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Non-Stop Sports and Forty Two: An Ode to the Skateboard Shops of Notts

20 September 18 words: Dave Bevan
illustrations: Feargus Stewart

We take a fond look at Non-Stop Sports and Forty Two Skate Shop... 

The city received a bullet to the chest when the legendary Non-Stop Sports closed its physical doors. It wasn’t just a place to buy a deck, but somewhere people gathered to share their love of skateboarding. Four years before shop was shut, Forty Two Skate Shop opened its doors on Victoria Street, and still remains as a vital hub today. We take a look back at Non-Stop, as well as a look forward to the community of Forty Two, and why shops like these are so important to Nottingham’s skate scene...

Any sort of scene needs a hub; a place to meet, greet, chat shit and get weird at. Better yet, a collection of hubs to thrive and survive. Look at all the rad stuff that fell out of CBGB, or The Fillmore, or Studio 54. Closer to home, look at what constantly falls out of Forever Records, Stuck on a Name and JT Soar for living, breathing, and totally vital proof of just how important a central place of communion is for any gaggle of folks.

Skateboarding is no different, and Nottingham’s always had a healthy, kicking-against-the-pricks skate scene, sometimes beyond all odds or rights. Especially in the dark ages – before Tony Hawk’s skateboarding game blew it up into the mainstream’s mass-consciousness – back when you were more likely to get decked out the back of Broady for being out and about on your board.

This is in no small part due to the constant presence of a couple of totally righteous, independent, skater-owned shops; certainly for the twenty years I’ve been trundling around the city on my stupid wooden toy, anyway. These shops have done so much more than merely supply the scene with the hard and soft goods it requires. They keep everything upright.

I’m talking specifically about Non-Stop Sports (St. James’s Street, 1988 – 2015) and Forty Two Skate Shop (19 Victoria Street, 2011 – present). There have been, and are, other shops that sell skateboards in town, but they’re by and large corporate attempts to cash in on something small and pure, and do less than nowt to actually help the scene. So there.

In its day, Non-Stop was the be-all and end-all of skateboarding in town. I spent more time lurking around the shop on St. James’s Street than I did at school and college combined, and certainly learned a lot more there; the good, big, weird life stuff. School didn’t stand a chance, and looking back, nor did I.

All of life went on in and around that shop and, graduating from lurker to occasional worker, I was privy to most of it. In fact, I did my work experience there as a grubby fifteen-year-old kid, and got in trouble for not writing the expected report of my two weeks; I didn’t have the tools, nor the willing, to explain all the shades of life there to my teachers.

For example, there was Robin sneaking down the wooden staircase to silently and deftly slip his willy onto Miles’ shoulder while he was talking to a customer on the phone; or getting so stoned on the roof that we almost couldn’t climb back down; and when perpetual shop whipping boy Ant actually couldn’t make it and we locked him out there, all night; or hiding from the coppers in the changing room, three of us balanced precariously on the one tiny, rickety stool so that only one pair of feet would be visible beneath the curtain. It was the best two weeks of my school life by a country mile.

These shops have done so much more than merely supply the scene with the hard and soft goods it requires. They keep everything upright.

Any scene needs a nucleus. Non-Stop, and now Forty Two, do so much more than provide the tools for the scene to prosper. They provide a place, the support, the know-how, the chance-encounters, and a million other, harder-to-pigeonhole, less-tangible things to boot.

When Non-Stop shop owner Robin got married, the whole scene was invited and everyone celebrated along with him and his family. When shop employee Johnny Morrow slithered on his belly beneath the counter and stapled a post-it note reading “CREEEP” onto Ant’s calf as he was unsuccessfully chatting up a customer, the whole scene – except Ant – wept with laughter. And when Johnny prematurely and tragically died due to an ongoing kidney complication, the whole scene banded together and wept bitterly, just about keeping each other going at a time that it seemed impossible.

Non-Stop’s eventual closing was not the saddest of passings. Having weathered several assaults from various corporate charlatans masquerading as “skateboard shops” over the years, Robin eventually decided to call it a day, sell up and get out. And though the scene felt the loss keenly, it was nice to see a dear place and dearer friend bow out gracefully. Also, by that point, Forty Two had opened.

Honestly, I thought head honchos Rob and Scotty had gone a bit madder than I’d known when they opened their store just up the hill from Market Square. I was fully stoked and grateful; as I’ve previously mentioned, any scene worth its salt needs somewhere to keep it ticking over, but it also needs its elders to be happy, healthy and functioning without being crushed by crippling money woes.

Opening a skate shop on their own, at the height of the worst recession for decades, made me admire Scotty and Rob even more than I already did, as well as fear for their mental stability. The fact Forty Two has survived and moreover, is thriving, is down to the good folks Rob and Scotty, as well as Alex, Neil, Rees, Chris, and all the other odds and sods who hang around or sporadically work in the shop.

This isn’t some thinly veiled marketing scheme or local-rag nepotism; this is a love letter to the people making these hubs tick, and to skateboarding. What Forty Two does extends out into the scene and the city in general. Consider how and where your hard-earned cash goes, and why. Support the independents, because it all goes around and comes back... again and again and again.

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