s latest, ‘Tooth & Nail’, about using all means to get what’s pivotal (both physically and financially) for the Festival Wing project?

  25. Particularly noxious is the way multi-millionaire bragg frames the dispute as a battle between local-poor/homeless versus skateboarders. This is a load of rubbish. It is about the privileged wanting everything for themselves.

    Bragg should be ashamed of himself. I wonder if he has any moments of understanding that he has become the voice of the oppressor.

  26. In my experience, there is a very high proportion of Tarquins wandering around in stupid baggy shorts, long hair and carrying skateboards (less Tamara’s though, you don’t see as many female skateboarders).

    the fact that this place “now attracts people from all over the world” indicates to me that this so-called “authentic space” is in fact a playground for those global bourgeoisie who can afford to travel around the world to visit skateparks.

  27. Always thought Bragg was a bit of a Jack London type: initially radical, but as the dosh started rolling in, ever more pro the capitalist status quo.

    And he’s got a gawd awful voice to boot.

  28. AA
    Maybe I missunderstand but if you are suggesting that the park is used by rich tourists this is not the case. The skateboarders are not tourists. They are not skateboarding while mum and dad are in the theatre. I have spoken with many of them and some have travelled from afar but most are from london. The space itself is entirely theirs. They werent given it. Some skateboarders adopted it long ago when noone else wanted it. Generations of skateboarders have used it. Not by council decree. With no ones blessing. No funding. No permission. It is a space made by skateboarders for skateboarders.

    ps I am old and have never skateboarded in my life.

  29. Talk about getting off topic and escalating fast. I think Billy is well within his rights to say what he said. I’m a skater and to be honest, I’m quite embarrassed that the leaders of the “skateboarders” campaign refused to take part in a meeting to resolve the issue. burying your head in the sand isn’t the way to go. Stop acting like a bunch of petulant kids, grow up and find a solution before it’s too late, because if you dont, you’ll find yourself with nothing to skate, and nobody will listen to your stupid “i want” rants. So sort it.

  30. overburdenddonkey

    wilko johnson’s got it…john martyn..c16..ray charles…john lee hooker..skateboarders have it too, one is born with got or you aint..what is it, rhythm..those that aint got it, watch those who do got cannot be taught…buskers can busk any where…well in theory, unless some jobsworth blocks their pitch…

  31. I appreciate your sentiments on the gentrification of South London which is happening faster and faster for sure but your tone and ideas about what gentrification is are old-fashioned and lack the nuances that can really portray how subtle and messy the gentrifying process is. For sure, the richer folks in the world are coming to a particular set of riverfront apartments but there is also a much more gray area of large construction companies such as Countryside and Barretts putting up tons of blocks in back streets all over that are not luxury flats but are just expensive flats. Those people are a mix of those who can afford the places and are attracted to the supposed lifestyle that is marketed alongside the flats (such as Borough Market) and those who can barely afford them but are struggling to have some of their own to live.

    If you think Bermondsey is solid working class community behind a bulwark of riverfront yuppie flats then you need to go and walk around it one day and see how the gentrification and the levels of wealth of the gentrifiers is very mixed. Try Maltby St or the arches at Druid St. It’s a gross scene of deli’s and bespoke bread etc but the people there are not the stereotypes of yuppies swigging champagne that you hold on to.

    It’s all questionable that the South Bank is as middle class as you want to portray it and in fact such reductionism tends to place a divide between a supposed middle classes who like art and a working class who doesn’t. I’m not sure that is very helpful and also denies much for working class people who are into art in whatever way they choose to be.

    Billy Bragg is a tired and bought man and this article of his makes him even more of a laughing stock. I hope it signals that the South Bank are floundering in their attempts to fightback against the massive support for the skaters and other people who use the Undercroft. It’s as bad the other Radio One DJ knob who the South Bank got to make a poor and spectacular defence of their plans for the Festival wing.

