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.
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.
The council begin removing certain sections of the park including the bowls and sneak run.
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.
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.