How one community transformed a neglected wasteland – and built a thriving £150,000 skate park for £7,000

In what was once an abandoned wasteland filled with overgrown bushes and piles of rubbish, now lies one of Birmingham’s most exciting, ambitious and unique community spaces.

Built by the community for the community, DIY Bournbrook is the first skate park built entirely by volunteers in the country.

For years Bournbrook Recreational Park – a little-known park behind Aldi on Bristol Road, Selly Oak – was a place best avoided.

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But today – thanks to the hard work and dedication of community members – it teems with life.

Bournbrook DIY before and after photos.

Bournbrook DIY was built from the ground up.

In May 2020, local skater Shaun Boyle started clearing bushes and litter at Bournbrook Rec and – with help from other local skaters – built a small skateable ledge.

Fast-forward two years, Bournbrook DIY — now full of ramps and benches for skaters — is the only DIY park in the country to be granted official skatepark status.

But the journey to this point has been far from straightforward.

Berni Good, park manager.

Speaking at a free skateboarding lesson for beginners held this week, Berni Good, one of the park’s managers, told how this “beautiful space” came to be.

‘It would have cost the council £150,000 to build something like this,’ she said.

“We managed to build it for £7,000 via a GoFundMe Project.

“People really want to see DIY skate parks – they want to be involved in the project.

“And it’s not just a skatepark – we also have beautiful gardens and art here.

Volunteers build a ramp at Bournbrook DIY.

“It was designed by skateboarders, for skateboarders, and is maintained by the local community.

“We have had nothing but positive feedback from local residents – there is an elderly couple who have lived across the road for 30 years who told us it was the first time that he felt safe enough to walk around this area.”

Shaun Boyle, one of the park’s founders, said: “Bournbrook Recreational Ground is a space that has facilitated a number of different subcultures over the years.

“The space was completely abandoned before the skatepark – we got some friends together and started cleaning it up.”

Shaun Boyle, one of the park’s founders.

On a warm summer evening, the park is bursting with energy.

Looking around the park, you’ll see skilled skaters performing daring tricks, soaring through the air as their skateboards – miraculously – stick to their feet like glue.

You’ll also see people standing timidly on their boards, rolling slowly as they take their first brave pushes.

Every accomplishment – ​​big or small – is greeted with the same sound of skateboards tapping the ground – a “kudos” from people who know how daunting those first steps can be.

Bournbrook DIY is the first entirely volunteer-built skatepark in the UK.

Birmingham City Council initially expressed concerns about the safety of the makeshift skatepark.

But after meetings with council representatives and help from professional skate park builders, the volunteers were able to allay some of those concerns.

After receiving further assurances from ROSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) that the park was safe and built to professional standards, the council allowed the park to officially open to the public in September 2021.

Birmingham Skating Venues is now a community benefit corporation that looks after the site and promotes skateboarding in Birmingham.

The park is surrounded by gardens and graffiti.

The success of Bournbrook DIY inspired similar projects across the country at a time when public interest in skateboarding was skyrocketing following its inclusion in the Tokyo Olympics.

At just 13, Sky Brown became Britain’s youngest summer medalist after winning a bronze medal in the park event.

Her teammate, Bombette Martin, has strong ties to Birmingham where her grandfather runs a boxing gym – she visited Bournbrook shortly after it opened.

Skaters at a free beginners event at Bournbrook DIY.

Bournbrook DIY is keen to capitalize on the unlikely boom of skateboarding during the pandemic and offer introductory lessons to community members with free boards and helmets provided.

Since its inception, Bournbrook DIY has been designed to be an inclusive space.

In what has long been considered a male-dominated activity, the group has teamed up with a local skate group Brum Girl skate – a group that helps women and gender marginalized people started skating – to offer sessions in a safe and welcoming environment.

“We want to do more regular lessons – the more people on skateboards the better,” Shaun Boyle said.

“It’s always been about the community, it’s the people that make it such a wonderful space.”

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