When I heard Lost Art was having a launch event for Geoff Rowley’s new Vans shoe, I was as good as there. Though this was only something like the fifth time I’ve visited Liverpool and the shop, it feels incredibly familiar. Not just the places but the attitude of the locals too. In the two years I’ve known Ollie Birch I must have skated with him a handful of times but he was more than happy to let me snooze on his couch for the night so I could come down for this. At this point already it should be apparent that any misconceptions of Liverpool being unwelcoming are askew as the skateboarders from there are all some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
However (and this is in no disrespect to the rest of them), none more so than Dave Mackey, who spent the day joining skateboarders of all ages cruise around the city with Ollie on filming duties and prizes available for anyone getting involved at spots like New Bird, the Big Three by the docks and the most rugged bank I’ve ever skated, the infamous Dock Road banks (though their ruggedness didn’t stop seasoned vets John Dalton and Jimmy Boyes tearing them to bits). Getting back to the shop later that evening, the masses gathered for a showing of Propeller projected onto the back wall of the shop, which was to be followed by Owain John’s local-ish scene video ‘Grow Up’. The turn out to see Grow Up seemed to have doubled by the time me, Chris (Johnson) and Mackey came back downstairs just in time for the last part.
It was during the Propeller showing that the following conversation took place and even though we were upstairs in the shop and three doors separated us from the crowd gathering downstairs, their overwhelming cheers for their friends were as loud and clear as Mackey who was sat right in front of me.
So Mackey, you’re celebrating the launch of Geoff’s new shoe at the shop today; the Rowley [SOLOS]. First off, for those that might not know, could you elaborate on how Geoff ended up being part of the Lost Art family?
Geoff has been my friend since we pretty much started skateboarding twenty-five, no twenty-eight years ago, probably. Obviously he moved to the States and he’s lived over there for an awful long time now, near enough twenty years I think. Out of the blue three or four years ago he just rang me up, he was driving somewhere and said he really wanted to speak to me and asked if he could ride for the shop because he no longer had a shop sponsor in the States. He wanted to represent Lost Art, Liverpool, and do everything in his power to promote the store, and since then he’s been a Lost Art team rider.
You and Geoff are around the same age, were you very aware of each other when growing up skating before Geoff moved to the States?
Yeah, Geoff and myself always skated together in Liverpool. Liverpool’s a small city so everyone would travel from the outskirts in to town to skate. Geoff is from Aigburth, which is a borough of Liverpool, and I’m from Southport so we’d both have to travel in. We would come in really early on a weekend and Geoff would be out skating already in the morning; 9am and he’d be out before us. So yeah, we were aware of each other, we were friends for a long, long time and we’d all skate together in different crews and all split off then get back together at the Courts or whatever. Sometimes there would be fifty people out skating in Liverpool; it was just insane. Great times.
You also welcomed Chima Ferguson to the Lost Art team at the last Bright Tradeshow. How did Chima end up getting on board?
He came to Liverpool on the Vans tour a few years ago. Geoff asked me for a shirt for Chima and I didn’t actually have any in his size, so I promised I’d send him one and it never happened. Then out the blue he messaged me and said, “I’d really like a hoodie, how can I pay for it?” and I was like, “You’re Chima Ferguson, I don’t expect you pay for a hoodie, I’ll send you one.” I sent him a couple of hoods and then a week later I was in Berlin at the Bright Tradeshow. Chima flew to Berlin for some reason, I didn’t even know why he was there, and Danny Wainwright come up to me, “Have you seen Chima?” I said “Nah”, he said, “You won’t believe it, he’s wearing a Lost Art hoodie.” I was like, “Really?! Ok…” After a few beers Chima said, “I don’t have a shop sponsor and I would really like to represent Lost Art, would that be cool?” I said, “Yeah, you’re Chima Ferguson” (Laughs).
Do you think because of guys like Geoff and Chima, and obviously Tom Knox spends a lot of time in the States too these days, that Lost Art has got an international reach?
I think yeah definitely, in the last few years for sure with getting Geoff and Chima on, and I think we have had some notoriety outside of the UK for quite some time. I think a lot of skateboarding’s eyes do focus on the UK and stores within the UK because I personally feel that the UK has some of the best skate stores and scenes in the world. I know outsiders look at the UK and people know who Lost Art is. It definitely helps, having those international team riders, it kind of gives it a lift, and collaborations with brands also raises awareness.
The younger guys like Rauri (Jones) that skate for the shop, how do you think they feel about being on the same team as Rowley and Chima?
