It was an emotional day for owners Michelle and Jerry Norman as Rush Skatepark pulled down the shutters for the last time on Sunday.
Earlier this year Stroud District Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the demolition of units in the business park and industrial estate to make way for 150 homes, as well as a rebuild of the canal basin and highways infrastructure.
The Long Table, part of the Grace Network, and also a tenant at Brimscombe Port, recently announced a move to nearby Brimscombe Mills, but there is little prospect of new premises for Rush in the immediate future.
“It’s really emotional – horrible,” said Michelle about the final day of trading. “Yesterday we held Scoot GB – the first competition we’ve held in the last two years – and it was only right and fitting we held it here as the first competition we ever staged was Scoot GB.”
“It was amazing,” said Jerry, “a lot of the pros said they’d got their first sponsorship in competitions here – and look where they are now. It was amazing but also very, very emotional.”
Today, Sunday, was scheduled to be a normal session day. “As you can see, the car park is rammed, all the sessions are booked – there are 85 in each session – we’re just having a fun day, Jerry and I are doing some giveaways. It was supposed to be a chilled day, but it’s not very chilled, it’s a bit emotional to say the least,” said Michelle.
“We knew the day was coming, but when it comes it’s hard, it’s really tough. There have been a lot of tears,” she added.
Martin Cockburn travelled from his home in Essex for the final weekend. “There won’t be another competition here and we won’t be able to come here again, which is really sad.
“The riders yesterday came from every corner of the country. Once this shuts there will be some kids out there on the streets. The nearest park of this size is a two- or three-hour drive away.
“It helps kids’ mental health because they get together with people from all over the country that come here. It is a community because they all talk to each other, and all get on really well.”
What does the immediate future hold? “We’ve got to strip the park,” said Jerry. “If we don’t it will be the number one building to break into.”
Some of the structure will be sold. “Everything’s got to go, and if it doesn’t it’ll be scrapped. We’ve had the demolition guys walking in this week, pricing up stuff and most of them thought the council was ‘absolutely bonkers’ for getting rid of this facility,” he added.
“We’ve got to find jobs now,” said Michelle. “It would be nice to retire but we can’t do that.”
A crowdfunding campaign has raised more than £8,000 and is set to reach the £10,000 target explained organiser Debbie Bird. “Since 2017 or 2018 we’ve been putting the case for keeping this place open.
“I ended up setting up a crowdfunder, and with Jerry and Michelle’s blessing I’m setting up a charity so we’ve got charitable status and can apply for grants – once a site is found we can approach charities and companies for funding.
“We’ve got Friends of Rush Skatepark and that’s a way people can keep in touch, and we’re going to put on lots of events from now until the end of the year and keep the spirit of Rush alive and make sure people don’t forget about it. It will cost millions to build a park, so this is just the very beginning,” explained Debbie.
“These guys are working so hard,” said Michelle. “They are raising this money, so if something comes along then the money’s there and we’ll be in a position to move forward.”
What is the likelihood of Rush finding a new location? “If a building came up, or a piece of land, then it’s very possible, but we’ve been looking for four years and haven’t found anything yet,” said Michelle. “We’re very positive something will come out of it, we really are.”
And what message would Jerry give to all the people who have supported Rush over the years? “Thank you, you’ve been brilliant. What people outside this community don’t realise is that it doesn’t discriminate, whether you’re rich or poor, it doesn’t discriminate your religion, whether you’re a pro or a beginner – everybody comes together and everybody wants everyone to do well. You don’t see that in any other sport.”