    • @bobby dazz “It’s all questionable that the South Bank is as middle class as you want to portray it and in fact such reductionism tends to place a divide between a supposed middle classes who like art and a working class who doesn’t. I’m not sure that is very helpful and also denies much for working class people who are into art in whatever way they choose to be”

      there is something in what you say there..i dn not understand why ”werking clarss’ should be opposed to artistic endeavours…a lot of artists have come from werkin clarss backgrounds…

  32. I have just found this also for our area, so some money has been spent on entertaining the kids here.

  33. Utterly amazed how many otherwise seemingly intelligent people are putting Bragg’s position down to naivety. He’s an internationally successful, 50 yr old plus, musician/businessman who is quite wealthy. He lives in a big house in the country. He’s an ex-squaddie. Putting all these things together it’s unsurprising he’s taken this position. Here’s your biggest clue: “Since I began working with* the Southbank Centre in 2007 “… Billy Bragg is looking at expanding his career opportunities at his place of employment.. He has no sense of duty or care towards the true community that has been there some 30 yrs BEFORE he took a job there. to claim to speak for the “community” is the height of arrogance… His outlook is money-centred, specifically, money in his pocket-centred… He’s not naive, he’s an astute businessman AND SHOULD RIGHTLY BE VILIFIED FOR USING HIS POSITION AS A MUSICIAN to displace the skaters and line his own pockets. He could easily donate or organise benefits (remember those?) to raise the money to put rehearsal space elsewhere. But no, his BOSSES want the space, so he is being paid by the Guardian to use his influence, like some quisling crap guitar-playing Lord Haw-Haw to get the skaters kicked out… Reprehensible… never liked him, he can’t sing and now people see what he’s really about… Scumbag…. Just sayin’… (*actually, ‘for’. I doubt he has some reciprocal financial agreement with the SBC…He is their employee…)

  34. Interesting debate, all this. I don’t know enough about either cause to pick a side, but I’d just like to point this out:

    In this article you’ve written “Bragg lives in a Dorset mansion, yet still has the gall to claim that the Skateboarders have “set out to put themselves above everyone else in the South Bank community”.”

    However, in the original article Bragg says “I don’t believe that the skateboarders set out to put themselves above everyone else in the South Bank community.”

    The two don’t really match up. Are you quote mining or did you misread the article? Or has he changed it since you wrote yours?

    • actually that’s a fair point, it’s not very clear and could have been expressed better, my fault. But Bragg is clearly saying that the skaters have “put themselves above everyone else in the South Bank community.”, even if they didn’t intend to, it’s a mealy mouthed form of attack in which he attempts to show that he’s the reasonable one.

      • @JohnnyVoid i think the skaters and the art galleries can co exist…i hoped you did not imply that art is just some middle class past time..because it plain isnt…i’m no toff but can appreciate artistic and creative ideas and historical ones too……inspiration can come from many sources..

  35. Here is some of the debate that took place between Long Live Southbank and the SBC, after the planning application but before Billy Bragg took an interest in the issue – it’s fairly long, but please listen to at least the last 15 minutes or so.

    I skate, and also have done a fair bit of busking, sometimes for good causes, but mostly for much-needed cash. Busking is street art – as soon as it gets incorporated into a sponsored programme it becomes something else…

    As for James’ comments about the benefits of gentrification, which planet are you on?

  36. is billy bragg and melvyn bragg related? both are /were connected to the south bank… i think we should be told…

  37. Was at a performance at the SBC recently and quite shocked at the underhand tactic of leaving biased petitions on seats. Spoke to as many in my vicinity as possible about the contrary opinion so at least they had a balanced view. Very, very low tactic from SBC.

  38. Daniel Bradford

    Johhnyvoid you write like a person desperate to one day be successful and acknowledged one day as a genius. You write with spunk and grit and shank and spit, you swear and tear and stare and can’t bear to think that anyone would disagree with you.

    And if you are successful perhaps you will make some money. Will you perhaps aspire to get a nicer place to live, some possessions, a vehicle, all the trappings of middle class that you shout so much about? Even that despicable trogg Jade Goody left her slum to live in a mansion when she got famous, I doubt she had too many second thoughts about leaving squalor behind. Ask people who live below the poverty line if they’d like more money, will many of them say no?

    It’s a fact of life that the centres of huge cities will become more expensive by the foot, as more and more people want to go there, they get more valuable and so the owners cash in, as owners of anything will so. If you owned a potato and someone offered you a load of money for it, you’d probably sell it, right? Well, think of those property deeds as potatoes, the owners are doing what we all would so if we were lucky them. Locals will have to move out as this happens, but this is nothing new, being a local now doesn’t give you rights over everyone else. Who you gonna blame, someone ‘chinless’ no doubt.

