The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Restoration for pioneering Kennington Bowl skatepark

‘The Kenny’, one of the oldest purpose built skating facilities in the UK.

Image credit: Greg Falski

A pioneering 1970’s skatepark in South London is being restored after a community campaign and support from the local council.

The Kennington Bowl, or ‘Kenny’ as it’s known locally, was opened in 1978 and is one of the oldest purpose built skateboarding facilities in the UK.  Following a hasty restoration attempt in 2012, where the concrete surface was re-skimmed, it’s condition quickly deteriorated and left the popular venue out of action for the past few years.

Constructed by the ‘The Great Outdoors Company’, Kennington Bowl rode a new wave of popularity in the Britain for skating culture in the late 70’s and was funded by a £15 million GLC grant to counter issues of urban decay. It utilised the ‘Radical Banking’ system, developed by Lorne Edwards to make skateparks out of pre-cast modules, which could be readily assembled on site. This also aimed to avoid the poor design and shoddy construction that plagued some other early examples and as such, is unique in UK skatepark architecture.

The opening of Kennington Bowl, from a ‘Great Outdoor Company’ press release, 1979.

Image credit: Iain Borden

The Friends of Kennington Park and local skaters teamed up to launch the ‘Bring Back Kennington Bowl’ campaign, attracting 2,000 signatures to their petition and winning the backing of Lambeth Council.

Engineers from Price & Myers have recently been investigating the condition of footings underneath the structure and conducted a topographical survey of the site. With considerable ground movement over the past four decades, a strategy is now being devised to reinforce the footings and re-level the precast segments –  returning them to a skateable condition, while conserving the original concrete surface.

Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth’s Cabinet member for Equalities and Culture, said:

“Lambeth has a large and enthusiastic skateboarding community with other famous parks in use at Stockwell and on the South Bank. This is an exciting project that we are working closely on I’m sure will be welcomed by the community.”

Christopher Moore of Price & Myers added:

“Kennington Bowl is such a well-loved and important skate venue in the history of the sport in the UK, and Price & Myers are very proud to be involved in its restoration. Once completed, ‘The Kenny’ will again serve skaters for many years to come.”

Diagram from the of the modular ‘Radical Banking’ skatepark catalogue, 1978

Image credit: Iain Borden

The sport recently made its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 games, with Team GB’s Sky Brown becoming one of the youngest ever medal winners, while in recent years the UK’s skateboarding heritage has become more widely appreciated.

In 2014 the Rom Skatepark (also 1978) was Grade II listed by Historic England, as the ‘best and most completely preserved of the early purpose-built skateparks’. Meanwhile the iconic Southbank Skatepark, known as the birthplace of UK skating, fought off re-development plans in 2013/14 for the undercroft space. The ‘Long Live Southbank’ campaign generating huge public support and with the backing of the C20, Historic England and the Mayor of London, ultimately had the undercroft listed as an Asset of Community Value, protecting the space for skating in perpetuity.

The Southbank Centre undercroft; the spiritual home of UK skateboarding, saved from development after a longrunning community campaign.

Image credit: Nick Constant