Friday 6th August

| BY Andrea Sacal

Ten’s to See: Skateboarding Exhibition ‘No Comply’ at Somerset House

Skateboarding is often known as the sport of the rebellious, the rule-breakers, the explorers. A sport that is often overlooked but is now getting the recognition that it deserves. Two weeks back, it had its inauguration at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and London’s Somerset House is commemorating the historic achievement with its new exhibition, No Comply.

Spread over three rooms, the exhibition explores the skate culture and its impact on UK communities over the past 45 years. 

The British skateboarding scene emerged in the 1970s in honour of those looking for an escape and a sense of community. The sport is based on the act of freedom of expression and empowering those that feel voiceless. In 2021, the sport has expanded without borders, embracing skaters from all ethnicities, genders, ages and identities. Skateboarding has no rules. 

No Comply first goes back in time to the 1950s when skateboarding first emerged in the USA as surfers began adding wheels to boards as a means of experimentation. This desire later spread to the UK and popularity for the sport quickly grew. The exhibition first presents a display of distinct skate magazines, zines and posters created by Tim Leighton-Boyce, a key figure in the expansion of UK skateboarding. In May of 1987, he launched Read and Destroy magazine which was once known as the “skater bible”. The pages and images of the thirty-year-old publication are scattered across the exhibition, displaying the defining images of British skate culture. 

Looking deeper into skate publications, the expo also highlights Skateism magazine, a DIY platform for skateboarding journalism, events and activism, wishing to highlight the underground life of the sport. Its pages are set across the tables of No Comply as a celebration of diversity and their dedication to skating. 

The final room of No Comply puts one of the most important tools of skateboarding in front of us, the fashion of it all. From skate brands to trainers, skater fashion has evolved into a universe of its own. The brands presented at the exciting finale are the ones that have long-lived through the ongoing trends that overcome the sport. 

This section highlights one particular brand that has surpassed many that came before: Palace Skateboards. The London-based brand was founded in 2009 by Lev Tanju and is a clear example of the perfect marriage between the art and creativity of fashion and skateboarding, not taking itself too seriously in the process. A number of Palace magazine ads are displayed across the room, ranging from 2010-2020 and frayed branded tees are complemented by the history experienced in this room. 

A brand not mentioned in this No Comply history lesson is Nike SB – its impact on skateboarding shouldn’t go ignored. Nike Skateboarding (SB) is the epitome of skate footwear exploding in the market in 2002 and has become a go-to shoe for many skaters since. 

Somerset House’s No Comply exhibition is a history lesson for us all. It teaches us to honour the rich history of skateboarding and its impact on UK culture over the past half-century. 

Imagery courtesy of Somerset House. ‘No Comply’ is open till September 19 at Somerset House.