    Anyway. I don’t particularly like or dislike Billy Bragg, but I respect his right to his opinion, and his right to own property without having to be held up by you as despicable because of it. The rich have been hated by the want-to-be-rich for eternity, and always will be.

    And I feel sorry for the skateboarders too, but they surely cannot be so surprised. This is life and we must taste the marrow of it.

    I envy your youthful passion, keep it up. You don’t sound more grown up by all the swearing though, actually less so. Anyone can swear: cunt. See?

  39. But he already said he doesn’t want to change the world…..

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  41. Southbank to me has nothing to do with classes. It is a space where anybody can go and blow steam off from the strains of living in such materliastic world and express themselves. It has helped produce some of the worlds best skateboarders and street artist etc. It can never be replaced or relocated in such a busy, captalist city such as london.

  42. Oh and the “local lad who wanted to start his own business but was daunted by the prospect of having to sign a long-term lease for a building.”? Turns out the Nottinghamhire village of Cotgrave is “local”… Bragg you’re a liar a well as a cunt…

  43. good article but to opinionated for my liking… i agree with most of what you say but seems like you’ve invested to many personal views into an article that should have remained less bias and more informative.

  44. he is a knob though isn’t he

  45. I was in the Waterloo area this morning so I thought I’d check out the skate park as I hadn’t been there for a while. I must say it looks fantastic. People who want more room for art should look at what these people have done to the place. The graffiti work is something else, far better artwork than anything in the tate modern IMO and I should know I’ve been called an artist on many an occasion!! Anyhow there was 2 people with a stall out gathering petition signatures. I hope lots of people sign it and any development plan is halted as much for my and the general publics benefit as the skaters.

  46. Sorry…I’ve skimmed the comments a bit…but aren’t the proposals to *move* the space, not get rid of it altogether? So, all the talks of attacks on the skateboarders seem a bit over-dramatic!

  47. I was with you up until you wrote: “Bragg lives in a Dorset mansion, yet still has the gall to claim that the Skateboarders have “set out to put themselves above everyone else in the South Bank community”. In fact what he said was: “I don’t believe that the skateboarders set out to put themselves above everyone else in the South Bank community” Don’t mean to be pedantic, but doesn’t deliberately missing out the ” “I don’t believe that the skateboarders” part change the tone a bit in favour of your argument? It’s all well & good fighting for something you believe in, but deliberately misleading people is unlikely to help your case…
    Dialogue seems more likely to produce results.

    • overburdenddonkey

      how i read that is by adding what is implied… “I don’t believe that the skateboarders set out to put themselves above everyone else in the South Bank community”, but they have…”

      • Fair enough, but if we’re talking implication, surely it’s at best condescending to assume that individuals can’t read statements and make their own informed decisions as to what is or isn’t implied, rather than have something misrepresented.

    • Jim it doesn’t matter Bragg said he doesn’t think…. blah blah blah. He doesn’t give a flying fuck what they think, the might of big business (his mates) is what really matters. Fact is they should fuck off and leave one of the few remaining authentic places in central London alone for the benefit of the majority of people (I don’t know one person who would want it to be developed) who want to keep it that way. I’m no a skater, in fact I hated skating when I was a kid as I was bloody useless at it but that’s not the point. Go down there pal, see what an amazing place it is. Whether the kids are working or middle class I couldn’t give a damn,it’s another ‘fuck them lets make another few quid coz we ain’t rich enough’ scheme. Bollocks to ’em.

    • @jim i am glad you said that beause i didnt..

  48. It’s a great article, and I found the passion of the stance towards artists as being middle-class liberals with trust funds, sipping Starbucks very enticing. Take that hypocritical hipster do’gooders! Soon as I’d clicked off it, I then actually reflected on the fact that the skaters are pretty much presented as an unimpeachable, authentic representation of British street culture. Which isn’t the case at all really. They could just as easily be generalised about in the same terms… oh dear, think of the kids in American sportswear on their wheelyboards!

