When did you leave Birmingham?
I left Birmingham in 2008 when I was 18 to study in London. I wanted the chance to meet lots of cool different people from over the world since London is such a major cultural hub. I left so I could go and skate rad London spots all the time and go to places like Southbank and skate the streets
What did you study and where?
I studied English at Goldsmiths and before I finished it, I applied for a Scriptwriting Masters, also at Goldsmiths and was offered a place on the course. I was only able to enrol on the MA due to receiving a scholarship from a creative arts trust in Birmingham which helped me to pay off my course fees and some living costs
How did you end up working for the Long Live Southbank campaign?
After I graduated, I went through the whole no work experience to unpaid internship to not enough experience to no job process that most graduates do. It sucked.
After a month I started work in a posh cafe in Kensington where I could get as much free cake and food as I wanted, it was so good. One time after Jin and I ran into Dominic West, the guy who played McNulty in the Wire and on the off chance he left his jacket on our table, we returned it to him and had a brief chat about The wire and his favourite Brummy metal music, he likes Napalam death, it was so funny.
It all changed in early March 2013 when I saw an online ad looking for a uni graduate who knew about skateboarding and street architecture, so I applied and went to an interview with no idea of what to expect or what this ad was about. When I arrived, I was excited to discover that this ad was actually posted by Hold Tight Henry on behalf of everyone at Southbank and that he and the rest of the SB locals were starting a campaign, called Long Live Southbank, to help save SB from redevelopment. I was instantly down to be a part of it and get stuck in.
I skate SB every week and it turned out a random online job application turned out to be an opportunity to work with all my mates and go skate, its so sick. LLSB has achieved unbelievable success in its 19 month history and I'm stoked to be a part of it.
What does your day to day work involve?
Working for Long Live Southbank is about as spontaneous as skating the place itself. At the peak of the campaign, I had days where I started by updating the FB and Twitter in the morning, then headed to speak to local councillors with a suitcase packed with LLSB merchandise and then off to a nightclub in Kingston, to sell T – Shirts and sign up members till 1am.
However, an average day at the moment, is just spent maintaining the campaign by keeping in touch with people at the Undercroft everyday, with the legal team and also with the great deal of companies who want to do events and collaborations with us. There are now roughly 150,000 members so it has grown substantially, so the work load is shared between quite a few people now which is great and means we're doing a better job than ever. At one stage It was just Henry, I and a couple others so its brilliant its grown to be as huge as it is.
What does a space like Southbank mean to the skate scene of a city?
Southbank is a place where you can go and be yourself and there's not a lot of places like that left in London. Public space is consistently minimised here and young skaters must feel like the councils and institutions that are meant to provide them must fundamentally misunderstand what they want in London.
Southbank is the epicentre of the London skate community, its a meeting place and its own little village, with its characters, stories, history and ethos of just doing your own thing and not having to care about what other people think. Its a place you can express yourself and have the chance to be surrounded by others doing the same thing who want to encourage and inspire you. Its cool.
What lessons could Birmingham Council take from the whole ordeal?
Birmingham Council are way behind in creating areas for kids to express themselves, there is no central skatepark in Birmingham city centre. I think they need to look at disregarded and unused spaces, such as the Fastlands Flyover which have the potential to become permanent skatespots and cultural areas.
Kids would be very stoked out and probably have more pride in the city which doesn't do much for young people except give them shopping malls like The Bullring. They should be attempting to build spaces where money is not necessary and where younger people can connect with each other without their fists.
Has Southbank been saved?
It's still in the process of being legally preserved as a village green. We're all working hard and we hope that we will succeed.
How do you feel about Boris Johnson's announcement, seemingly sparing The Undercroft from development?
Boris Johnson's office has the right of veto on any planning development, which means as long as he backs LLSB no building can take place on the Undercroft. I feel that Boris has listened to Londoners and the large international following Southbank has and to some extent has understood its massive cultural importance and iconic status, it would have been foolish to ignore, so he's made a very wise decision.
What's next for Jason?
I'm still working for LLSB and in the next few weeks will be doing some events, panel discussions and giving a lecture to an architecture class at the London School of Economics about SB and its cultural significance.
I'll be writing skate articles for Kingpin & I'm also starting a skate column over at Vice, about skateboarding, art, music & film. Its about the creative energy of skateboarding and how it feeds into our lives on and off the boards, expect to see some of that soon.
Alongside this, I've been starting up a skate creative agency network called the No Comply Network. Its aim is to connect artists, musicians and filmmakers from within the skate community to help them network, collaborate and make rad stuff.
Thanks for letting me do this interview for Ideal Tom.
Jason Caines | Tre Flip, Birmingham | Photo: CJ