The FAR Skate Foundation

By Samuel Watson Friday 26th March 2021

Image courtesy of Wix

Many cities in the UK are iconic for their skating scene. Places like Manchester, London and Leeds are known for the big skating communities and skate parks. Canterbury may not be regarded as one of these cities, but I bet every time you have walked down the high street you would have noticed a few people on their boards doing tricks. If you are a skater yourself, you may have noticed the lack of skate parks or community hubs in Canterbury.

Residents too have had enough of skaters hanging out on the street. Areas like the Marlowe Arcade have now adopted extra precautions such as 24/7 security guards to remove skaters from the premises. The FAR Skate Foundation thinks it is time for a change. The local charity based in Whitstable is now petitioning Canterbury City Council to allow them to develop a skating community centre here in Canterbury.

I had the opportunity to speak with the CEO and Founder, Brent Lewis. The charity provides alternative education for ‘vulnerable young people who struggle to learn in mainstream school.’ The FAR Academy focuses on educating youths about skating while including practical learning such as woodworking, art and design.

I first heard of the FAR Skate Foundation through a petition I saw online. The petition is to get Canterbury City Council support for a new FAR skate park and education centre. At the point of writing this, the petition is just under its aim of 2,500 signatures. When I saw this petition, I wanted to find out more about the proposals and the charity. I got in contact with the Foundation and was forwarded to Brent Lewis, the founder and CEO of the FAR Skate Foundation and Director of Skateboard GB. Brent founded the FAR Academy in 2009, becoming the first professional skateboard college.

During the interview Brent referred to a recent Canterbury City Council meeting in which council members were arguing in favour of posting up No-Skating signs around Canterbury city, and even the possibility of fencing off public land to prevent people skating. The petition is the Foundations answer to these problems because the lack of safe and permanent skating areas means that people will use the smooth roads of the city centre instead.

In addition to these problems raised by the council, Graffiti is very present in the city. According to Brent, the proposed Skate Park would be graffiti friendly meaning people can freely use the facility as a graffiti wall. The FAR Academy have also previously run graffiti workshops, giving what would be street artists the chance to freely express themselves through graffiti without the worry of vandalising.

The petition does not have a deadline and the Foundation aims to get as many signatures as possible to present to the council in order to start the development of a new educational and skate centre. The best way to help with this project is to sign it and share it. Brent argued that a park like this is much needed, especially now.

During our conversation, Brent mentioned that since lockdown skateboarding sales in the UK had risen by 750%. This likely means more people are getting into skating, the proposal for a park would simply provide a safe environment for this increasing consumer market.

I bet it comes as a surprise to some readers to hear young people receiving qualifications based on skating. Younger me would for certain rejoice in the idea of getting a qualification based on skateboarding. This opportunity from the FAR Academy provides useful lessons to those who struggle with the pressures of the national curriculums. I spoke with Brent about the reasons he created the FAR Academy, he said “from my personal experience in schools I saw kids dropping out and not doing well’. He claimed that “Children at school were lacking motivation and wanted motivating.” Brent founded the FAR Academy to give a new option to students who are losing motivation. The charity creates a ‘safe skateboarding area and a positive environment’ for pupils to learn.

Based in Whitstable, the charity also runs the FAR Skate Shop. The shop acts as a community hub where skaters can purchase a wide range of skateboarding items and use the on-site mini ramps. The shop is a non-profit, meaning that the profit funds the work for the FAR Skate Foundation. The work of the Foundation has proven to be very helpful to many people.

The Foundation is currently focused on getting permission to develop a community skate hub in Canterbury. The facility would become Canterbury’s first indoor skate park, Brent hopes that this would help resolve problems of skaters on public roads. With trained staff on-site, the hub would remain a safe environment for skateboarders and graffiti artists. It would also act as an educational space for students on the FAR Academy courses. The site would also contribute to the funding of the Foundation, potentially giving more people the opportunity to benefit from the course.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has caused a great delay to the work of the Foundation. The Pandemic has been tough for many charities globally, for Brent the main issue was diverted funding into COVID-19 resources since the beginning of 2020. Brent disclosed that the diversion of funds last year has been tough for the charity, “Although it is for a much-needed cause.”

However, Lockdown has seen the boost of skateboarding, more people are getting involved now more than ever. 2020 has been a tough year for many, in addition to a decrease in funding, the Foundation has also dealt with last minute dropouts in expensive legal proceedings regarding the potential skate park in Canterbury.

I asked Brent about the charities plans to work on-site at the now closed Fenwick’s Warehouse in Canterbury. Apparently, after a long and expensive legal proceeding over the warehouse, Fenwick’s dropped out of the deal meaning the Charity is left out of pocket due to legal fees. Last year was a difficult run for the FAR Skate Foundation, but the charity and Brent are eager to make 2021 one of their best years yet.

Brent hopes that Canterbury City Council approve of a new FAR skate community hub. It is not certain whether the Council will allow the development of a skate park in Canterbury, but this remains one of the Foundations top priorities going into 2021.

Brent has a lot on his plate this year, as mentioned earlier he is the director of Skateboard GB. This organisation works to improve skateboarding in the UK and manages the British Skateboarding team in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics. The first Olympic games which will feature professional Skateboarding as a sport.

He is on the forefront of British skateboarding and is fighting to create a safe and positive environment for the local communities while also representing skateboarding on an international stage.

Canterbury lacks a permanent and safe area for people to skate, the council have also expressed concerns regarding skaters hanging around the high street and city centre. So far no one has done anything to address this problem besides Brent and the FAR Skate Foundation. The city should open its arms and welcome a new educational skate facility.

The Foundations proposals to open a skate park and education centre in Canterbury will benefit the many young people who have not got an area to skate, while helping the residents’ concerns regarding loud skaters and groups hanging around the streets. A FAR Skate Community hub in Canterbury would bring the community closer together and give more vulnerable young people the opportunity to obtain an alternative education from the FAR Academy.

If you want to help the FAR Skate Foundation you can visit their website or store online, but the best way to help them is to sign their online petition to Canterbury City Council. According to Brent there is no deadline on the petition, but the charity needs as many signatures as possible to prove to the council that Canterbury needs a safe area for skateboarders. If you read this and agree with the proposals, I would highly recommend you share the petition with friends and locals to raise awareness of the project.

My interview with Brent was very eye-opening, he saw a lack of alternative education to vulnerable students and established the FAR Academy to tackle this problem. Brent is now fighting on behalf of skaters in Canterbury and has done his best to get a skatepark open in the area to facilitate the many young skaters who would otherwise be skating on public roads.

Brent should be an inspiration to many, he sees problems and makes it his goal to create the change needed. The work of the FAR Skate Foundation and FAR Academy has touched the lives of many, and I hope that with a new facility in Canterbury, they will be able to impact the lives of many more vulnerable people.

Petition to support new skate park and education centre in Canterbury:

For more information on the Foundation and its Canterbury Skate park:

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