    Let’s be honest, there’s actually a lot of trust funds and Starbucks in the skateboarding culture. Seeing skateboarding in the romantic terms of Z-Boys’s street rebels ‘doing their own thing, man’ is really not looking at the honest picture in London 2013. And the whole clothing-business culture of skating endorsements is something that’s fostered in this very area. So it’s purity, when held up against the light of some of the, admittedly a little sickly, intentions of some of the incentives that Billy Bragg is discussing, doesn’t really hold up. And lest we forget, this isn’t Mods vs. The Rockers. Those from a distance can’t tell who is who. Some of the very same interest from the hipsters and the artists that resonates in the area is because of, and by, the skaters themselves. It’s not them on one side and the artists on the other in anyone’s eyes but the eyes of the skaters.

    I then went and read the offending Bragg article, which was kind of tepid, and I found myself pretty much ‘I can see both sides of it. But I’m leaning with the fact that it’s fair to leave that area to the skaters, because they had it first’.

    But I absolutely love the passion and the writing in the blog. And the line about ‘won’t someone please think of the entrepreneurs” was AMAZING.

  49. Ha ha, love these choice of words:
    latte-slurping hellholes, full of chinless hipsters braying into their smart phones about property prices.

  50. Alex the mudlark

    Lovely mate. Billy Blaaah was always a knob. We shouldn’t just be saving the skaters’ paradise, we should be responding to the austerity this mealy mouthed no principles tosspot flunky glibly lip-services, by spreading such spaces and taking London back from the bloody booshwahsie… Up n at em, up n at em!

  51. hmmm I’m from just out of waterloo and spent a lot of time living in south London. I miss the place but in a way I’m glad I moved to a part of he north where trendy and right on aren’t even in the dictionary it’s quite refreshing really but then it’s a totally different less pressurised environment. Billy Bragg seems like an alright bloke to be fair but I can understand the frustration of Londoners feelings of being financially and culturally removed from their own ‘community’. We are definitely a nation of snobs and inverted ones that’s for sure but there is a danger that culture becomes something prescribed rather than a true reflection and by product of the people who live and work in places even if that is sometimes drinking and fighting and shagging and raving and drug taking and all the politically incorrect things that many people might disapprove of. Anyway leave the space as it is I reckon.

  52. The southbank worked in 1992 when skaters used to use it. Now it’s just full of performing monkeys with too much vanity. Why would you skate there with all the brilliant facilities in london? The southbank centre are offering to build a brand new facility within 500m which I think will be a vast improvement and pretty generous really. Nobody who remembers the southbank as a place to skate even exists today. We’re all too old… Move on kids

  53. Pingback: You can’t move history. |

  54. Partisan of public space

    It comes as no surprise to those who have read his confused political opinions in recent years that Billy Bragg wants the gentrification of the Undercroft.
    What does come as a surprise is that Bragg’s PR team, his family, his erstwhile ‘comrades’ or even a single friend, couldn’t keep him from making the largest mistake of his career: taking on an organised popular interest by siding with capital against the commons. Why would a ‘leftist’ take on possibly the largest, best organised, subcultural group, over a single issue that so clearly reeks of the demands for capital to colonize public space entirely?

    We can imagine the micro-politics of this, behind the scenes in boardrooms and in heated phone calls in the study, or the games room, or the studio, at Bragg Mansions. The Corporate lapdogs at SBC schemed that Bragg, seen as a ‘decent’ leftist by some because of his pompous blaring out of the ‘internationale’ in a mockney accent was the man for the job. They gambled that: like Hitchens and the invasion of Iraq, Vince Cable and Austerity, or Goebbels and Anti-Semitism, its all a matter of branding.

    The South Bank Centre colonialists, stuck in their bunker in some hostile territory, pinned down by a well organised opposition campaign, had one last line of defence: they could call in an airstrike. 15 STONE of CELEB could be dropped on the heads of the partisans. Perhaps they even had a direct line over to Bragg. Perhaps Bragg was even an old friend of one, perhaps even an old ‘comrades’ from Labour Party days. Just two good, ‘Working Class Lads’ who bonded over their love of ‘culture’ and being poor (and, of course white). Both of them: “Doing alright now aren’t we, mate”? Both mutually understanding now: “That this is how it works *in the real world*” .

    Bragg, was easily won over. We *need* you to do it Bill, the kids they’ll *listen* to you, think of Luke Bill, with the pies Bill. The pies Bill- like the old days. These kids on their rollerboards, they don’t give a flying fish and chips about pies Bill, they couldn’t care a miner’s strike, all these kids do is *skate* on their rollerboards Bill. The Pies Bill.’

