(MUSHY) - Harry Meadley talks the 2000s
In 1999 the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game deliberately or not created a boom in skateboarding. Those kids who enthusiastically bought grompletes, measured up helmets and discovered a mysterious rating known only as 'Abec-9' inadvertently became a generation of golden West Yorkshire skateboarders.
Those new skateboarders would grow into another generation of photographers, filmers, artists and sponsored skaters. One of those lucky few, Harry Meadley put together a renown blog and produced clips which incidentally charted the rising of mid-2000's UK legends.
Tom brown is probably the number one fan of this generation of skateboarders. He talks passionately about this era, it’s as if he wishes he grew up then, this video was a huge prompt for a conversation.
I think it's because this crew was more organic for a Leeds crew, this was a group of skateboarders from all walks of life in the West Yorkshire area coming together. That’s a big deal for any scene, when a group get together independently and carve their own path.
That’s why we’re talking about it, so lets go back to the beginning.
I’m still vague about the age I started skateboarding, 12 or 13 years old I reckon. Exit was the shop in the Corn Exchange I first went in to, that’s where I got my first board. There was a group of Hyde Park locals at the time, and they were known as the ‘Wrecking Crew’. It felt like the more Leeds-based Hyde regulators would frequent Exit.
When I’d go there you’d know that that was an established crew. Sooner rather than later I found Wisdom, it was half a skate shop mixed with a record store at the time. It was an interesting dichotomy between the two. Wisdom was evidently the ‘cooler one to me’ and felt more underground which appealed more to my sensibilities.
There wasn’t necessarily a division it bled over quite well, but there was a set of sensibilities for both shops, which would draw skaters to either one. It was a classic more hash/fresh vibe haha.
That’s how I’d see it not actually being from Leeds haha. I’m from the East Midlands so I wouldn’t know. The output and who skated for whom made it look that way. It obviously wouldn’t be true, everyone would have watched Mouse and loved it, and the same goes for anything from Anti Hero at the time.
But, what I’d say was the obvious division everyone would wear Wisdom t-shirts, skate Wisdom boards and rep it. No one really did that with Exit, it felt with Wisdom it was more identifiable with skateboarding as opposed to Exit which was more public facing, which nothing was wrong with.
With Wisdom only skateboarders knew it existed, that was the division. I ended up doing my work experience there, it was the classic skate kids dream.
So was mine! Twentyfour in Derby.
Wisdom had relocated on Commercial Street, which is now a travelling man. They had expanded and started looking outwards to the public, which was cool. They all quickly bought me into the established Leeds scene.
I worked with Si Ashton and Lee Rozee, Dave Wynne and Lecky we’re running it at that time. They were all the people very much in place to train me, as all skateboarders should be trained, in the codes of conduct and all various stuff. After my two weeks they kept me on as a Saturday boy.
I think at that time I was the only younger person working there, saying that Si was 21 and I was 15.
Is this how your 'crew' started to develop?
That was my route in to know everyone. Mike Wright was starting to come into Leeds from Hebden Bridge and was already blowing minds. The Ilkley lot would come through too, that was Jason Brown, Tom Harrison and Rory Martinez we were all the same age give or take a year. Then we had Joe Lynskey from Morley, and at the time there was quite a few other people too. Miller was a hot skater, maybe James Miller was his full name?
Possibly because of the new shop there was more presence whether it was the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater impact or not. I’m not too sure what our generation was all about.
The whole generation was there and your age says that on paper you were the THPS kids but did you find skateboarding through the game or through other avenues?
I didn’t have the game, until after I was already skating. As for the others it wasn’t their main influence either weirdly. I can’t put my finger on it about the influences; it was still at that point where it was unpopular in 2002. Especially when I started working at Wisdom.
You’d already been skating for a while by this point, could you explain a little bit about the grasp of skateboarding culturally at the time?
Yeah I’d been doing it for two or three years, but it all started in 2002. The Nu-Metal mosher sub-culture! By virtue of having a skateboard you were tied into them, like the moshers and whoever hung out outside the Corn Exchange. There were very little cool points to draw anyone into skateboarding; in an odd way there was less people skating but the people who were had to be dedicated. You got so much shit for it!
Are you saying skating wasn’t just physically hard, as it still is, but to some degree also peer pressure?
Yes, I'd say there were very few people who’d stick at it for more than 2 or 3 years from the peak ages of 11-16 years old. They just gave it up, for various reasons probably but mostly social pressure. Sk8er Boi came out around then too, you'd hear pissed men singing it at you on the regs. I don’t know, our generation was amongst the last when skateboarding was still a social outlier it was not an accepted thing to be doing.
You found yourselves as the outliers from these unique areas across West Yorkshire. Mike from Hebden, Lynners’s from Morley and the lkley crew but you’re actually from 'Leeds' though?
