In recent years, skate culture has taken off in a number of African countries like South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia. Soon, Malawi will be added to the list with the creation of its first ever skate park and roller disco. These facilities are to be community owned and operated.
Skate Malawi Community Interest Company is a social enterprise that was founded by Jack Wrigley along with his friends and Skate Malawi team members Bryony and Xavi, who were inspired to create the roller rink and skate park after their experience of managing a roller rink and skate facility in Glasgow, Scotland. According to Jack:
“We saw first hand what a positive impact skating has on both individuals and communities. It’s a great form of exercise which builds confidence and fitness. Skate parks occupy a third space away from home and school, somewhere young people can gather and form lasting friendships. Skate parks were fundamental to us growing up and as adults”.
Skate Malawi reached out to Lake of Stars, an annual music and arts festival in Malawi and offered to teach skate classes and hold a roller disco.
“We sent a concept drawing to the organisers of Lake of Stars asking if we could teach skating at their festival and they got back to us saying they would love us too but suggested it would be even better if we could establish a permanent facility in Malawi. We are very inspired by organisations such as Skateistan and Ethiopia Skate who have successfully built skate parks all over the world.”
In January the Skate Malawi Team 2018 met with organisers of Lake of Stars, Tumaini Festival, The Mlambe Project, Grittahs Camp and the Set it Off Festival in Zomba. They received positive responses and found that many young people were interested in skating.
In September 2018, Skate Malawi took over a disused swimming pool at the Lake of Stars Festival. It was there that the founders solidified their decision to build a permanent skate park and roller rink. Another driving motivation was the lack of recreational facilities available for the youth in Lilongwe outside of the traditional sports such as football, basketball and netball. “We just want to share something different and give people another alternative…It really isn’t just about skating, it’s about community too,” stated Jack.
The interest was overwhelming. All in all, hundreds of young people passed by the swimming to either learn to skate or cheer on their friends taking lessons.
In terms of the timeline for the physical building of the skate park and roller rink, Jack stated that the plan is to include well wishers in their fundraising campaign as to date, their initiatives have been self funded. A crowdfunding campaign will be paired with the sale of merchandise created by Malawian artists (profits will be split equally), as well as an album featuring music from Malawi and Scotland. According to Jack, “The park will need to generate some income for its upkeep, maintenance and future development. This can be achieved through a simple pay to skate model at certain times or events but our dream is to ensure it is accessible for everyone regardless of whether you can afford it or not.”
In the near future, Jack is confident that the park will expand to other cities in Malawi and other countries. “We have received emails from skaters in quite a few other countries in the region who want a skate park. So who knows? We really just want to share our love of skating and make a fun place where everyone is welcome.”
For more information on Skate Malawi, visit their website www.skate-malawi.org