I’ve no idea mate! I couldn’t tell you… I would be fucking insanely blown away if it was me. Maybe they don’t think about it. It’s pretty mellow, everyone on Lost Art are friends. Most people skate together and even if they don’t know each other they’ll always have a common interest so I’m pretty sure none of the kids feel vexed or…
…intimidated is the word I’m looking for – by being on the same team as Geoff Rowley. We’re going to try and film a full-length video to encompass the whole team, which is pretty deep. Its thirty-five, maybe forty people strong, it’s gonna be a big, big, big project. But I’m sure putting dudes like Rauri and Tom Tanner in there with Chima and Knox and Chewy (Cannon) and Karim (Bakhtaoui)…it’s pretty fucking insane. The line up is amazing, it’s like FTC. Or I’d like to think it was like FTC! (Laughs) It’s not quite as good.
Obviously you’ve got the wider team like Geoff, Chima, Tom Knox, Mark Baines; who even though they’re on a higher sponsored level, they’ve usually asked you about riding for the shop. How does that feel to have people like that come approach you?
Insane. I mean I’m friends with a lot of them first and foremost. I’ve known a lot of them most of their adult lives. To have them ask, certainly someone like Mark Baines, who is possibly one of the best skateboarders to ever come from the UK, an incredible talent, a fucking incredibly nice guy and a real good friend of mine – to have him represent the shop is amazing as he’s exactly the kind of guy you want to represent your shop.
How deep does Geoff’s legacy go? Are the younger generation of skaters aware of the influence and impact he’s had on the city and attitude to skateboarding in general?
Definitely yeah; Geoff has always been known by all Liverpool skateboarders. He’s put out parts for the last twenty years…when did he have his first Transworld part? 1998 was it? Then obviously the first Sorry video and then the second Flip video. Tony Hawk’s games – how many people played Geoff Rowley as their Tony Hawk character? So I think Geoff has always been known to all the skateboarders in Liverpool, for sure. Rightly so, he’s the guy who came from Liverpool. He’s actually from Liverpool. There’s not many skateboarders who skate Liverpool actually from Liverpool. Now there is, but back then, everyone came from everywhere. He is from Liverpool, so is Brian (Sumner). He went to America and just did Geoff in America. He definitely has deep roots in Liverpool and he still returns here. He’s really humble, still the same guy he was when he was living in Liverpool. He’s taken that attitude to America and he’s grown up being the same guy – very professional, humble, has a fucking insane work ethic and does things right.
What about some of the other significant figures like Howard Cooke, John Dalton and Brian Sumner (to name just three)? In your opinion who are the people and what areas – past or present – have been the most important to Liverpool’s skate scene?
All of those guys are important. Howard Cooke is the fucking best skateboarder from Liverpool and every one of those guys will say Howard Cooke as well. He’s an incredibly talented skateboarder who just goes about his business and lives life the way Howard Cooke wants to live his life. My favourite skateboarder to watch and he is an incredibly nice person. The same goes for John Dalton and Brian, and I’d love Brian to ride for the shop. Maybe if he reads this then he’ll ring me up and ask and I’ll say ‘yes’. Every skateboarder from Liverpool that represents the shop, they ride for Lost Art for a reason, because they are stoked to represent a shop that does what they want a skate shop to do. It’s incredibly humbling.
Do you think the everyday kids passing through the shop know they’re part of such a rich history just by being from Liverpool? Do you guys at the shop try keep the youth educated or is it something they just grow up with?
I think some kids are more tuned in than others. It helps that John and Howard and Adam Cooke – those guys are still in the city skateboarding and people get to know them over time. The store, I hope, educates them to the history of Liverpool skateboarding. Some of them it goes over their head and they just do their own thing, and that’s cool, but eventually if they stick at skateboarding long enough they learn about the people that went before them and what has been done.
It definitely helps now there’s a generation of kids – the 21/22 year olds, the peers of the younger kids who have grown up with the shop – they’re passing on the knowledge they’ve learnt to them. It’s a good scene, it’s rad. There are a lot of good skateboarders and they’re all really fucking humble. Which is one attribute that comes from being from Liverpool.
How is it seeing the city go from being almost unanimously perceived as sketchy from back when you were younger to now as a draw for skaters all over England and Europe?
