The possible demise of one-of-kind UK street spot got Toby Lamborn thinking about the “unique insights we get as street riders into a large mixture of other people’s worlds.”

Toby Lamborn is a rider originally from Southend-on-Sea in England. While you may not have ever heard of Southend, you might recognize the brick stepped “NHS Banks” that reside there—but possibly not for much longer. The property surrounding the banks has been fenced off and construction has ensued. An unlocked gate gave Toby and crew a golden opportunity to get what might have been their chance to ride the spot. The whole experience got Toby thinking about the “unique insights we get as street riders into a large mixture of other people’s worlds” as Toby put it.

Text/photos: Toby Lamborn

Mike Kirkby.

This spot is found in Southend-on-Sea which is located about an hours train journey east from London. Known as the “NHS Banks” it has been a staple spot when on the usual tour of Southend’s street offerings. Its unique transition has made it one of those perfect spots where just the satisfaction of doing an air leaves you fulfilled. However, you will see that it has recently taken on new form as a building site. These photos were the product of a resident builder leaving the gate unlocked. Our luck meant that we could bag one last session before it meets its possible demise.

The buildings last incarnation, before the boarded up state it is currently in, was an Insurance building and before that, an office building for the NHS (National Health Service). When taking the spaces we ride out of a ‘riding context’ you can come to realize the representations of culture and society these spaces hold. To illustrate, the NHS interior having been replaced by a private insurance company serves as a pretty good metaphor for the current state of the healthcare system within Britain. The main point I’m making is that, as street riders, we continually expose ourselves to a multitude of public participants who each have their own individual social backgrounds and attitudes towards life, or in this case, us riding their property. For instance, the European workers living in the on-site cabins gave us an extremely less sarcastic and less patronizing attempt of giving us ‘the boot’ compared to a resident who tried kicking us out of the ledge spot in the new build flats you see behind the cabins. Looking beyond these reactions getting in the way of riding, you are able to see different reactions to the same situation, giving you an idea of the character and social situation of those inhabiting these spaces.

The on site cabin and the new build flats. The smug occupant of the latter also told us to get jobs. It was a Sunday. 

Me describing the characters found in the spaces I have mentioned, probably gives riders a better idea of that area than compared to someone reading this who doesn’t ride. The way the young, new build flat guy leant from the driving seat, over his girlfriend, into the passenger seat to ask smugly, “Do you guys live here?”, is a reaction riders from all over can probably relate to. I bet you are picturing the exact way he delivered that question now. Due to the exposure we have to people and spaces, I think it means anyone who rides their local towns on a regular basis can form an accurate and effectively critical analysis of the areas they ride in.

Ironically, without the “NHS Banks” being boarded up, I probably wouldn’t have had the motivation to write about the unique insights of individual’s everyday lives that we as riders obtain. It isn’t something we take for granted, as even though the language may differ, we tend to make general comments on the areas we ride. Whether it’s talking about a large percentage of individuals in a certain space being “under the influence”, or even talking about the opposite by commenting on an area being filled with very posh people driving nice cars. Hopefully the latter doesn’t happen to the “NHS Banks” after it gets turned into modern flats or something of that manner, as our experience with such areas’ clientele is not so positive. However, the spots future is uncertain, so if you happen to be in Southend then do swing by it as its definitely worth a visit if the exterior remains intact. Also, don’t worry if the builders are still there, they’ll only care about you being there after about an hour into the riding session. That is if they regrettably leave the gate unlocked. 

Mike Kirkby.

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