    But then… we realised, Billy Bragg is a walking illusion, like Blair, or Hitchens, or Oz. As soon as you realise that Bragg is a charlatan, he ceases to be effective. And so, his noisy announcement that he is a ‘Sellout!’ tm. arrives with klaxons and merchandiseable ‘local lad Luke’, and destroys the very argument that he hopes to put forward. Billy Bragg the charlatan is of no use to the corporate lap-dogs at the SBC, because he is one of them.

    One can only hope that this destroys Braggs career and leads him into an identity crisis of which he will never recover. Perhaps a death by over consumption of ‘Luke’s pies’ would be a fitting end to the tale of Bragg.

  55. Hear, hear…

  56. “Greasy spoons and chip shops turn into latte-slurping hellholes”

    So, one kind of hellhole turns into another kind then?

    And the reason that “Tarquins and Jemimas” move into “working class” areas isn’t that they’re attracted by the “edginess”, it’s because they can’t afford anywhere else. The recession is affecting us all. I agree that gentrification and social cleansing are problems, but a bigger solution is needed than just attacking the individuals looking for affordable housing.

  57. “What does this millionaire know about austerity”

    “What does this white man know about racial and gender equality”

    “What does this poor person know about tax avoidance”

    “What does this student know about University funding”

  58. This is funny. This place was one of my first experiences of meeting so many varied people (skaters) from hugely different backgrounds and vastly different classes of wealth – all hanging out together making friends – having fun and keeping fit with a sport that really is affordable by all, with huge aspirations to succeed in what we do.

    I spent a lot of time here, it was awesome, and way better before they blocked off some of the other areas (best bank to wall ever). I don’t really judge people today based simply on if someone has cash or not, I think that is kind of dumb. Things I think are dumb today are, the Royal Families existence in is current form, the simple existence of the BBC, the education systems careers service, and the fact that the prime minister has to go and talk to the queen – great look lol… Many in the UK have no idea how much those in other countries laugh at these hypocrisies.

  59. Just come across this, yeah I’m late. Amazed at the position Bragg has taken, how the formerly radical has fallen. As someone who has been using the Southbank for decades, and you know, LIVES HERE unlike some (ie. Bragg, he lives in Dorset!) I’ve seen the damage done by people like Bragg. It’s always out with the poor, in with the rich. Fuck the walkers, fuck the public interest, enclose the spaces.

    Look at what they did to destroy the walkways, allowing the Shell building walkway to be closed off and private, the fountain in Belvedere Road which is one of my partner’s bugbears since it has a public access agreement – you know the one with the big fences stopping you go in? The clearing out of Sutton Walk and the pointless ‘mirrored’ artwork because they wanted to redevelop it and clean it up, but there was an uproar…even teh Skylon etc. back in the day after the Festival of Britain…there’s a whole load of these, and usually for worse when it comes to public access or non-commercial entities. What Billy Bragg speaks of it really new (2007, really in the past few years), and could go next week in a funding cut – leaving everyone with no space at all. The rehearsal education space sounds like it’ll be one of those empty spaces you see through glass at museums, no access cos it’s preserved for ‘yoof’ but never used during the weekend or evenings. And there might be popup ‘cafes’ but almost guaranteed the chains will eventually elbow their way in, it’s a prime site by the river.

    So yeah after decades of this, you can see why local people, who actually USE these facilities are rather sceptical of Billy saying ‘it’ll be alright’ and trying the ‘THINK OF THE CHILDREN’ argument. We’ve heard it ALL before, and all it means is you lose the walkways, you lose the open space and it becomes a frigging IMAX, you lose the fountain – again and again the space is lost forever. And outsiders come in and say ‘isn’t this nice?’. No it isn’t, you’re not paying for it, we do – and we’d like our old public spaces back, thankyouverymuch.

  60. Bronislaus Hutchens

    isn’t the entire philosophy of skateboarding one of urban, guerilla nomadism? setting up an actual permanent space is completely counter intuitive to the ethics of skate. look at how the z boys in dogtown did it. completely anarcho-style; breaking into back yards, using dried up pools. if the skaters want to stay real they’ll bend like the reeds, instead of breaking. sure, fight to stay there, but you have to eventually realize you’re fighting for permanence and real estate, the exact values of the over 30s and capitalist pigs. to stay real you have to constantly move and take over new spaces. you’re not putting your values in anyone’s face by staying put. keep moving around until you’ve tagged every inch of london. even if they paint over it, it’ll always be there under the surface. and you can retag it ad infinitum.