(Laughing), it’s amazing because it was a place to avoid at all costs; no one ever came here, ever! And it’s not because there was nothing to skate here, it is exactly as you say, because of the stereotype. “Liverpool’s gnarly, you’ll get your head stoved in, you’ll get your stuff robbed” – and yeah of course there were sketchy people here, but there are sketchy people everywhere in the country. Everywhere has sketchy areas. I think the kind of stereotypes echoed louder from Liverpool because, at that certain time there were the docker’s strike and the Toxteth riots, and I’m sure lots of things kids learn from their parents – “oh don’t go to Liverpool, it’s fucking gnarly, you’ll get the wheels of your car stolen.” I think that’s one of the reasons people stayed away. But, you know, thankfully they did because the spots aren’t rinsed. Liverpool has an incredible amount of spots that have pretty much not been touched by anyone outside of Liverpool, and still to this day, there aren’t many cities of this size in the UK where you can say that.
Chris: Birmingham’s got that as well. The city centre is like the universities here. Security and everything’s knobbed. But you go down to Dock Road and how many spots are there?
Birmingham’s a weird one. I don’t know why people don’t go there because there are so many fucking spots and you can get there in an hour. When Sumo was in Sheffield, Sheffield was the place. I think stores create scenes and the store drags people in and I think Sumo was that for Sheffield. Note and Black Sheep have been the draw for Manchester for so many years. I think Lost Art is finding it’s place within UK skateboarding and that’s perhaps a reason why so many people are coming here. Also universities are incredible draws for people. Sheffield had Hallam and Sheffield University, Manchester’s got huge universities. Leeds has always been a magnet. Now Liverpool uni’s are a big draw; more skateboarders are choosing to come to Liverpool and maybe because they see the scene, the store, they follow Sidewalk and whatever is going on and they see Liverpool in the mag or on websites and in edits and they’re like “oh shit I want to go to Liverpool”. Back in the day there were no filmers, no photographers so no one saw Liverpool so it wasn’t on anyone’s radar to come here. You know yourself when you look at universities you want to come to a place that you can skate… “oh, there’s that spot I want to go skate there.”
How do you think the ratio of street spots to skate park presence has moulded the styles and attitudes of the skaters from here? Obviously you’ve had Edge Lane since the 1970s, Rampworx in various incarnations and in more recent years, Newbird. But the scene has always been focused on street skating, right?
Rampworx has been there for a long time, those guys do a fantastic job and have supported skateboarding and it’s been a place to go in the winter for many years – so there has always been a park here. But there have never been outdoor parks in the city – Edge Lane went to ruin an awful long time ago so no one could ever skate there… except Geoff. Nothing really has changed, there were no parks for kids to go to so street skateboarding was the only skateboarding to be done in Liverpool, and that is all that has happened. Kids came to the city, came to the shop and have helped the store because when kids come into the store and are part of the store and part of the scene, it grows from the shop outwards. I think we’ve definitely benefitted from not having parks and plazas. That’s changing now; two or three plazas have opened up and kids are obviously gonna go there, but hopefully street skateboarding will still be strong in Liverpool.
Part of the event tonight is at Bold Street Coffee where you’ve held events such as a Ben Horton exhibition and the fifteenth anniversary and East Skateboards showcase just last year. How did the close relationship with Bold Street Coffee come about initially?
I know Sam who opened Bold Street Coffee. It’s an independent place so a lot of skateboarders would go there, and it’s just up the road from the shop. Russ Weasel worked there from the very start and he’s a good friend of ours. He rides for the shop as well and he took on the events management side of things and he always wanted to put on skate events so anything we could do that would have an outside of the shop event attached to it; we would approach Russ and put it on there. It’s a fantastic place; great people who work there, a good spot and works fantastically well for exhibitions.
Lost Art’s first video Beef Stew is coming soon – is it called Beef Stew because of the famous Liverpool dish known as scouse?
It is yeah. I’m gonna set the record straight here. It’s not ‘the’ Lost Art video. It’s Ollie Birch’s video. Now Ollie’s too fucking shy to say that it’s his video. Ollie is the best dude and he’s really putting a lot of time and effort into this video. He works in the shop and he rides for the shop, supports the store and does everything in his power to get the kids amped and filming for this video. I have thrown my weight behind it and I back it 100%. Yeah it is a Lost Art video, but as I say, it’s not ‘the’ Lost Art video.
So this is the Lost Art/Liverpool scene video and Lemonade is the wider team?
It is yeah. Lemonade is the working title and I hope it is gonna be that. So yeah, Lemonade may well be the Lost Art video but Beef Stew is a video by Lost Art and it will feature everybody who represents Lost Art, and that’s the guys who skate for Lost Art and the kids who show Lost Art mad love, and that’s the most important thing in my mind. I cannot wait for all those kids skating today, the little kids, to have stuff in this video. Scene videos more often than not are more enjoyable to watch than big production videos because of the spots and the kids who skate, because you’ve never heard of them…
But if you’re from there, you’ve got a connection to it.
