11.00 "You Can’t Move History: You Can Secure the Future”: Young People, Activism and the Indivisible Nature of Intangible and Tangible Heritage
Debates spanning the value of urban heritage have recently intensified with the increasing belief that tangible and intangible heritage are “indivisible.” Conflicts over this position reach their clearest expression within the city as the everyday practices carried out by a range of different urban actors are increasingly threatened by the desire, especially in a UK context, to privatize and commercialize the public space. This paper is located at the heart of this conflict as it will seek to examine the ways in the everyday practice of skateboarding on London’s south bank motivated the campaign, primarily led by young skaters, to retain the physical fabric of the “world’s oldest surviving skatespot.” In doing so the paper will engage with questions surrounding the role of space and place in heritage activism as well as a greater understanding of how young people engaged with urban decision-makers, primarily through the use of social media and film.
The tag line: “You Can't Move History. You Can Secure the Future” speaks to the ways in which this campaign group, Long Live Southbank (LLSB), articulated their desire to preserve the cultural practice of skateboarding within the physical space of the Southbank Undercroft. This campaign, while ultimately successful in its goal to prevent the loss, forced existing organizations to re-consider the relationship between intangible and tangible heritage in ways that reverberate across planning, urban design, and architecture. Drawing on a body of existing archival material and new material created through walking interviews, films, and oral histories, this paper will develop an understanding of the micro-politics of heritage campaigns. Specifically, the paper will firstly ask how successive generations of young people developed embodied attachments to the skatespot, and secondly consider the ways in which the campaign narrative was constantly negotiated by the individuals behind the campaigns to secure the future of the Southbank Undercroft.