  61. Pingback: Long Live Southbank campaign fights to keep Southbank Undercroft skate park

  62. Its very simple, Undercorft can be left in place, any architect of worth would be able to secure adequate space for the proposed retail, make the design flow and not have to infiltrate the Undercoft to acheive this, although god knows why we need more retail within the site area anyway. The design proposed is awful anyway, wastes space and actually has the entrance down the side, away from the Undercroft, so footfall will probably reduce on that front flank anyway. The glass atriums will not improve the sites ability to create artistic spaces, and the use of young people in their advertising is patronising and cheap. Be honest – you want money from rentals. This is supposed to be for diverse culture, art, theatre and the building up of a strong local community. Those terraces have been empty and neglected for years and could have been used for retail use to help drum up income for SB. And the proposals for the terraces – gardens. Well very artistic and very necessary I dont think. Extend the design to utilize these large expanses better than gardens! Any funding promises by SB should be viewed as suspect. The whole thing stinks and it hasnt nothing to do with whether you like bloody art or not, its the principle of fair play and honesty. Design it in, make money from the Undercroft, make it commercial, make a business from it. Anything else is just a missed opportunity.

    • Excuse me
      The SBC and yourself have no clear art or cultural function to put into the undercroft area. The Hayward should be humanely destroyed and the site given to the BFI at ground level facing Belvedere Road. The upper levels could accommodate a first class modern medium sized new acoustic auditorium something Central London obviously lacks, as the Festival Hall is rubbish. There are loads of galleries inc Tate Modern nobody will miss the Hayward except whinging middle class luvvies like Bragg etc. The QEH which is a superior 1960s cool blend of form and function should be restored to how it was in the sixties with the skateboard an integral part of it as to my knowledge its always been there (I am 60) and of course cherished.
      So fuck off with your bland acceptance of commercialization as long as it suits you! I knew the place for a long time prob before you were born, when there was NO shops, just the skateboarders and the buildings. IT WAS GREAT.
      David, Bermondsey born and educated.

  63. I have lived on the southbank near the OXO Tower for nearly 10 years. I expect I will invite the wrath of many angry people here by suggesting that I fully support the relocation of skating from the undercroft. I walk past the area almost daily with my family. I support the right of the skaters to do their thing but I don’t see why moving to a different location is a problem. Skating is a very noisy activity which ruins the lovely ambience of the southbank. Furthermore, many young men ride on their bmx bikes very aggressively on their way to and from the undercroft without regard for the safety of the thousands of pedestrians who are forced to get out of their way. I am a cyclist myself and have commuted to work on a cycle for the last 6 years so this is not some cyclist hating driver’s prejudiced view. The skateboarders or trick cyclists have simply occupied the area and their stance boils down to a simple argument: That they should be allowed to stay just because they have occupied this space for 40 years. People can skate all day long in some private dedicated space for skating but why does everyone else on the southbank have to be subjected to the noise and hideous graffiti? I have seen groups of young people holding stalls on the southbank collecting signatures to save the undercroft. Collecting thousands of supporting signatures from people visiting from all over the world presents a very distorted picture as these people have no stake in the community. Most local residents would support the removal of the skating to a quieter area if skaters are provided a high quality alternative venue.

    • So residence of 10 years give you the right to displace a feature that has been there probably before your flat was built, David,Bermondsey, Classical Music lover since 1960s, and skateboard supporter

  64. Hi
    You are not the only working class person who detests the current management of the South Bank. I have been going to concerts here since 1960s and have always respected the skateboarders, but you must get across to the rest of the people who also oppose the whole scheme. Not just the skateboard part. Otherwise you appear selfish and only interested in your own patch like a teenagers bedroom. Get involved with the wider community who want this glass supermarket scrapped. Good luck David

  65. Ha, I worked nearby in 1993 on working visit to UK, and I used to walk through there every night, it had no ‘skate’ graffiti then, just grey concrete, and random homeless and early skaters. Twenty years on, doesn’t that make it a skating institution by now, blue plaque time?!

  66. Billy Bragg’s real name is actually Cyril Pratt and before he became a musician he worked in gentlemen’s tailoring.

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