Definitely. So, Beef Stew – I’m gonna go all the way back to the beginning and say yeah it’s a Lost Art video, but it’s a Lost Art video about Liverpool more predominantly. Hopefully Evz (Andy Evans) will have a part, Charlie will have a part, Rauri’s gonna have a part, Will Kynaston and Joe McCombe are both gonna have parts too hopefully. All the kids who are sponsored by Lost Art, all of the other kids and hopefully the further afield team riders will have stuff in there too.
So how come at fifteen years deep the first video with as you said, with the L.A. name attached to it, is just getting underway? Do you think it has anything to do with, as mentioned earlier, the city being an under documented scene and not having an active lens wielder until Ollie Birch stepped up to the challenge?
It’s sixteen years. (Laughs), sixteen now, this month from the 17th of June.
There’s been nobody who’s filmed here. Honest to God, there has not been a filmer in Liverpool. People have tried and obviously we had the East video that heavily documented Liverpool but that’s only because Dykie came here to film. We’ve filmed a few things, there have been videos from surrounding areas that have featured Liverpool but there’s never really been somebody so connected to Lost Art that was filming. So that’s the reason and hopefully that’s kind of giving it a little bit more mystique, if that’s the right word. So people are still like “oh shit, there’s gonna be a Lost Art video, can’t wait for that!” Kind of like…you know took FTC a long time to make a video?
Chris: Took Vans a long time to make a video.
Took Vans a very long time to make a video.
It did. Sometimes that’s the best thing, and it’s still generating interest. Look how busy it is downstairs, I know we’re showing Owain’s vid but that goes back to the question before – scene vids. Look at the fucking shop.
Chris: There are more people downstairs than I’ve seen at way bigger events I’ve been to.
The shop is packed out and it’s to see their friends skateboarding in the city and the spots that they know. That’s the most important thing, it really is. It will always be the most important thing. You can put out huge video productions; you can have the best fucking social media accounts but if it’s not something the kids are stoked on or care about…
[Mackey takes a second to think and as he does so a massive cheer erupts from downstairs…]
Chris: When things get too ‘Hollywood’ it sort of puts people off. That’s why they [Vans] have done this right.
Yeah definitely, they stripped it right back. The one thing I keep seeing; I’ve been re-watching a lot of old videos. I went on holiday and the only DVD I had was Public Domain. I watched that and was like “oh shit!” that’s exactly what Greg Hunt has tried to achieve with the vert section; filmed from the flat bottom people going over this way. It just felt like an old school video, it felt right that that was the style of video he chose to have. Obviously he did Mind Field and The DC Video, but Propeller stripped it right back. It works perfectly. The music, the fucking skateboarding and the tricks they left in.
It’s the video that skateboarders want to see. Which makes a big difference. If you create a video for people who don’t skateboard, it’s gonna be watered down and isn’t gonna hit the right notes with skateboarders, and Vans did the right thing. It’s not for them. If they like it, cool. If they don’t like it then who gives a fuck? It’s just saying what it is. Skateboarding is that. That’s what Vans are trying to say. It is the message they’re trying to portray. What’s the fucking point of telling that message to people who don’t skateboard?
The intro to Propeller made me feel like I was ten again. Rowley and Crockett skating that car park especially.
Yeah, it’s ace. It’s amazing, amazing, amazing…
Well we’ve gone off track…
Only slightly, (laughs).
Right then, best memory of the East days?
Dykie. Everything. And everything Korahn Gayle did. The pair of them – comedy, twenty four seven.
Finally, as the National video is currently in the works, will we be seeing another Dave Mackey part?
Not even a short one?
Half of one?
Chris: Hey I’ve seen your Portugal footage…
The first time I met you, you slammed filming a line with Rye. Smashed your glasses and ripped your trousers – at least go back and land that?
(Laughing). No, of course I’m trying to film a part for the National video, yes. Hopefully we do have a full part so… Nothing would make me more proud to have a part in that video because all the guys involved with The National are the best dudes. From the guys who own it to the guys who skate for it. So yes, I’d be honoured and stoked to have a part, if I can film a part for that video.
You’re welcome, anytime. Missed the video I really wanted to see!
[Rauri pops his head through the door]
Rauri: Fucking missed your interview?
It’s alright. I talked a lot of shit.
(Originally published: Sidewalk Magazine, June 2015. Photography by Chris Johnson.)