Paul Silvester’s ‘Haunts’ interview from Sidewalk Magazine Issue 13 (January/February 1997) was the debut of the ‘Haunts’ feature and a Sidewalk staple from then on. The interview also contains photos of nearly all the footage seen in Silvester’s Viewfinder video part which we’ve uploaded with additional commentary from Ben Powell.
portait and and photography by Wig Worland • above: nollie backside flip, Leeds University
An introduction to Sidewalk Magazine’s ‘Haunts’ feature by Ben Powell, 1997
“As far as skateboarding is concerned, Britain is going off. I realise that I’m running the risk of repetition here as this certainly isn’t the first time that that statement has been made, but, hey it’s true so there’s no point being all quiet and reserved about it. In spite of all the natural obstacles, Britain has been producing pros for a long time, but it seems like we’re reaching a peak as far as homespun talent is concerned.
“I’ve been travelling all over these green and pleasant shores recently, and everywhere that I’ve laid my hat along the way I’ve seen skating that has left even my over-active beak silently agape in shocked amazement. There are people out there who may not have ascended into the constellation of household names just yet, but who are still destroying the limitations of what can be done with a skateboard, on a daily basis. With this in mind, the format of coverage has to change in order to adequately represent these guys who, although relatively new to public acclaim are by no means ‘new’ faces. Most of them will have had photos before, usually from comps that they’ve attended, but it seemed like the best way to reveal these rising stars was to document them within their natural environment, to give some kind of access to the urban training grounds that these skaters use to regularly hone their skills. These skateboard ‘haunts’ could be anywhere, every town, every city, even every village has its own share of skate-spots that are rich and varied enough to allow progression to the level of, “Oh my god, did you see that?” status.
“Hopefully, this will serve the dual purpose of exposing these partially hidden heroes, whilst at the same time giving you lot reading some kind of insight into the fabric of various scenes, and the ways that people relate to and exploit the architecture around then. Anyway, enough of my loose-tongued prattling – throw another log on the fire, pour yourself a brandy, and feast your eyes on the phenomenon that is skateboarding.“
Paul Silvester — ‘Haunts’ • Intro & Interview by Ben Powell / Photography by Wig Worland, 1997
It’s hard to know what to say about Paul ‘The Man’ Silvester, watching him skate is like getting booted in the guts repeatedly – it takes your breath away. The vicious rain-gods have conspired against us on both occasions that myself and the flame-haired photo machine have travelled to Leeds to capture Man in his natural habitat, but Paul’s not bothered by the rain as you’ll see. I reckon that if he had enough boards Paul would skate the street 365 days a year, come rain or shine. This will not be the last time you hear the name Paul Silvester.
Why did you move to Leeds?
For a change of scenery really. I’d skated Huddersfield for a long time and I’d never really bothered to travel about that much, but when Rehab [skatepark in Wakefield] opened I started skating with all the guys from Leeds a lot, so eventually I ended up moving there and becoming a permanent member or that scene.
Leeds has got some amazing street spots, has living there effected the way you skate?
Yeah, there are so many different types of spots in Leeds, you can pretty much skate every type of street obstacle all in one place, so that’s helped me to learn all sorts of stuff.
Where can you usually be found skating in Leeds?
I dunno these days. I used to skate at Henry Moore gallery a lot, but we never go there anymore. There’s supposed to be some crazy fine if you get caught skating there, but I doubt that’ll ever be enforced. Most of the time I skate around the University, there’s loads of stuff close together there. Other than that at Pig and Whistle and various places around the city.
nollie frontside 360 outside Lightwaves Swimming Baths and switch frontside 5050 at Rehab Skatepark, Wakefield • ph: Wig Worland
Has having Rehab nearby helped you to progress?
Definitely, I’ve had the chance to get used to skating transitions because of the park. I used to go to Goshen a bit back in the day, but Wakefield is so much nearer.
It seems like you are into skating big, scary obstacles. Have you always liked that sort of skating?
Yeah, I’ve always been into big stuff, even when I lived in Huddersfield. The first person I ever saw on video was Frankie Hill, and it was watching him that first inspired me to try rails and stairs and that.
