Playing Fields - DVD
British skateboard footage was pretty scarce back in the mid 1990's - VHS was the format and the internet and UK skateboarding was still in it's infancy, the cost of video cameras and editing software meant that aside from a few notable company releases from likes of; Deathbox, Raggy and Panic the odd independent project from Mike Manzoori (Sound & Vison 93) and Jamie Turnbull (Wide Eyed World 93) or a rare UK appearance on 411- your options for watching British skateboard footage were virtually non-existent. Imagine that - no youtube, no hellaclips, no British skate footage at all unless you made it yourself.
This is the context that Playing Fields emerged from. Filmed over the summers of 96/97, playing fields was the first truly national skateboard release. Conceived and executed by skaters on a budget of exactly fuck-all, playing fields was a much needed and subsequently extremely influential testament to the unknown talent lurking in every corner of the country. No-budget filming missions were undertaken from London to Aberdeen and footage of the skaters building the foundations of what would ultimately develop into the British skate industry was collected so as to allow the rest of the UK and beyond a chance to see what was happening on this rainy island. The collective of: Mark Channer, Mark Fowler, Franklin Stephens, Ben Rodrigeuz and Ben Powell came together and edited the footage in a van in Nottingham and playing fields was finally released in 1997. With only 2,000 original VHS copies made, it became a word-of-mouth classic almost immediately with second with second and third generation dubs passed around the skate scene as the reputations of the skaters featured grew.
From today's perspective, playing fields might seem like just another video from back in the day. But looked at in context, it's influence has far out-stripped the intentions or expectations of all those involved and it now stands as a document of not only a much more innocent time in the UK skateboarding history, but also of how active and hungry the UK skate scene was back before sponsorship opportunities as we know them today really existed.
Raise a glass of cheap lager and toast the foundations of the present and to great British skateboarding.