Half-pipe dreams: Crying out for skateparks in 1990s Norwich

Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. Picture: Archant Library

Youngsters wanted more places to skate in Norwich so organised a rally in Chapelfield Garden in July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

Growing up in the 1990s came with its perks but for many teenagers in Norwich there was something missing.

It was a time of Brit Pop, the Spice Girls and England even hosted a major football tournament.

But the city centre lacked a dedicated skatepark and for some that was a real grind. 

A skater demonstrates how to do an ollie at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens in July 1997. 

A skater demonstrates how to do an ollie at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

These old photos from the archive capture the Norwich Skateboard Rally at Chapelfield Gardens in 1997. 

Organised by young skateboarders, the event aimed to promote a positive image of the sport and the people who enjoyed it. 

Skaters in action at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens in July 1997.

Skaters in action at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. Picture: Archant Library

Balance and skill on show in Chapelfield Gardens at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

Pleas for safe places to skate at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens in July 1997.

Organisers arranged the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens as a plea for safe places to skate and to promote a positive image of the sport in July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

The enthusiasts also wanted more low-cost leisure facilities in the city centre and used the rally to try and persuade the City Council to build skateparks and ramps in Norwich.


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There were some facilities on the city fringes like the Heartsease Bowl - also known as 'The Bathtub' - and further afield in places like north Norfolk or Fakenham.

But back then city skaters were mostly forced to practise on the road, use homemade ramps or find spaces that were not designed for skateboarding which caused safety concerns.

Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. Picture: Archant Library

Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

Performing skateboard tricks in Chapelfield Gardens at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in July 1997.

Concentration while performing skateboard tricks in Chapelfield Gardens at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997

Showing off skills and tricks at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

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The council lacked the funds to build these facilities at the time and it would be several years before there was a dedicated skatepark in Norwich.

Bummer, dudes. 

Did you know?

  • The history of skateboarding started around the 1940s or 1950s in California.
  • It was the product of frustrated surfers getting creative and inventing a land-based activity they could enjoy when the waves were not gnarly enough to ride. 
  • The first skateboards were wooden crates with roller skate wheels on the bottom - almost like scooters. But they evolved into planks of wood with wheels in a more recognisable form we see today.
Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. Picture: Archant Library

Promoting a positive image of the sport and a plea for safe places to learn how to skate at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

Skater shows how to grind at the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens in July 1997

Skaters wanting to learn how to grind in 1990s Norwich had to get creative because there were no skateparks in the city to practice their skills so they organised the Norwich Skateboard Rally in Chapelfield Gardens, July 1997. - Credit: Archant Library


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