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The AHF appreciates that neglected buildings which are all too familiar in our towns, cities and countryside can, with a little imagination and a lot of enthusiasm, be rescued to become assets for their communities by people wanting to make a difference. The AHF has helped hundreds of organisations throughout the UK to do exactly that.

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AHF on board with support for Long Live South Bank

Architectural Heritage Fund

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The Architectural Heritage Fund has recently awarded funding of £21,000 in support of Long Live South Bank’s (LLSB) plans to conserve and enhance the world famous South Bank undercroft. The funding will assist Long Live Southbank who are working in partnership with Southbank Centre to retain the space as the epicentre of UK skateboarding and as the oldest continually used skatepark in the world.   

The undercroft is situated in the supporting structures beneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The iconic structure was designed by members of the Greater London Council and 1960s avant-garde architectural group, ‘Archigram’. It was built by construction firm, Higgs and Hill. Opened to the public in 1967 the undercroft was intended as a public thoroughfare, but it was seldom used for this purpose due to low lighting and low numbers of pedestrians along the South Bank during the 1960s. Skateboarding arrived in the UK in the early 1970s, and from 1973 skateboarders began using the space as a ‘street spot’ because of its perfect natural terrain for the activity. Since then the undercroft has been the epicentre of UK skateboarding. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s BMX riding, street art, graffiti and other creative uses became a permanent additional fixture.  

Following a successful and high profile campaign to protect the spaces from re-development, Long Live Southbank and the Southbank Centre are now working in partnership to restore and enhance the site. LLSB has been able to secure the preservation of the current skate space while promoting its significance to the wider public through their 150,000 signed up members. LLSB’s efforts are an example of a new generation seeking to protect and sustain their heritage sites and buildings, and demonstrates the increasing role of social media and crowdfunding in these campaigns. The Architectural Heritage Fund is supporting and investing in a host of new groups developing similar projects across the UK. 

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Long Live South Bank has secured over £30,000 match funding from their crowdfunding campaign, as well as sponsorship from Palace Skateboards. The joint LLSB and Southbank Centre project was recently awarded £700,000 from the Mayor of London’s ‘Good Growth Fund’ towards the capital costs. AHF support of £21,000 will help fund project management, architect, and other professional fees. 

The restoration will reopen the undercroft spaces to their original design and it is anticipated that the additional space will attract both new and a more diverse set of users. The project will include the creation of an education and youth centre, to be operated directly by the Southbank Centre, and which will form part of the overall partnership between the two organisations. Due to the nature of the space and its use, the undercroft will help demonstrate how two very different organisations can jointly manage a significant heritage site for the benefit of the wider public and their respective memberships. 

Stuart Maclure, Long Live South Bank, welcomed the grant: "Long Live Southbank is excited to accept a Project Development Grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund to be used for the restoration of much loved sections of the Queen Elizabeth Hall undercroft. This landmark project will see more space opened up to Londoners who wish to engage in creative activities such as skateboarding, BMXing and graffiti writing. Once complete, the space will be open to the public free of charge 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Liz Peace, Chair of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said: "The undercroft is a highly significant place, not only to the skateboarders that use it and love it, but for everyone that appreciates the Southbank as one of the most distinctive and vibrant parts of London. AHF is very glad to be supporting Long Live Southbank with their plans and in helping the organisation develop greater community ownership of this world famous skate spot."   

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, commented: “For decades, the Southbank undercroft has been a pilgrimage site for skateboarders from all over the world. It remains a well-loved space, used by huge numbers of skateboarders every day. With the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund award and the Architectural Heritage Fund’s support, we are delighted to be supporting this important cultural asset and a new education hub.”

Alix Wooding, Development Director at Southbank Centre, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Long Live Southbank to restore and enhance the undercroft. It is a credit to their hard work and dedication that they have secured funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund as part of the requirement to match the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund. The development of this space will give skaters and BMXers access to newly opened up, and restored, sections of the undercroft whilst our education space will allow young people and schoolchildren from across the capital to benefit from a new fully accessible arena for diverse creative and learning activities.” 

Editor’s notes

1)  The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.

2)  Funding for this project was generously provided under the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s ‘Community Enterprise through Heritage’ programme.

3)  For press enquiries please contact Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive, on 020 79250199 / matthew.mckeague@ahfund.org.uk