Video: Welwyn Garden City Skaters have space to express themselves

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:15 26 October 2009

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FOR years, the public perception of skateboarders has tended to be on the slightly negative side. But a group of young people from WGC is starting to change all that. Sam Falla, 17, Darryl Keel, 19, 12-year-old Michaela Maskell and Bethany Williams, 11,

FOR years, the public perception of skateboarders has tended to be on the slightly negative side.

But a group of young people from WGC is starting to change all that.

Sam Falla, 17, Darryl Keel, 19, 12-year-old Michaela Maskell and Bethany Williams, 11, all regularly attend Space youth group, run by central Herts YMCA, in WGC.

All are keen skateboarders, and all are heavily involved in improving provisions for young people in the community.

Last month, in co-ordination with the YMCA, they helped organise a skateboard competition for almost 60 people.

Andrew Ginn, YMCA youth work development manager, said: "One of the biggest motivations was helping to improve the public reputation of skating.

"There's more to it than knocking over old ladies."

Sam said: "We get bad looks from people our own age because we're different from them. And older people don't like us because we're young and they think we're the same as all the others."

He added: "But some people stop and watch us and when that happens, that's cool."

Darryl said being different was not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it meant not being tarred with the same brush as other young people.

"Some people our age give us a bad name and it's our job to prove we're different," he said.

Perhaps the message is starting to spread.

Late last year, YMCA revealed plans for a new £14m youth and community centre on Broadwater Road.

After consultation with hundreds of young people, the final plan includes the country's largest skate park.

The YMCA will find out at the end of the month whether a bid for £5m of Government funding has been successful.

So could WGC become the country's skating haven?

Andrew said: "Even if the bid is rejected, there is still a strong commitment from the YMCA and local churches to enable youth-led provisions that meet the needs of young people in the local community, such as the skate competition, as well as events and resources on a larger scale.

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