Barry Walsh as interviewed in issue 1 of the magazine “SKATEBOARD SCENE” – the radical read for radical riders (45p) – by Willie Samson.
We kick off our first issue with Barry Walsh’s interview. Barry isn’t the slalom champ of Bexhill. Nor did he invent a new hydrolastic nylon bearing to revolutionise the world’s wheel design. Barry can ride a board, but he admits he’s no ace. He hasn’t the time to practice. Because he spends every spare minute and a lot that aren’t spare working in the interests of skateboarding. He’s the chairman of the first non-profit making organisation in British riding, the Skateboard Association (BSA).
Barry Walsh is a trim young guy of about twenty-five (in 1977). A journalist by profession, his official title is Research Press Officer of the British Safety Council. When I spoke to him, he was on his way to an afternoon session with the DJ’s of London’s Capital Radio he was organising a Safe Driving Week which involved him starting work at 5.30 am and working through till 6.00 pm. Then he started his normal duties… Nevertheless, he somehow found time to talk to ‘Skateboard Scene’ about his involvement in the sport, his view of its future and his fears regarding its commercialisation by unscrupulous businessmen.
WS How did you first become aware of skateboarding as a ”sport”
BW l used to do some football coaching in the evenings and suddenly kids started turning up at the ground on skateboards. That was about eighteen months ago. It sort of seized my interest from the start. Then, because I was working for an organisation which promoted safety, I couldn’t help noticing the outcry of certain other bodies against the sport. There’d been twelve or so deaths in the USA and that caused a lot of adverse criticism over here. I thought it was unjustified criticism.
WS You don’t feel that skate board riding is dangerous?
BW It’s like anything else. It’s dangerous if it isn’t properly controlled. The deaths in the USA were the result of traffic accidents 7 kids riding the wrong gear in the wrong place and coming into confrontation with lorries etc. There’s nothing intrinsically dangerous about skateboarding that education can‘t put right.
WS So you felt that ROSPA’s attempts to ban skateboarding were wrong.
BW Yes, but I don’t want to knock ROSPA. Since they’ve understood that riding is a real sport, they’ve been great. You can’t blame them for getting uptight in the early days. Remember that the first safety equipment hit the market about a year after the first board. That’s a frightening gap. It was irresponsible of the manufacturers and importers of boards to allow that situation to develop. The horror stories from America made things worse, parents got worried and the sport suffered. Skateboarding was just a street mess a dangerous rip-off.
WS How did the BSA first begin?
BW Well. (Walsh is a modest man – Ed.) Er, in my capacity as an official of the British Safety Council, I was made officially aware that skate-boarding existed and that it was potentially dangerous if the right influences weren’t exerted from the start. So l organised a general meeting of the interested parties at the Sports Council HQ in London. There were manufacturers present and riders and clubs and importers. And it was agreed that some sort of governing body was required to steer the development of the sport. A couple of guys – Vince Fitzgerald of The Source and Arthur Howard of Skatopia – volunteered themselves as chairmen.