I just get the best adrenaline rush from big obstacles and it’s that feeling that I’ve always enjoyed the most in skateboarding right from the very beginning.
You’ve just been to California, how was that?
It was a good laugh. Well, apart from sleeping on the streets and Huntington Beach Skate Park. At one point six of us were living in a V.W. camper van which was a bit of a nightmare but other than that it was pretty good fun. I went over with Matt Harfield, Cal and the Godoys – only me and Matt came back, the others are still out there, which at least means I won’t have to sleep rough when I go back out there.
Did you skate the same kind of stuff out in the States as you do in Leeds?
Well, we only really skated around the Huntington Beach area because you need car to get around out there, but the spots that we went to were all sick. Jeremy Fox took us to a few places as well, we went to the Birdhouse vert with him – he helped us out a lot.
Why did you start skateboarding?
I used to ride mountain-bikes before I skated but I knackered bike, so I started using my mate’s old deck to get around on. I liked it, started learning how to ollie and stuff, and here I am six years later.
Do you have goals in skateboarding?
Not really, I skate because I enjoy it. If something happens then it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’ll still be skating I’m not going out of my way to get noticed, but it’d be nice to have enough money to go over to America in the winter and to travel around Britain in the summer.
l’d like to thank Air [original skate shop] in Leeds for sorting me out with free stuff. Thanks to everyone for putting up with me and helping me since I’ve been penniless – especially Chris Barras for giving me somewhere to live and food to eat when I came back from the States. Thanks to everyone who has given me free lifts, thanks to Rob for free smokes, and to Foxy who took us out for a meal when we were starving. That’s It.
“If I ever have a spare 350 dollars, lIl give it to Man so he can go back to Huntington Beach where his talents won’t be wasted. Why is he not sponsored? Because he probably doesn’t care, he’d much rather be sipping brewskis with his mates after a stress-free session than worrying about how fresh he looks or who he’s impressed – the mark of a true skateboarder! I just wish he’d sag his jeans more, shave his head and stop throwing up for five hours everv time he has a drink. Huddersfield’s finest. — Mark “Snoz” Snowball
“Man isn’t a chiller, isn’t East or West coast. Man is not a punk or a gnarly vert skater, he doesn’t give a fuck. Man is Man and he’d kick vour arse.” — Sean Burrows
“Man hasn’t got any money, he can’t even afford to eat, but he can still skate better than you.” — Nathan Sykes.
“He is not superhuman. He does have abilities that are far beyond those of ‘normal’ men, but he is just as human and mortal as anyone else. The core of his abilities is apparently in the structure of his nervous system. He can take completely conscious control of his entire body and make any part of it do exactly what he wishes it to do. To him, tricks are child’s play.” — Chris Barras
“I’ve known Man for about one and a half years now and from the first time I saw him, he’s been ripping. He’s a good drinking partner and we’ve spent many nights spinning out in front of the Nintendo holding back the sick. He’s one of those people that can skate just as good in any condition, regardless of his health or hunger. He has survived on his own for six months with no income whatsoever, selling whatever he comes across, and yet still manages to get wrecked every night. I hope this coverage will help him out, because it’s about time someone noticed his talents.” — Matt Harfield
“Man and skateboards go together like us and cider. After a hard days skating, he never moans about his groin injuries, he just sits down with a pint of milk and a fag, and then falls asleep. He’s a quiet lad until he gets pissed, then you wish he’d shut up! Forget women with Man, his true loves are made of steel and go down stairs. Some advice; never play cards with the sly-eyed little fella. PS: Man is a secret Brookside, Eastenders and Dolly Parton fan.” — Sarah and Alison, the Sheep sisters
“Man is an alien sent down to earth to observe. And he throws up like a girl.” — Anna [surname uncredited]
Related: Paul Silvester in Viewfinder and Civic Stories with Ben Powell, Paul Silvester — In Motion (Sidewalk Magazine, 2003), Paul Silvester — Day In The City 2 (2002), Josh Hallett on Welcome Skate Store’s ‘Paul,’, Paul Silvester Interview (via the Welcome Skate Store blog)