Yeah I’m from Harehills, there were other skaters in Harehills too, and they just wouldn’t leave haha.
Once I was at Wisdom the network branched out. It became the rule meet at 12 on a Sunday then start a skate at Leeds University. Skating street at the time was the only thing we did. I don’t remember skating Hyde that often, in it’s the black plastic ramp time. You’d skate there bit. Classically as younger skater, you might be at the park but your not part of the crew.
The wreckers, they had a fearsome reputation haha. It’s funny to think about, the difference in years from 15-16 to 18-22, they were are all nice but you weren’t immediately in the ‘scene’.
The circle still exists, the younger crews don’t go to the park, and they come to Welcome and go street skating. Everywhere is a spot when you start off.
The massive advantage for the time was that the editor of Sidewalk Magazine lived in Wakefield, it was not a small part for greater exposure in the North. The better skaters were definitely receiving attention. It didn’t take any time for Mike, Lynskey and Harrison to pop up in the mag.
You can definitely see that especially as you watch through (Mushy).
Considering the timeline this is the crew that would later be the lineup of the classic Baghead Flats video. So you’ve got the younger group here, so at what point did you get the camera?
Weirdly loads of people at the time had some form of camera, but for us Jason Brown had the first and he filmed everything!
I got this weird little digital video camera with a flip screen filming super low quality files, I’d do odd clips but it wasn’t good enough for an actual video. At some point I had tonnes of files. Basically my thought was ‘what can i do with these clips?’ they’d just be stuck on my computer and I was conscious that I was skating with people who were getting or were very good.
This was all pre-YouTube and uploading servers, that’s when I set up the original Don’t Mess With Yorkshire website on Angelfire, a free website builder. That’s how it all began; it was a cluster of clips that I couldn’t put into a video. It became a relatively unofficial extension of Wisdom.
I blagged to get money for a better camera, I got a Sony 950 which was not as good as a VX1000. If I had any sense I would have saved for a VX, I fucked up! People advised me, if I did the clips on a better camera they could go into actual videos and potentially film stuff monetarily. Down the line I could have contributed with Mikey’s video parts, everyone wanted VX footage and rightly so.
I quickly learnt the politics of skate video making, I remember coming up against it very quickly. I’m bad for it, most of the footage is poached. You can literally see the filmers!
You can tell it looks like you had second but probably third angles.
Totally! I was poaching Neil Chester and Dan Maggee, they’d tell me the rules and taught me about poaching and not posting potential footage, in the nicest way possible too. I was so clearly bad for it, this goes to show why my footage never got put out anywhere. Watching it back now, the clips clearly weren’t good enough for the time.
Half the stuff was things that could go into a sponsor video parts or I'd just Jonny and Moggins stuff to Zorlac. Then the guy running UKVM at the time world ask for stuff.
I seriously don’t remember the UKVM?
It was a guy, it’s a blur, and he came out of nowhere trying to do 411 in the UK. (Editors Note: Jon Drever and later Toby Batchelor put together the UKVM)
Well, he was enthusiastic and nice; he filmed most of it himself. Some of it was going off, I intended to make a video but, the guys were blowing up and filming for bigger parts for companies, quite rightly they were going elsewhere.
'I've had this since I was 16. It still doesn't fit, it's rudeboy as fuck.'
Wakefield’s Liam Sproat is in the video too, was he filming for the Unabomber video?
Yeah Liam was filming for the new bomber video that eventually became UrbaneMob, Harrison was out with the Harmony and Mike at first was Vans. This is all a nice period for everyone; they were picking up sponsors and developing. All of them were probably getting First Lights in Sidewalk and they were still pretty young in the industry too.
People definitely hadn’t seen them at their full potential at this point. Did there come a point where the footage you were filming was getting one-upped the next day?
Totally, yeah haha
At that age it’s the perfect time where you film something and then a year later they’re three times as good. You end up sat on old footage that's not worth posting.
Big time, I think other things just got in the way of filming too. I started putting together clips when The Works opened but lots happened in a two-year period basically. In 2004 (the majority of when I was filming) the concrete version of Hyde opened and then that same Winter the Works opened.
We went from one bad, well I don’t know the old Hyde had its own qualities, but it went from everyone skating street all the time, to then skating Hyde all the time and then skating the Works all the time. It all changed quite rapidly!
For example I have tonnes of street footage from the Summer of 2004 and then I’ve got hours of footage filmed at The Works in the Winter of 2004 into early 2005. It really shifted really dramatically. I did the website for The Works and then I filmed all the footage in The Works. They were paying me which was good but that became more time consuming compared to continuing to film street stuff, so yeah all the street footage never really got used.
Did that shift from the personal to the professional maybe make you less interested in filming personal stuff?
How do I put this, I think I knew what my place was by that point?
