So the day had arrived for my interview with Pro Skater Ben Grove, I decided to nip to Manchester Lomo HQ to load up and text Ben to say let’s meet in Night and Day for a quick glug before we start. I set off like a camera carthorse loaded up to the max.I met Ben in the bar and introduced myself to him and his two associates. As I went to get drinks at the bar I could hear Ben quizzing the pair followed by laughter. It turns out Ben had rocked up thinking the pair were with me, introduced himself and asked if they were with me, then misheard them and promptly sat down with them for 20 minutes while they ate their meal. It turns out luckily the pair enjoyed talking to random Mancunian skaters and we all had a laugh about it, as they just thought he was a rather friendly guy. This part is actually quite true. This incident gave me a quick insight into what they rest of my day would involve. On finding out this month’s task would be about skating, my heart sank imagining myself trying to interview some “too cool for school” skater who didn’t really have that much to say. This is not the case with Ben, as quite frankly he could talk a glass eye to sleep and is really quite insightful. We headed out round town to take some shots in the Northern Quarter.
Ben was keen for me to get some shots of his boys down at the Note shop and we bobbed in to meet the faces that have been instrumental in Ben’s success. Just after leaving school, skating started to get serious for Ben, and he was first sponsored by Note after he won numerous skate comps.
I decided to take my chance and ask Ben some probing questions “So Ben you’ve said Note has played a big part in your life and now you spend a lot of time with the boys down there, would you say they’ve been instrumental in your career?” Ben say’s “Yeah definitely, all the boys you’ve met today. Note originally started in Stockport at a skate park called Bones and then it moved into Manchester. Everyone on the scene goes to Note and everyone knows each other”
From the young age of 17 Ben traveled round the world on tours filming skate videos. “It sounds like you have done some amazing things traveling the world, competing in various comps, what was the most exciting thing you were doing at that time?” Ben says “All the best things I’d done have been over here, traveling the country filming in places like Sheffield, I filmed my first big part that everyone saw in the UK over here in Manchester done with Note called This way up”
“So Ben can you tell me what the highlight of your career has been so far?” “for me skating with all my heroes like the Supra team when they came to Manchester – Chad Muska, Tom Penny, Jim Greco, all the big names that I’ve grown up with, looking up to I was on a tour bus with them all, I was on vans at the time but because I was showing them round they took me down to London, a couple of weeks later I get a call and they want me to be the first person to be on the European team”
“I’ve heard you say that music and skating are your two main passions in life what’s been your favourite ever gig of all time?” – “probably my first Ian Brown gig, I met him when I was outside the gig hours before, I gave him a copy of my first Skate video which had FEAR on, he took it and then bigged me up on stage, I threw my cap at him and he sang Golden Gaze wearing it, I was 15, so that’s got to be a top highlight”
“Who’s been your main inspiration in your life?” “I would have to say my mum, she’s a very positive person, not many peoples’ parents let them go and get on trains at the age of 14 and go all over the country on a skate board and now I’m doing it for a living. She’s always had faith in me and backed me, so she’s got to be my inspiration”
What advice would you give to youngsters coming through?" “Just go out and have fun, enjoy skate boarding, if you try hard it will come, don’t go out with the intention of getting sponsored, enjoy your time because its short”
“Since you started skating and being involved with Note a lot of time has passed, Manchester’s changed a lot during that time, how has that affected the skate scene?” “The architecture for one is better for skating, all the floors are nice and smooth, since the bomb a lot of work has been done and all that area is really good for skating, the scene has totally changed, everyone goes out skating, if someone goes past and there’s a big crew everyone gets involved, its not cliquey, everyone’s just up for a skate.”
“What do you want to see for Manchester in the future?” “A free concrete park, where you don’t have to pay – kids cant afford to pay in parks, they want to save up for a set of wheels, or a new board, they’re paying money into a skate park when the council should be providing a free one. There’s nowhere for kids to go, look at the riots, having a free concrete park it will encourage kids to take an interest and take a different path in life. Skate boarding stops you from just sitting on the street corner drinking, it channels your energy. Skate boarding saved me”
“In terms of the physical act of skateboarding what kind of effect do you think it has on your wellbeing?” “it’s a great way to let stress out and aggression out, every emotion you can think of you go through when you’re skate boarding, and the adrenalin rush is the best drug going.”
“You’ve got your fingers in quite a few pies at the moment Ben, what do you want for the future?” “I just want to keep bettering myself, keep my sponsors happy, keep trying new things and progressing.”
I spent the rest of the day with Ben and the Note boys watching them shoot video and stills of him in various places across Manchester. It was great to watch, Joel Peck and Mark Kendrick worked relentlessly trying to get one particular shot while the other boys sat around drinking beer. Sounds good right? Ben is quite the photo geek and is addicted to documenting his life and uploading his photographs to the internet. He came down to Lomo HQ for the launch of the Fisheye Baby 110 and gave me a brief lesson on his board, I can tell you free booze coupled with a maxi dress and Birkinstocks do not make a pro skater!
Until next time peoples, over and out!