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Skateboarding to build community

Projekts MCR is a pioneering skatepark in Manchester. It is invitational to those who wouldn’t usually consider skateboarding.

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTOR 193/Charlee_New 25 DE ABRIL DE 2022 08:56 h
Projekts MCR is a pioneering skatepark in Manchester. / Photo: Owen Peters Photography via [link]Jubilee Centre[/link]

Projekts MCR is a skatepark and cafe tucked under a Manchester flyover. And if you spend some time there, you might notice something unusual.

Yes, there are teenage boys—as expected. But you’ll also find beginners, young children, being coached and encouraged.

You’ll see women and girls laughing on their boards, and there’s a busy cafe that is open and welcoming.

This is all intentional. Projekts MCR have worked hard to diversify their target audience, and they challenge others in their sector to behave differently too. 

Projekts MCR’s managing Director, John Haines, explains, ‘We noticed at the time that skateboarding parks were often missing certain groups in society - women and girls, disabled people, very young children and people who are on low income’. 

‘We wanted to create an environment where they would feel welcome, where they would be able to form a community and enjoy skateboarding as much as we did’.

Projekts MCR is designed with these more vulnerable groups in mind.

From the physical skatepark design which is built to prioritise beginners, to the design of targeted projects such as women and girls only nights, Projekts is invitational to those who wouldn’t usually consider skateboarding.

This gospel orientation to include groups on the margin stems from its roots as a skateboarding outreach project, part of the Message 2000 festival in Manchester.

The project’s been through several iterations and today, the skatepark and cafe exists to serve the skateboarding community more widely.

The social enterprise and co-operative sees 28,000 visitors a year, with over 80% of their income from trading. They employ 26 members of staff who manage the facilities, work in the café and provide coaching for skateboarders.  

‘Serving the skateboarding community means expanding who is included in the community,’ says John, but it also makes good commercial sense.

It wasn’t unheard of for skateparks to accidentally put themselves out of business when favouritism and ‘friends go free’ were the operating principles.

Projekts’s decision to restrict access to the skatepark for women and girls’ nights was met with some pushback from members of the existing community.

But these nights have been a huge success, challenging prevalent ideas that ‘girls aren’t brave enough to skate’.

Skatepark visits at Projekts from females have risen from 2% in 2012 to 25% today, and similar sessions are now being adopted in other parts of the UK. 

A strong culture of ‘welcome for all’, together with targeted efforts to reach more vulnerable groups, means that Projekts MCR continues to attract more visitors and grow.

And that’s without mentioning their schools coaching, lessons for students from pupil referral units or disabilities sessions.

Their strategy for inclusion builds a stronger community, for skateboarding and the local area, and a stronger business to continue the mission. 

Charlee New, Communications and Marketing Officer at the Jubilee Centre.

This article was first published on the website of the Jubilee Centre and re-published with permission.




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