I knew that most people that had been filming in terms of street footage needed to be filmed on VX. That was the attitude; also I didn’t drive either. I would still go skating but if someone else was driving and they were filming I felt you know, I was getting slightly older and slightly wiser. You know it doesn’t make sense for me to come and film if this is what is happening.
So you didn’t have the early 2000’s filmer starter pack?
I definitely didn’t have the money to be a proper skate videographer, that’s the truth and then what I had in terms of the camera was only enough for doing little edits for the Works. For me everything was actually sort of means to making some sort of money, which you know was a necessity really.
There is so much that happened at once I was also writing for Sidewalk and that made skate politics more evident.
I guess there is that age where you start seeing things for how they are a bit more and you start seeing internal structures. You have the choice whether you want to play the game or whether it isn’t for you as well.
That happened once I got into art school and started getting interested in that stuff. I sort of remember having to properly think it through and deciding. I knew I needed to concentrate on being fully in the skate industry or not basically. That's how I remember thinking about it because I was either 'I need to try and film way more and get more involved', or just not bother and try the art stuff out. I just had to enjoy skateboarding again and by 18 I was jaded as fuck basically.
That’s really gnarly, you were young in a position from the age of 15 working in a skate shop, to 18 you already had a job filming for a skate park and you were writing for a skate mag. That’s the work that people would start doing 18 onwards.
Exactly, I think I was too young. I was exposed too much too early by the point of being 18. I’d not burned any bridges, not that I had any, and I didn’t have any grudges. I hadn’t had any particularly bad experiences, if anything I had only amazing encouragement and support from people. I think I could too easily see the path in front of me.
As in you knew ‘maybe I’m going to write a bit and then work for another magazine’ and ‘then go on a few trips every other month or so and maybe then film a skate comp’ and you’ll have all the fun bits of it and then you will have the typical day to day write, edit, write, edit and you knew that already?
Yep and I also saw all the internet stuff starting to kick off. YouTube and all that stuff was going to have a massive impact especially on the skate mags and people were starting to begin to scramble for internet attention.
There was all that going on and I mean with me, Don’t Mess With Yorkshire, Jesus Christ, that website was so fucking popular. At the time I didn’t really have anything or there wasn’t that much to compare it to, but thousands of people were visiting that website. In the years after so many people I would meet, who at the time were 12-13 years old, that website was such a big deal for them. There was maybe 30 video clips of single tricks in total haha.
Lets discuss the (Mushy) video itself, was there any deliberate editing choices with the three songs?
There was a certain degree of categorisation, but I think it’s also just what felt like a nice flow for things. I guess I have tried to edit it like i would have edited it at that time.
That has been an interesting thing to consider, I was trying to remember what sort of skate video ideology that I was being indoctrinated to at that time. One thing that came back was this having no filler footage; it used to be a thing that people focused on, just only skateboarding and nothing else.
I can certainly tell that, there’s no B-Roll or for lack of a better term ‘dicking around’.
This was mainly a decision of convenience for me as all I really have are the tricks. There are odd bits of non-skating footage but not really. It’s all I really had to work with to edit, so I thought it would be nice just to make it as skate heavy as possible.
At the point when I thought it was actually going to be a skate video I was going to call it ‘Bangers & Mash’ at the time. I always had it that Tom Harrison had the first part and Mike Wright the last. At least I sort of knew that was the start and the ending!
We had done two Barcelona trips I had been on, the second which is all footage in that first section was with the Ilkley and the Sheffield lot, I was conscious that there was Barca footage from the same trip which had Jason Brown and Harrison on as well as Johnny McNair and Moggins in. That felt like a nice flow, especially since the song used on the edit I had used from the time of the original edit.
It wall about the style blend through these styles of skating so that was the first section and then I thought I needed to do a semi-WUG section like a Wakefiled Underground Carpet World manny section.
As for the rest, it's an ode to the Herald days ending with a crazy amount of Mikey footage.
This project is really cool there's been true constraints on all of it . In what's a negative time for people you've managed to find something positive, especially when the work revolves around some negative memories too.
There's that thing everyone has 'one day I'm going to finally do this' and for me I very much hit a point where I went to art school and said to myself 'I am going to take this art stuff seriously'. In any creative output that was how I channeled everything and I went back to skating just for the sake of enjoying skateboarding and I stopped filming completely, I stopped doing anything 'industry' but it always hung over me. I never used this footage and I never made the skate video I wanted to make.
Was this some sort of unfinished business then?
It's been how many years you know, 14 or 15 years? It's always sort of been there, the intention to do it. It feels nice to put this footage out, it's like its a weight off my chest, this hard drive, it is a hard drive I have been trying to get access to for ages and it has been this object I have carried around with me like a cross. It took around £80 and 3 adaptors for me to finally get access to it and a government based lockdown to make me bother making the edit.