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Boris Johnson’s support for skaters makes redevelopment “extremely difficult” – Jude Kelly

Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly.
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Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly has claimed that London mayor Boris Johnson’s recent comments in support of retaining a skate park on the site has made it “extremely difficult” for the venue’s planned redevelopment.

The Southbank Centre is proposing a £120 million overhaul of its 21-acre site, which would see part of the complex currently used by skaters turned into retail space. This would generate income for the venue, which is looking to refurbish its festival wing to provide a “huge increase in education facilities”, as well as a new children’s centre and rehearsal spaces.

As part of its plans, the skateboarders would be moved 100 metres along the river, to a new site.

However, Johnson, while supporting the plans generally, recently claimed the redevelopment should not be “at the detriment of the skate park”.

His support for the scheme is seen as crucial, as the planning decision – to be made by Lambeth Council – will eventually be referred back to him.

Responding, Kelly told The Stage: “We are trying, as a charity, to bring great art, and education in the arts, to as many people as possible. We have a very challenged site, and unless we can make the best of it, we can’t provide opportunities for young artists, young composers, young actors and performers.”

She added: “We felt moving the skaters 100 metres, to our own land on the river front, while not being what the skaters wanted would give more space to everyone else, and make it [redevelopment] possible and affordable. If Boris doesn’t agree we need him to tell us where we can find the money from, because we don’t know.”

She said not having his support made it “extremely difficult” and added: “We need him on side. He says he loves the scheme and says he also wants the skaters to stay. We have asked him to explain how he can make that work for us. He is a very magical person, maybe he has the wand.”

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