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Archive photos from a recent film about Bedminster’s beloved skatepark, as the filmmaker reflects on why it still means so much to local people today.

Built in 1978, Dean Lane skatepark sits in the heart of Dame Emily Park in Bedminster. Known locally as The Deaner, its crusty DIY transitions are built into a hill, making going fast mandatory not optional. The cracks and imperfections make it much tougher to skate than modern skateparks but this has helped create its reputation. “Nothing meaner than the Deaner,” as the locals say.

Living locally to the Deaner I always wanted to make a film about its rugged history. During my research, I learnt the park was once the site of a coal mine where a serious accident in 1908 killed eight people and led to the mine being shut down. The Smyth family who owned the park then donated it to the council for the benefit of the people. 

And now, over 100 years later, people come to the south Bristol spot from all over – the south west, Wales and rest of the UK.

Spring 1978
Park opens during skateboarding boom. It’s know as Dame Emily Park to the locals.

1992 – John Cardiel demo.
Cardiel did the unthinkable and Ollied from 1st bowl to 3rd something no other skater had even considered.

Mid 90’s – Bandstand get burnt down.
The bandstand was erected as a memorial to the miners that died there many years ago and offered a dry space to skate.

Mid-late 90’s
The council begin removing certain sections of the park including the bowls and sneak run.

1999
The park is renovated by local skatepark manufactured Wheelscape. It gives the space a new lease of life and the name “The Deaner” is born.

1999
The Dean Lane Hardcore (local crew) organise the first ever DLH Funday (skate/punk/jam).

2019 – 20th Anniversary of DLH Funday.

There have been so many characters across the generations that have devoted a chunk of their lives to skating and socialising at the Deaner. You can’t talk about Dean Lane skatepark without mentioning Spex. He was 10 when the park opened. “I skated there every day,” he says.

He was famous for skating fast and high all around the park. He still lives locally and now can be found carving it up on a longboard alongside his two kids who skate the Deaner daily.

Making the film was like a weird treasure hunt. There is no shortage of archive content out there, it was just a matter of persuading complete strangers to rummage around their attic for an old VHS tape they hadn’t thought about since childhood. One scoop was getting hold of the amazing footage of the opening of the epark from the BBC archives.

Another highlight was managing to play an old VHS tape for the first time in years. The forgotten tape belonging to Sqeez D’Souza was a brilliant clip of him and Spex skating back in the 80’s. I then had the pleasure of showing it to Spex and his son Bear, who were buzzing to watch it together. 

Beyond this reminiscing, making the film highlighted all the benefits of a public skatepark in the heart of a city. A hub for exercise, community, friendship across generations, and expression. Despite its rough exterior, The Deaner brings nothing but fond memories. Even when you’re smashing your teeth on the concrete.

Dame Emily Skatepark Opening, 1978

Jack Fenton heard I was making the documentary and he developed some old slides his Grandad had taken, and there was no mistaking the distinct transitions of Dean Lane. Photo: Jack Fenton

Chris Wright, 1983 

Chris Wright, also a backside boneless 35 years earlier. Alistair Kerr was another contributor who dug out amazing unseen photography dating back to the early 80’s. Photo: Alistair Kerr Photography

Spex, 1982

This wooden quarter pipe with metal lip made a racket when you skated it. Spex was infamous for skating it after building the flat deck himself so he could do hand plants. Photo: Alistair Kerr Photography

Spex, (unknown)

Spex lent me his old stash of images for the film. He had a reputation for getting higher on his airs than anyone else out of the 3rd bowl.

Spex and his son Bear, 2019

Spex and Bear looking through old pictures and magazine cuttings. It was great to see him share so many fond memories with his youngest son. Photo: Daniel Higginson

Clev Ryan, 2018

Local ripper Ryan Price doing a backside boneless during a recent Birdhouse skateboard tour. The banked walls make it the perfect spot for a demo. Photo: Tom Sparey

Benny HardFlip, 2019

Benny was stoked about the film and keen to get some tricks on camera. This hardflip only took a few tries and is known as an NBD (Never been done). Photo: Tom Sparey

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  • Paul says:

    I had a photo taken by Bristol evening post back in the early 80s have to got it or seen it thanks Paul Hancock

  • Jason Cook says:

    The council built a half pipe there in the 80s and it was shit. Based on a 1970s design. Things had moved on but no one was consulted. No one used the new half pipe. It was rubbish. A complete waste of money.
    Skateboards were bigger and half pipes needed
    a longer flat bit in the middle but what they built was U shaped.

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