Skateboarding isn’t something you’d typically associate with Palestine. Limited infrastructure, access to equipment and living in occupied territories throws up barriers beyond the typical skate stoppers, meaning Palestine’s skateboarding community was virtually non-existent, until now.
A stint volunteering in the country as an English teacher in 2006 led skateboarder Charlie Davis to discover that skateboarding was something new to Palestine when taking his board to the streets after class resulted in crowds of kids gathering round.
In 2013 he founded SkatePAL, a non-profit organisation that has kickstarted one of the fastest growing skateboarding communities in the world, using local and international volunteers to teach skate classes and build skate parks in the country.
And it’s SkatePAL’s principles that attracted Scottish skateboarder and re:ply founder Danny Aubrey to its cause. Through re:ply, recycled skateboard decks were sold off at first-of-its-kind exhibition, re:deckorate, which saw 50 artists, graphic designers, printmakers and photographers design their own skateboard deck to raise funds for SkatePAL.
“I wanted to work with SkatePAL because it promotes freedom, community and empowerment in its ethos, similar to what we believe in at re:ply and what skateboarding culture generally reflects,” Danny tells me over the phone from his studio in Glasgow’s east end. Seeing potential skateboard material where others saw waste, Aubrey – alongside a group of other skateboarding fanatics – created skateboarding brand re:ply in 2011 with the mission of recycling scrap plywood into skateboards.
“I’ve always loved the graphics on skateboards,” Danny says. “I’ve seen other exhibitions of boards before, but they’re usually specifically by one or a group of artists, I wanted to do something different but I wasn’t sure what for a long time.”
A call for exhibitors left Danny with over 300 emails from artists keen to kit out their own deck for the exhibition.
“I sent out a brief asking artists to suggest what they would do using the words freedom, community and empowerment and we chose artists based on the designs we felt encompassed that. I spent the next few months reshaping boards and getting them to and from artists ahead of the opening in January.”
The exhibition, which ran until the end of February saw all 50 boards sold during its duration, including submissions from 91-year-old artist Tom Garmory and Phoebe Willison whose piece juxtaposed images of young female skaters from the 70s with text from Funkadelic and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
“We’re still waiting on the final fundraising figure,” Danny says. “It should be about £4,000 that we will send off to them! The exhibition was great as it raised the profiles of re:ply and SkatePAL.”
Along with their new website launch, there’s a SkatePAL collaboration on the horizon, but what does that look like, I ask Danny? “It’s a secret, for now.”