This Is What Skating Looked Like When Your Dad Was a Teenager
Photos from 'Read And Destroy', the magazine that chronicled British skating at its most underground moment.
Left: Tony Janson at Southbank in 1983; Right: Kev Kent in 1983. Photos: Dobie Campbell
The British skate scene has had a tumultuous journey to get to where it is today. Skateboarding in the UK could have died in the late 1970s, when the masses lost interest and banished their decks to bargain bins with other American toys like yo-yos and space hoppers. Thankfully, crews of diehard disciples from Guernsey to Glasgow saw skateboarding as more than just a fad.
In the 1980s, while working at Notting Hill's Alpine Sports – one of only a handful of skate shops in the country at the time – Tim Leighton-Boyce started a newsletter to document the underground scene around him. This newsletter eventually grew into the iconic R.A.D (Read And Destroy) magazine, which existed from 1987 until 1995, and acted as a DIY skate and youth culture journal that not only showcased British skaters and photographers, but also provided a pre-internet network where readers could find local skate spots and connect with other skaters around the country.
Andy Holmes and Dan Adams were avid R.A.D readers through the 80s and 90s, and over the past three years – with the help of the original editors and photographers – have put together a book to tell its story. The pair are currently crowdfunding to self-publish Read And Destroy: The Book of the Magazine, so I caught up with Andy for a chat at The University of Arts London, where he teaches graphic design.
VICE: How did this project come about?
Andy Holmes: It's an idea that's been kicking about for over a decade. After several failed attempts to get it started, this time around we were blessed by Sebastian Palmer, who heads the skate division for New Balance Athletic. He got in touch at the end of 2014 and committed some funding to get book development started; they've been quietly supporting this project for a long time.
Were you a R.A.D reader?
Yeah, it was a really important part of my life. I grew up on the Isle of Wight and it was my only connection to the wider scene in the UK. It was always in our newsagents, whereas Thrasher and other US magazines were harder to find.
What was the trajectory of skateboarding in Britain from 1978 onwards?
In the book we start from 1978, when skateboarding "officially" dies, then there's the rebirth, the progression and all the people that got involved throughout. Skating in Britain went from one extreme to another. It went from like how skating is seen now, almost as a mainstream thing, something that was on TV, and then suddenly it just dropped off a cliff. By the end of the 70s all the magazines had gone, the sales dropped off and skateboarding was seen as yesterday's thing.
Like an old toy.
Yeah, perceived exactly like a hula hoop, like a fad. Then you're left with a hardcore group of people who don't give a fuck that it's collapsed in the mainstream. They vow that they're not going to stop, and instead they build and build. From 1978 until about '82 it was super underground; if you saw somebody wearing Vans you'd run over and talk to them, because there was a good chance they were into either skating or BMXing. They were from your world, and it was so rare to connect and see people like that.
What about skate parks at the time?
In America they have big insurance issues, but over here we're lucky because they'll build a ramp in a field, and if kids want to kill themselves on it then that's fine, which is great! We had crappy pavements, some good bits of leftover 70s skate parks and some shit bits of leftover 70s skate parks, but it all got ridden. Skaters would travel round the country to skate and connect, keeping in contact through the phone or mail. There were no new parks getting built around this time; the exception was Livingston – it was more a backyard, illegal ramp thing. Find some wood and build something!
Nice. Apart from skating photos, what else was in the magazine?
There was "The Where? Guide", which was a directory of UK spots. It could range from the curb round the back of Sainsbury's in your local village, to an amazing free mini ramp somewhere. It was a guide that Tim Leighton-Boyce wanted the public to contribute to – that's the only way it could work. It made people realise they weren't alone and there were scenes happening all over.
Why did the staff call it a day in 95?
The editorial crew that were running it for its final two years were a whole different generation from those that started it. This later R.A.D crew had an opportunity to leave their publisher and to do their own thing. They wanted a clean break. So R.A.D closed and Sidewalk magazine started. It was an opportunity to look at the best of what they'd done and redefine it again, and that's what became Sidewalk, and a new chapter began – which was fantastic.
This interview was edited for length.
The team behind the R.A.D book is currently raising money to fund the project through Kickstarter.
See more photos from R.A.D below: